The Australian Sunday night program '60 Minutes' entered its 7th year in 1985. There were changes in the program both on screen and behind the scenes which led Prue MacSween of 'TV Week' to wonder if '60 Minutes' was going through "a seven year itch". On screen Jeff McMullen replaced Ray Martin. Jeff would be based in Washington at the time because his wife Kim was the press secretary to the White House. "I've no idea where I'll fit in when it comes to getting labeled as a member of the team … I’m not worried about the 'personality' aspect of the job. I can see that it is part of the circus act…" 

Behind the scenes Gerald Stone's "right-hand man" Peter Meakin had been deployed to the 'Willesee' program with his replacements being Anthony McClellan and Cliff Neville. Gerald told Prue, "I could say that if George Negus had left Jeff might not have been the replacement because each of the reporters has their own magnetism and attraction … George Negus tends to need a very big story, he tends to stomp through a story, he really likes to be investigative. 

"Jana (Wendt) is much more hard-headed than I would ever have credited a woman to be and she likes a good controversial story. She is willing to put her neck on the chopping block to take on positions that many a male reporter would not like to do because of fear of image. She thrives on the tough interview – even in a way more than George. In a way, she's more unyielding. 

"Ray, to me, has always been the all-rounder. The person who is both perfect at batting and bowling and doing the lighter story, the tongue-in-cheek and coming in with the heavy. Journalism is always skill combined with luck and we had a good amount of luck last year (in 1984). But there is no doubt that the program has become quite an institution with a large audience. We're getting an average of 200 to 300 letters for our mail section a week and when we happen to have a controversial story it can go up to 1000 or 1500. Now we get anywhere from 10% to 15% of our story ideas from letters. These are valuable because they're the stories that other people in the media don't get their hands on." 

Gerald Stone produced the 'Real Life' program in 1992 for channel Seven which went head-to-head with 'A Current Affair'. Host Jana Wendt told 'TV Week' at the time, "I think anything that increases the competition is good. It will sharpen our edge and I welcome that. I'm confident we can deliver. I don’t want to sound masochistic, but I welcome the challenge." Back in 1990, sports journalist Mike Gibson was pitted up against Jana Wendt at 6.30pm and lasted one year. 

Stan Grant told 'TV Week', "This offer came along initially as a reporter. Then Gerald Stone came to me and said, 'How would you feel about presenting it?' It basically came out of the blue, and I said, 'Yes'. I’d given presenting a bit of thought at the ABC. I’d piloted a program there. I'd also read news updates during the Gulf War, but I was committed to 'Real Life'. This was to me the only gig in town. There’ll be a lot of interaction between myself and the other reporters. You’ll get a sense of a team at work here, as opposed to a presenter and a lot of sort of faceless, nameless reporters. It’s definitely not the Stan Grant Show, but I think 'A Current Affair' is the Jana Wendt show." 

Alan Bateman pointed out in 1989, "Channel Nine is paramount in news and current affairs but we’ll admit we don't have a great record in drama. The main reason (for the new drama unit) is to win the ratings." Bill Halliwell of 'Fairfax Media' reported at the time, "It is said the traditionally popular ratings periods, such as the prestigious 6:00pm news services, are all well down when measured electronically. 'A Current Affair' at 6.30pm is rating well on the people meter system and programs from 7:00pm onwards seem to be holding their own. Midnight-to-dawn periods, long-believed to be TV's graveyard shift, programming wasteland, is said to be pulling in figures that would make a prime-time TV sales rep race for national sponsorship."  

Back in 1988, Richard Carleton of '60 Minutes' shocked channel Nine news and current affairs personalities George Negus and Elizabeth Hayes, producers Peter Meakin, John Westacott (although not Gerald Stone and Gareth Harvey) and Sam Chisholm when he revealed one of the biggest hoaxes of Australian television – 'The Carlos Affair'. The victims of the hoax were its own people, George Negus and Mike Willesee.

John O’Neill, Michael Cordell and Robin Hill of 'Fairfax Media' reported, "A new age occultist, Miami artist Jose Luis Alvarez, who claimed to channel a 2000-year-old spirit called Carlos, was a fake to show how easily the public and the media can be fooled. It has been reported that the hoax cost $100,000 to stage but insiders say the true figure would be closer to $150,000. The professional American sceptic who 'created' Carlos for '60 Minutes', James Randi, said that the labeling of the story as 'dishonest and foolish' by Mike Willesee was an over-reaction, 'What we were trying to make it do was to make it tough for these people in Australia. In the future it will be.'"

One senior journalist made the comment, "It's symptomatic of this mentality that we have got to be more outrageous than anyone else in order to get the ratings. I think we've got ourselves into a ratings corner and it's time to ask is this a healthy thing?" George Negus added, "I understand the importance of ratings but journalistically I don't regard it as my role to let it affect the way I go about things. I think if you do, it's the beginning of the end."

Bill Halliwell continued, "The in-house tests of people meters are said to prove Australian TV audiences are far more discerning than their foreign counterparts. Viewers appreciate quality programs, with Australian-produced programs being especially popular. The commercial networks, whose owners are struggling with huge debt repayments and decreased advertiser support, are faced with a perplexing problem. If audiences continue to tune out to inferior programs, preferring instead quality home-grown and overseas programs, then the networks will have to bite the bullet and tolerate the premium price-tags that go with these programs.

"Some networks are already staring down the barrel of financial ruin. If people meters consistently indicate viewers will not accept an endless supply of low-grade programs, it could spell financial ruin for any proprietor not willing to cater to the public's needs. Australia will almost certainly follow the U.S. lead and axe new shows after only a few episodes. Production houses may have to think long and hard before producing a series pilot and 6 episodes. A series may not survive that long."

Back in 1986, Mike Gibson told  John MacDonald, "When I started in newspapers, sport was down the back of the bus. But I realized the back should be on the front. Then there was a survey which showed that 7% of Australians were interested in politics – 93% didn't read about it. The average person's not interested in front-page political stories. For the average bloke, Canberra is a cold, horrible place he went to once. He's not interested in Canberra, but Parramatta – he night be interested in what's going on there.

"Sports programs used to be Ron Casey going into the studio and arguing with me and Frank Hyde. There were no pictures. Television wasn't used as a visual medium. You could have heard the same thing at the pub ... The American 'Wide World of Sports' shows only American footage. We've got 40% Australian content, about 30% American and 30% European. The Australian fan is better served than viewers in any other country in the world. Our show is really entertainment rather than sports. Not many people are going to watch the show for its 5 hours (1:00pm-6:00pm on Saturdays).

"We wouldn't present, for example, rugby league, boxing and wrestling all in a row. You’d just lose the people interested in those sports after they'd be shown. Instead of just televising a race and saying such and such an athlete is in number such and such, we’ll pick out the 2 most interesting competitors and follow them in the week leading up to the race. There might be the favorite who has won for the past 6 years against the little girl battler whose father gave up work to help her. By the race everyone is rooting for them." 

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