Mediaweek Roundup: AFP, Ita Buttrose, Scott Morrison + The Australian

• Fam Time, SBS, George the Farmer, Entertainment Weekly, FIFA Women’s World Cup, 9Now, and Twitter

News Brands

What do raids on the media mean for journalists and their sources?

On Wednesday morning, Australian Federal Police officers and computer technicians entered the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney, armed with a warrant to access the national broadcaster’s databases, report Elise Worthington and Clare Blumer from ABC Investigations.

Quartered in a room with ABC lawyers and IT personnel, police categorically searched all files that might be related to a series of 2017 stories known as The Afghan Files.

They went from the specific search terms such as journalists “Dan Oakes” and “Sam Clark”, to the broad – searching for the word “secret” and “Department of Defence”.

At the end of more than eight hours of the police accessing and viewing thousands of files under the watch of the ABC’s lawyers, the AFP downloaded about a hundred files on two USBs and sealed them into a special evidence bag.

The Australian Federal Police said there was no connection between the raid on Annika Smethurst’s home on Tuesday and the ABC in Sydney on Wednesday. But both search warrants relate to separate stories and allegations of publishing classified material, under the Crimes Act 1914.

The ABC’s lawyers will now begin a two-week period of review of the sealed documents handed to police. In this time they can claim legal professional privilege over some of the documents or argue about the terms of the search warrant in court.

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AFP chief: Raids on media not initiated by Federal Government

The Australian Federal Police was not trying to intimidate journalists when it raided the ABC’s Sydney headquarters and the Canberra home of a News Corp reporter, according to its top officer, reports ABC News.

AFP Acting Commissioner Neil Gaughan insisted officers undertook the raids of their own volition, and that they had not been initiated by the Federal Government.

“I reject the claim we are trying to intimidate journalists,” he said.

“The AFP is a strong supporter of press freedom.”

Commissioner Gaughan refused to rule out charges being laid, including against journalists.

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Buttrose takes raid concerns to new communications minister

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose has raised concerns with new Communications Minister Paul Fletcher about the police raid on the public broadcaster, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Buttrose told The Australian yesterday she spoke to Fletcher after the Australian Federal Police raid of ABC headquarters in Sydney on Wednesday, which came less than a day after the AFP raided the Canberra home of senior News Corp Australia press gallery reporter Annika Smethurst.

Buttrose, who has not previously spoken publicly about the raid, said ABC board directors were meeting in Brisbane when the raid took place, and were aware of the development.

She declined to comment on whether the board was considering legal action, saying the matter was with the ABC’s lawyers.

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Possible prosecution of journalists sends shockwaves through media

Federal police are considering charging high-profile journalists for publishing secret information in an unprecedented move that would trigger a major dispute between the Morrison government and Australia’s media companies, reports Bevan Shields, Canberra bureau chief for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Michael Miller, the executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, said: “The issue is not just these recent raids but the growing number of laws with the power to put journalists in jail.

“It is a danger to our democracy when professional news reporting is at risk of being criminalised.”

Darren Wick, the director of news and current affairs at Nine News, said the network would have “serious concerns” about any move to prosecute.

“An independent and free media is a vital element of a functioning democracy and in light of today’s comments we would encourage the AFP to move quickly to clarify the cases they are working on and what, in their view, necessitated the extraordinary raids taken this week,” Wick said.

James Chessell, the executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age which are owned by Nine, on Thursday called for a “sober discussion” about the cumulative impact of the Crimes Act, Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, and defamation laws on public interest journalism.

“Laws that restrict or intimidate legitimate whistleblowers are deeply worrying,” he said.

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Anna Caldwell: Scott Morrison gets it wrong on press freedom

Scott Morrison has misjudged public unease over this week’s chilling raids on journalists that strike at the heart of the freedoms this nation holds so dear, reports News Corp’s Anna Caldwell who has been travelling with Morrison this week.

In an interview from his London hotel on Thursday, I put to Morrison that Australians were anxious about these confronting raids. Not just media companies. Not just journalists. Everyday Australians who know what it means for police to rifle through journalists’ possessions. Everyday Australians who know what message it sends for these police to have the power to delete files.

Morrison had it wrong from the moment he first learnt of the raids in the middle of a whirlwind of long-haul travel.

His first public response came after a business lunch attended by Morrison in his first hours in London when I and a group of journalists peppered him with a series of questions about the raid.

Morrison came up short, refusing to condemn the raids nine times and tried to have a bob each way on freedom of the press.

He said to me on Thursday was that he was “open minded” about the next course of action and he understood why journalists and media companies are concerned.

This is not enough.

Morrison is playing the steady bat he holds dear on the wrong issue here.

He has misread the play and misread his return.

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David Penberthy: PM changes victory narrative in record time

The AFP is doing nothing more than implementing Scott Morrison’s ham-fisted legislation. Morrison stands condemned for his ambivalence on all this, shrugging his shoulders as if it’s no big deal, writes Fiveaa breakfast host and News Corp columnist David Penberthy.

For a bloke who has spent the past fortnight being hailed for his miracle victory – albeit grudgingly in some journalistic quarters – he has managed to change the media narrative about his own Government in record time.

