Mediaweek Roundup: AAP, ACM, The Australian, Triple J, NRL + more

• Alan Jones, Fox Sports, Nine, spring carnival racing and Rugby Australia

Business of Media

Social Ventures Australia emerges as potential white knight for AAP

Not-for-profit organisation Social Ventures Australia is one of the final bidders looking to salvage parts of national news agency Australian Associated Press, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Industry sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Social Ventures, a philanthropic organisation founded in 2002 which runs a number of investment funds and provides equity to companies that have a “positive social impact”, was still in due diligence. The organisation’s chairman Paul Robertson also leads outdoor advertising business Tonic Health Media.

Multiple bidders have engaged with AAP’s Board on due diligence. Private banker and the former boss of Antony Catalano‘s Metro Media Charbel Nader was another bidder vying to save AAP, but has since ended discussions.

[Read more]

Nine in discussions with Catalano’s ACM over print deal

Nine Entertainment Co is in discussions with regional media proprietor Antony Catalano about an extension of its multi-million dollar printing deal, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Australian Community Media prints newspapers, including The Age and The Australian Financial Review, in areas such as Victoria and Western Australia as part of an arrangement it negotiated with Nine when Catalano bought the regional publishing business last year.

Nine and News Corp Australia both have commercial arrangements with Catalano through his print centres and pay millions for the production of their newspaper titles. Nine’s deal with Catalano was originally planned to be “for a short transitional period”, but if extended could give ACM an alternative source of revenue to advertising. For large organisations like Nine and News Corp, outsourcing print production is a way to save costs.

Catalano is weighing up his options after concluding talks with News Corp Australia last week about acquiring the publisher’s regional titles. The executive chairman, who bought the regional newspaper group from his old employer for $115 million in cash and $10 million in advertising with billionaire business partner Alex Waislitz, was in due diligence with News Corp until early last week.

Industry sources said the discussions fell apart as News Corp did not want to sell some of its more valuable community titles and was planning to keep the digital rights to the titles it sold off. But others said it was unlikely ACM had the funding to do the deal.

[Read more]

News Brands

Michelle Gunn becomes the first woman to edit The Australian

The Weekend Australian’s award-winning editor Michelle Gunn has been appointed editor of the weekday edition of The Australian.

Gunn’s promotion was announced to readers on Saturday and comes after John Lehmann takes up a new role as commercial director and managing editor after four years as editor of the national daily.

Gunn will remain at the helm of The Weekend Australian also, which she has edited since 2012.

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said on Friday that Gunn, the first woman to be named editor of The Australian, had a unique understanding of the paper’s audience.

“There isn’t a person in Australia more qualified to edit The Australian at such an important time in its history,” Miller said.

Editor-in-chief of The Australian Christopher Dore announced the appointments to staff, who have been publishing the print and digital editions remotely over the past two months, during a video hook-up.

“Michelle’s characteristic passion is matched by her skill. Under her stewardship, The Weekend Australian has grown from a great newspaper into a truly world-class newspaper,” Dore told staff. “So I can say with conviction that Michelle will be exceptional as the new editor of The Australian.”

Dore also paid tribute to Lehmann for overseeing The Australian during its most successful period and leaving the post with its largest and most engaged audience in its 56-year history.

His new role will focus on driving commercial and consumer revenue.

After more than eight years as managing editor, Helen Trinca will become associate editor of The Australian and continue to edit The Deal.

Radio

AJ’s $4m goodbye gift & KRudd and Chris Smith for drive slots?

Former PM Kevin Rudd got media bosses thinking on Twitter last Wednesday, the day after Alan Jones unexpectedly retired from 2GB, repots The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

A tweeted photo showed Rudd decked out in full radio regalia, with headphones in front of an on-air microphone, and the message: “I hear there’s an opening at the @2GB873 morning radio slot. Just letting (Nine chairman) Peter Costello and the team know that I’m available. Ready to rock and roll …”

KRudd was only half-joking. Diary has learnt that behind the scenes, the ex-PM has indeed been exploring opportunities for a media career.

There have been serious backroom talks this year involving Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell and host David Koch about reuniting Rudd with former treasurer Joe Hockey to renew their famous “Big Guns” slot on breakfast TV, the original segment to showcase politicians on breakfast TV. That slot played a huge role in catapulting Rudd to The Lodge in 2007.

Meanwhile why would Nine pay Alan Jones $4m-plus not to appear on 2GB and 4BC for the next 13 months? That head-scratcher was being asked time and again in media circles last week.

Now insiders have revealed a crucial reason. The timing of both Jones’s departure and his lucrative golden goodbye was carefully calibrated, to make sure he doesn’t become a competitor to 2GB’s new breakfast host Ben Fordham. The key to it all is that under the terms of his contract with 2GB, Jones is forbidden from joining any radio venture that competes in any way with 2GB, 4BC or any other Nine station until July next year.

