Channel 7's fucked up scheduling has hit international news now!
Channel 7, the host broadcaster at the Australian Open, might be the most perverse television station in the world.
At 6pm sharp, the announcement local fans despair of each evening – "For Victorian viewers, it is time for you to leave us now" – interrupted coverage of Nikolay Davydenko's super-charged match against the best player in the world, Roger Federer. The Swiss had lost the first set 6-2 to the eccentric and hugely popular Davydenko, and was battling to hold serve in the second.
It would be an hour-and-a-half before viewers without access to ESPN would get another glimpse of the match. What did they miss? Probably one of the finest comebacks of Federer's career and one of the great capitulations in a major, as Davydenko simply lost it. Then got it back. Then lost it again. After leading 3-1 in the second set, he dropped 13 straight games.
When they returned, Federer was leading 2-1 in the fourth set and Jim Courier resumed the commentary with the bland observation: "A quick start again for Federer, 30-0 …" It was like the captain of the Titanic advising passengers as the iceberg loomed, "If you fancy getting off now, there ought to be no problem getting a refund."
TV ratings for the Open are up 10% and interest has rarely been higher. Yet each evening at their own tournament, the first grand slam of the year, they stubbornly ignore whatever is unfolding at Melbourne Park and go to the national news, followed by a magazine programme, Today Tonight, then the 7pm peak-viewing delights of their favourite soap, Home And Away.
Everyone outside the boardroom of Channel 7 thinks it's ludicrous – never more so than when they missed the exit of their own darling, Sam Stosur, earlier this week. Then it was the turn of the prickly but courageous American, Andy Roddick, as he fought vainly to get back into his quarter-final against the Croat Marin Cilic.
But a blackout on Federer-Davydenko trumped them all. It reminded one nostalgic of the night 30 years ago the BBC left the snooker (Higgins v Thorburn) to go to the Iranian Embassy Siege. Well, sort of.
It is not too cruel to observe, but the tennis might just have had better story lines than any recent episode of Home And Away – if you don't count the little cocaine difficulties the soap's star, Todd Lasance, has had this week.
Weirdly, Today Tonight is being broadcast from … the tennis.
"They have been like this for years," a local tennis writer said. "There's nothing you can do to change their minds."
This is presupposing a lot, if you read that last word of the last sentence again.