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How did PVO get it so wrong? Podcast from The Australian

A special episode of highlights from The Australian’s Q&A panel in Sydney, called Beyond The Vote, has been released as a podcast by Whooshkaa. The Tuesday night panel was moderated by editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Dore with a panel featuring Canberra bureau chief Geoff Chambers (soon to be federal political correspondent), senior columnists Chris Kenny and Peter Van Onselen and Scrutineers host Alice Workman.

Dore’s first question of the night was to PVO: “Peter, how did you get it so wrong.”

PVO: “I’m not Robinson Crusoe in getting it wrong, but I am happy to own it.”

Listen to the 48-minute podcast here.


Michala Banas to star in new Seven Studios comedy Fam Time

Seven Studios this week announced Fam Time, a new narrative comedy “wrapped in fibre optic cables” starring Michala Banas (Winners & Losers, Always Greener, Upper Middle Bogan), Benson Jack Anthony (800 Words, Emo the Musical, High Life) and Duncan Fellows (The Letdown, Laid, Life Support).

The queen of content is Belinda Box played by Banas, mum to a highly dysfunctional blended family that, like most families today, is struggling to combine their online and everyday lives in the suburbs. She’s the mumpreneur striving to have it all for her family – if having it all involves blogs, selfies and a good dose of Beyoncé.

Belinda loves her family, but also craves the love of the growing fan base (97 subscribers!) who follow her blog adventures as a modern mum to a busy blended family in the digital age.

Fellows plays Belinda’s husband John, a.k.a. “Handy Andy”, an ordinary dad who prefers tinkering to Tweeting, while Anthony is her bedroom-bound son Rylan, who is so busy looking for love online that he’s oblivious when it walks through the door in real life.

Duncan Fellows

Seven’s director of network programming, Angus Ross, said: “Fam Time is a fresh comedy format celebrating and skewering the family idiosyncrasies we all love to hate. Its contemporary delivery, pace and irreverent humour will be a hit with our audience.”

Benson Jack Anthony

Completing the Box family are: Belinda’s stepdaughter Tahnee (Karina Banno: Circle of Lies, Friday on My Mind, Home and Away), who freaks out when she unwittingly discovers internet fame; adopted daughter Cherry (Chloe De Los Santos: Tidelands, Jade of Death), a sassy online gaming whiz; and Grandma Viv (Rhonda Burchmore: Kath & Kim, Love Child), a cougar and ravenous online dater better known as “Foxy Box”.

Fam Time is directed by Hayden Guppy. Executive producer and series creator is Michael Horrocks. Supervising producer is Linda Ujuk, series producer is Muffy Potter and line producer is Tiare Tomaszewski. Writers are Erica Harrison and Jack Yabsley. The comedy is a Seven Studios production for the Seven Network.

See also: Listen to Seven’s Angus Ross talk about Seven Studios in a Mediaweek Podcast.

Top Photo: Michala Banas

Seven-year saga: SBS abandons Once Upon A Time In Carlton doco

SBS has finally dumped plans to screen Once Upon a Time in Carlton, a documentary series it commissioned in 2012 and completed in 2013, reports TV Tonight.

The three-part series from Northern Pictures looked at the Italian migrant history of the inner Melbourne suburb, with local identity Mick Gatto as a key figure, and was commissioned after the success of Nine’s Underbelly.

It was also funded $670,000 by Screen Australia in 2012 and due as the third in a Once Upon a Time documentary strand. Earlier seasons looked at the Vietnamese community of Cabramatta and the Lebanese community of Punchbowl.

In late 2013 Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl was swept up in a blaze of headlines before broadcast after one of its participants has exaggerated his story to producers about incarceration a at Long Bay, Silverwater and Goulburn jails. Eventually all footage of the man was cut and it screened in 2014. But such controversy was rare for SBS, years before it encountered Struggle Street headlines.

SBS then delayed the Carlton series across successive years, initially claiming it did not have a timeslot for the show and repeatedly promising it would air “soon.”

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ABC Commercial acquires new children’s farming series

George the Farmer and his creators, Simone Kain and Ben Hood, have been bringing farm education to life and inspiring the next generation of agriculturalists since 2015 when they first launched the George the Farmer interactive app on the iTunes store. The trio will now be reaching bigger audiences through a new partnership with the ABC.

A five year licensing deal has been struck between George the Farmer Pty Ltd and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation giving the ABC exclusive free to air rights for the ABC’s primary and secondary channels, including simultaneous online streaming through the ABC iView digital platform, for the George the Farmer paddock to plate video clips.

The videos, produced through the creators digital agency, Hello Friday, follow George the Farmer and team around South Australia as they investigate different foods grown on the farm including wheat, potatoes and chicken meat. Each stage of production is highlighted through the use of video, animation, story, music and dance culminating in a final kitchen scene where the produce that was investigated is turned into a healthy and easily achievable meal for children to cook themselves.

George the Farmer was developed in 2015 after co-creator Simone Kain identified that there weren’t any farming characters globally telling sequential stories about life on the land to help inspire and educate her then two-year-old son, George.

