Mediaweek Roundup: ACCC, Google, Facebook, Karl Stefanovic + More

• Mediacom, MasterChef, Masked Singer, ABC, Nine, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Kyle Sandilands, A-League, and W-League

Business of Media

Mark Ritson: ACCC just a mozzie to the giants of tech

Everybody is getting very excited about the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s digital platforms final report, writes Mark Ritson in The Australian.

After an 18-month inquiry, the ACCC has produced a long list of 23 hard-hitting recommendations to deal with the enormous market power of Google and Facebook.

Among the recommendations is a further inquiry into pricing, an increase in privacy for users, an update to merger laws and a new code of conduct.

In Google and Facebook, Australian legislators are facing the biggest and most potent threat to consumer privacy, domestic media policy and competition law this country has seen. But the idea that the ACCC will hold these behemoths “to account” is, unfortunately, laughable.

Australia is simply not big enough to have any impact on the corporate strategy of either Facebook or Google. We are an Australian mosquito convinced we are making a lot of noise and causing a lot of pain to two 900kg American buffalo chewing grass and entirely oblivious to our existence, never mind our bite.

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Will the ACCC & Government big tech crackdown be tough enough?

An 18-month inquiry that recommends two further inquiries – on that will run for at least five years – doesn’t quite feel like the very tough action that the ACCC’s Rod Sims has clearly made the case for, comments James Thomson in The AFR.

The sheer size of the 600-page final report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s digital platforms inquiry underscores just how big a genie we are trying to stuff back into the bottle here.

The challenge of retro-fitting regulation on behemoths like Google and Facebook, with the dominant positions in online searches, online video, social media and, most importantly, online advertising, are obvious.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims deserves praise for taking this challenge and doing more than just diagnosing the problem.

But two questions will remain: has Sims gone far enough, and will the government go hard enough in backing the ACCC’s recommendations?

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ACCC’s Sims promises digital giants will feel watchdog’s bite

The nation’s competition boss has warned Facebook and Google a proposed “code of conduct” will have “enormous teeth” – dismissing concerns regulators won’t be tough enough to hold the digital giants to account, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Following the release of the ACCC’s landmark 613-page report into digital platforms and their effect on traditional media, chairman Rod Sims said he had no doubt platform providers should be treated like publishers.

The report recommends a “code of conduct” for the likes of Google and Facebook and traditional media to govern revenue-sharing, competition and fair use of journalism, governed by media regulator ACMA.

Sims dismissed criticism that too many of the report’s 22 recommendations relied on “codes”, saying the media code would have “enormous teeth”.

Facebook managing director (Australia and New Zealand) William Easton said he was committed to the process with the government and shared the “ACCC’s view that Australians should have control of their information and that supporting a sustainable news ecosystem is critical for our modern society, and we recognise the role we have to play in these areas. We have also committed to a fundamental shift in the way we operate by placing additional responsibility for privacy on the people building our products, and creating new oversight controls to ensure privacy is at the core of everything we do.”

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Mediacom CEO accused of firing exec over depression

The chief executive of Mediacom, Willie Pang, is facing allegations he unlawfully targeted a senior executive for redundancy because of his depression, reports The AFR’s David Marin-Guzman.

Former Mediacom general manager, Rob Moore, has taken Federal Court action against the global media agency for allegedly discriminating against him based on his mental disability and claims that his redundancy earlier this year was a sham.

Moore was promoted from managing partner to general manger in mid-2018 but he was forced out of the company less than 12 months later as part of a restructure.

According to court documents, six months before his departure, Moore had informed Pang he suffered from depression and needed to reduce his workload.

A Mediacom spokeswoman said the company had followed its internal policies and procedures in relation to Moore.

“These policies and procedures are fair, appropriate and non-discriminatory,” she said. “As this matter is presently the subject of legal proceedings, we do not propose to make any further comment pending the final outcome.”

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Karl Stefanovic’s return to TV confirmed for Monday August 12

Nine has confirmed that Karl Stefanovic will return to TV on Mondays beginning August 12. That’s when the series he hosts, This Time Nerxt Year, will return for its second season.

The new season again featires people from across Australia pledging to change their lives by “this time next year” – whether it is to overcome a setback, find love, reunite with a relative or even achieve a world record. Then the result of each year-long story will be revealed in an instant.

Hosted by Stefanovic, many of the stories take unexpected turns over the course of the year, and some of the physical transformations are significant.

Episode one of the eight-part series features a range of diverse stories, including brave teenager Eden who has been plagued by a rare form of Tourette Syndrome and pledges to overcome it to go back to school; a mother-daughter duo who plan to lose 100kg of weight between them; and a couple who want to put years of heartache behind them to have a baby.

“I’m really proud and excited to be hosting series two of This Time Next Year,” Stefanovic said. “I’ve met some truly inspiring Australians who will warm the hearts of viewers by pledging to reach huge personal goals in just one year.

“We have a whole new group of contributors as diverse as a 101-year-old woman who wants to learn to fly, a wheelchair-bound mum who dreams of running in the backyard with her five-year-old son, and a woman who wants to medically transition to being a man.

This Time Next Year is an absolute joy to work on, and I’m not going to lie, I shed a tear or two.”

This Time Next Year is a format developed by Twofour in the UK and produced in Australia by Nine.

Ex-MasterChef judges, enjoy your slice of humble pie

“Never, ever, believe you’re irreplaceable. You always are,” writes The Age’s Wendy Squires. [In a column likening a moment in her career to the departure of the MasterChef judges.]