Karl Stefanovic may have asked for Ben Fordham’s coveted drive time shift at 2GB. But it’s 2GB/Sky host Chris Smith who’s an early favourite.

Apart from Smith and Stefanovic, others mooted for the plum gig include Seven Sydney news boss Jason Morrison, Sky’s Paul Murray and Mark Levy, who will take the drive reins temporarily when Fordham leaves in a fortnight.

[Read more]

Peter FitzSimons on PM’s tribute to AJ: Are you kidding, Mr Morrison?

When it comes to Alan Jones, who has just announced his forthcoming retirement from radio, the word of the week was: “Divisive”, writes Sun-Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons.

And that part is true, for – let’s be nice for the moment – on one side of the equation he really did enjoy a great deal of support. There is no doubt that in terms of skill, work ethic, capacity to connect with listeners and win the ratings, he has been without peer for 35 years.

He equally did an enormous amount for many charities over that time, too. All that was enough to gain the slavish loyalty of about 10 per cent of the city.

On the other side of the divide, though, were the rest of us, completely revolted by the endless bullying, the misogynistic rants, the cash-for-comment, the race-baiting and, most recently, the outrageous encouragement for his listeners to ignore the dangers of coronavirus.

Let the record show. Jones was divisive. Yes, he did have deep support in a very narrow band. But the rest of us are glad he’s gone. His replacement, Ben Fordham, is an equally talented broadcaster to Jones, but will spare us all the endless polemics and bullying.

[Read more]

Nas Campanella reads final triple j news ahead of new reporting role

After seven years as one of the voices of triple j news, Nas Campanella presented her final bulletin on Friday afternoon. It was revealed late last month that she is embarking on a newly created role at ABC News covering disability affairs.

“Of course I’m sad to be leaving triple j. It has been my home for the last seven years,” Campanella said. “I’ve shared some special moments with the audience and they’ve been a huge part of my life.

“But I couldn’t be more thrilled to be taking on the role of disability affairs reporter. I want to provide a platform where the voices of people living with disability are heard. I want to support the disability community to share their experiences the way they wish to tell them. And I want them to feel represented and empowered.

“This is also an opportunity to educate people about the expectations, assumptions and barriers too often placed on people living with disability and I’m very proud to do this with the ABC.”

Campanella, who is blind and has a neurological condition which prevents her reading braille, started at the ABC as a cadet in the Sydney newsroom and went on to become a senior journalist and producer. She has reported from regional and metro areas for programs and teams including triple j’s Hack, Audio Current Affairs and ABC Life.

Listen to Campanella’s final triple j read here.

Sports Rights

Harsh reality TV: Fox has a long-term deal in place. Nine does not.

The TV rights talks between Nine, Foxtel and the NRL had been spirited but friendly for the most part but that has changed in recent times, reports Sun-Herald columnist and Nine reporter Danny Weidler.

Discussions about the revised season draw have been brutal; Nine and Fox have thrown out all niceties. There has also been some agenda-driven reporting, such as the story that Nine killed off Monday night football. According to the NRL, it was never seriously discussed for the return round but is on the draw for round four. So it’s hardly dead.

Nine and Fox are digging in and their partnership is now far from amicable. Acting NRL boss Andrew Abdo has been left to clean up the mess and had to work hard to get a draw out on Friday. Some big figures have been tossed around but these are the facts: for the next three years, Fox will get about a $100 million discount on its existing deal and Nine will save in the order of $70m. Fox has a long-term deal in place. Nine does not.

[Read more]

Seven, 10 race for spring carnival racing TV deal for big races

Victorian horse racing authorities are on the verge of rejecting a more lucrative broadcast rights bid from Network 10 to extend a contract with Seven West Media for prestigious races such as the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, reports The Australian’s John Stensholt.

A battle over the rights to the famous Spring Racing Carnival is causing ructions among Victorian officials, who have urged governing body Racing Victoria to entertain a bid from 10.

Complicating the matter is that Racing Victoria is also working on the commercial terms of its joint venture arrangement with Seven for Racing.com, the free-to-air network owned by several Victorian racing bodies.

A package of rights held by Seven for about 21 “premium” Saturday meetings in Victoria, including famous spring races such as the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, is set to expire on June 30.

[Read more]

New Rugby Australia chairman confident the code will get screen time

Rugby Australia’s newly appointed chairman Hamish McLennan has dismissed suggestions that his long-standing affiliation with News Corp would lead to a quick broadcast deal with pay TV operator Foxtel, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

McLennan, who is chairman of News Corp-controlled REA Group, said that he will negotiate with all interested parties on a new broadcasting rights deal as he thanked Foxtel for its contribution to the sports code.

Television and telco sources have expressed concern that McLennan may lean on his existing relationships with Foxtel to secure a deal. However, McLennan said the negotiation table was open for all comers.

Rugby Australia is in the final months of a five-year deal with News Corp-controlled Foxtel, which expires on December 31.

[Read more]

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