“We had Postman Pat and Bob the Builder but a character educating children about how the main thing that sustains our life – food – was missing”.

She worked together with business partner, Ben Hood, to bring to life this Aussie larrikin who is supported by his talented wife, Dr Ruby Farmer, an agronomist and says that they’re driven by their desire to provide children with the same connection that they were afforded from living on farms throughout their childhood.

Top Photo: Creators of George the Farmer, Simone Kain and Ben Hood during filming


Meredith’s Entertainment Weekly print product to become a monthly

US publisher Meredith has announced today a reimagining of the Entertainment Weekly brand that includes People deputy editor JD Heyman taking the reins as editor-in-chief, along with increased investment in and digital, social, video and experiential platforms.

Henry Goldblatt is stepping down as EW’s editorial leader after a 17-year tenure.

The August issue will mark Entertainment Weekly’s first as a monthly and is timed to Comic Con, the largest celebration of the contribution of comics to art and culture. Featuring a perfect binding, the monthly issue is promising more insider access, humour and in-depth coverage about the entertainment world in a more deluxe product. The magazine will continue to produce special interest magazines to coincide with big entertainment industry moments.

The last issue of Entertainment Weekly in its current print form will be the July 5 issue on sale June 25.

Meredith said it will enhance its 24/7, up-to-the-minute entertainment news on its EW digital, social, video and experiential platforms, including its weeklong and monthly digital packages, digital-only feature reporting and in-depth guides for tentpole events.

It will also produce first-ever digital-only covers featuring A-list stars of a major movie franchise with the first scheduled for release in the first week of July. A full EW audio slate with podcasts and connected audio platforms, as well as a completely refreshed video slate, is planned. Also, more exclusive screenings, panels, curated events and festival partnerships, including the Toronto International Film Festival, are in the works.

Sports Media

Optus Sport signs Matildas striker Kyah Simon to Women’s Cup team

Optus Sport has welcomed the addition of Matildas striker Kyah Simon (pictured) to its FIFA Women’s World Cup broadcast team.

Simon will join Jules Breach and Mark Schwarzer at the opening game in Paris, as well as across select shows to provide analysis of the tournament and insight into the Matildas squad. This includes the Matildas’ opening match against Italy in Valenciennes on Sunday June 9, where Optus Sport will have a massive 90-minute pre-game show from 7.30pm AEST.

Despite the devastation of injury ending her quest for a third World Cup campaign, Simon is looking forward to linking up with the Optus Sport team in France.

“Although I would have loved nothing more than to be running out in the green and gold, for my third World Cup campaign, joining the Optus Sport team to broadcast the Matildas’ journey is the next best thing.

“I’m grateful and excited for the opportunity to be able to still be part of France 2019 in a different capacity and can’t wait to be able to support the girls in every way I can.”

The Optus Sport broadcast team features current and former players as well as some of Australia’s best journalists including Heather Garriock, Amy Duggan, Cheryl Salisbury, John Aloisi and Mel McLaughlin.

“Kyah has given an incredible amount to the game across her career and scored some of the most crucial goals in the history of the Matildas,” executive producer Richard Bayliss said.

“Kyah is a good luck charm for the Matildas at World Cups, so having her there pitchside as Australia plays Italy is hopefully a good omen for their chances.

“Kyah was also a part of the Matildas training camp until her unfortunate injury, so will give great insight into how the team is shaping for the tournament.”  

Nine promises to do better after State of Origin streaming woes

Nine has promised it has a plan to tackle further streaming issues like the ones experienced by State of Origin viewers on Wednesday night, reports The Age’s Broede Carmody.

The first State of Origin clash between the Blues and Maroons was marred by technical difficulties for those trying to watch the game on Nine’s streaming service 9Now.

Viewers complained of buffering, poor audio and being unable to watch the main feed through 9Now and flocked to social media to describe the service as “not good enough”, while others went as far as to call the coverage “bloody disgraceful”. Nine originally told viewers the streaming issues were caused by “unprecedented demand”. However, on Thursday morning a spokesman said the issues originated with a video supplier.

“9Now had a technical issue with one of the service providers last night,” he said. “As soon as the source of the issue was identified, we worked as quickly as possible to fix the service which was in total impacted for around 30 minutes.”

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Twitter wants to partner, not compete, with TV on sports rights

Twitter is not interested in battling for major sports rights but wants to partner with rights holders, such as TV broadcasters, to extend their audiences and bring in more money, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Video has become the dominant source of revenue for Twitter, comprising 50% of money coming in, and the social media platform is keen to ramp-up its video strategy.

Twitter’s vice-president and global head of content partnerships, Kay Madati, said the platform was a “friend, not foe” for media companies.

“The way that we’re approaching our business and our partnerships in the space is not to compete with rights holders. I don’t want to be a linear television broadcaster,” the visiting executive told The Australian Financial Review.

Twitter has partnered with Women’s World Cup rights holder SBS. The public broadcaster will launch a live daily TV show on the social-media platform to complement games on TV. SBS and Twitter will also use the platform for highlights and interviews, and has signed up Visa, TAB and the Australian Defence Force as sponsors.

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