This sage warning is a pearl of wisdom that has been the foundation of retaining a sense of reality and humility throughout my career. A humbling adage passed on from a wise and wizened early mentor, it has kept me on my guard, always aware I’m only as good as my next story and not my last.

But, yes, there was a time when I forgot to respect the caution. It happened when I found myself in a difficult and specialised job I believed no one else could handle, something which I foolishly believed management realised. I assumed they would do anything to keep me, they would be mad not to! And so, when renegotiating my salary, I gave my boss the ultimatum of pay up or I’ll shove off.

Needless to say I was out the door the same day, the press release announcing my replacement in wide circulation even before I left the building.

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Masked Singer judge Dannii Minogue says Jackie O its secret weapon

Dannii Minogue says Jackie “O” Henderson will be the judging panels secret weapon when The Masked Singer airs next month, reports News Corp’s Briana Domjen.

Minogue, who is working alongside Henderson, Dave Hughes and Lindsay Lohan on the Channel 10 program – which sees celebrities perform in an elaborate disguise – believes the radio host will have an advantage when it comes to identifying the masked singer.

“She is feeling the pressure because we are all looking at her for the answer because she has done this entertainment reporting for so long. She has heard their voices.”

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Meanwhile News Corp’s Fiona Byrne comments:

As filming gets underway on The Masked Singer, the hiring of ageing party girl Lindsay Lohan as a judge on Channel 10’s new big budget ratings hope remains utterly baffling.

Lohan, who has been more of an afterthought than a headline star for the past decade, has taken her place alongside fellow judges Dannii Minogue, Dave Hughes and Jackie O, who must successfully guess the identity of the celebrity singers performing disguised as giant rabbits, peacocks, a lion, a prawn and a werewolf.

Just how will Lohan, who presumably has little to no idea of local Australian singers, pick the stars through the sound of their voice and some clues?

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ABC host wears yoghurt-thrower’s fury at Perth literary festival

ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales has been attacked by an audience member who hurled a tub of yoghurt at her while she was delivering a speech at a Perth literary festival, reports The Australian’s Paige Taylor.

A 49-year-old man was later charged with common assault. A police charge sheet said only that the man was “upset and disagreed with the views being presented”.

The attack happened as Sales spoke at the Disrupted Festival of Ideas where entry was free.

The previous day, anti-vaccination activists took advantage of this and berated another guest, scientist Karl Kruszelnicki, also known as Dr Karl.

Sales was stoic as the man was taken away and insisted she was fine to continue her speech.

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Sales is booked to appear at the Byron Bay Literary Festival next weekend.


Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Nine battle for control of Sydney’s 2GB

A three-way power struggle at top-rating talk radio station 2GB is threatening its future dominance of the Sydney airwaves, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Four weeks after Alan Jones returned to the helm of his breakfast show on a hard-won new $8 million contract – scuttling a management-backed plan to overthrow 2GB’s breakfast’s reigning king and replace him with morning show host Ray Hadley, also on a new $8 million contract – Jones and Hadley remain engaged in an arm-wrestle over the direction of the station, its content and culture.

Now, taking its own opposing position in 2GB’s war room is new majority stakeholder Nine, which, with a 54.5 per cent stake in the station’s parent company Macquarie Media and an appetite for greater control, has begun to agitate for softer, more female-friendly content that, according to industry stalwarts, will put at risk 2GB’s entrenched conservative audience and ratings domination.

The decision to insert Nine stars Karl Stefanovic, Deb Knight, Amber Sherlock, Phil Gould and Erin Molan into Steve Price’s new afternoon radio show is widely accepted as a sign of what is to come.

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Kyle Sandilands finds big fan in rival breakfast host Lawrence Mooney

Breakfast radio can be an unforgiving beast and rival hosts (and a few co-hosts) have been known to harbour truckloads of animosity for one another. But a new member of the competitive Sydney market has bucked the trend and declared his admiration for one of Sydney’s most polarising figures, reports News Corp’s David Meddows.

Lawrence Mooney, host of the new Triple M breakfast show Moonman In The Morning, probably isn’t someone you’d necessarily pick as a card-carrying member of the Kyle Sandilands Fan Club, but the comedian has all but declared his love for the controversial personality.

“Kyle is – how do I say this shyly – a bit of a hero of mine. I really love the idea that Kyle Sandilands is one of the few people in media who says what he likes and probably more so than an Alan Jones or a Ray Hadley,” he tells Meddows.

“Kyle actually is unabashed about his power and his position and his privilege and he’s ‘I am what I am’ and I think that is a very attractive thing. I like Kyle Sandilands a lot.”

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Sports Media

Network 10 close to landing A-League, W-League rights

Two A-League games and one W-League match will be shown live on Network 10 each weekend next season as part of a deal for the competition’s broadcast rights that could be agreed upon in a matter of weeks, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Dominic Bosi.

The Herald understands Network 10 are the only serious bidders for the free-to-air component of the A-League’s broadcast rights and have tabled a proposal that will more than double football’s exposure on TV.

It’s understood Foxtel would stand to save nearly $4.5 million each season by offloading the production and broadcasting costs for two games each round, with the production bill alone in the region of $75,000 per game.

The A-League’s dwindling TV appeal will be made clear to club owners and FFA next week when they meet with Foxtel chief executive, Patrick Delany, on Monday. Having successfully negotiated for the A-League to become independent of FFA, the onus will fall upon the clubs to improve the competition’s commercial and public appeal.

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