Mediaweek roundup: Alan Jones, Gary Conway death, Gogglebox + more

• 60 Minutes, Rugby Australia, The Voice, Melbourne Housewives, Ray Hadley, Wil Anderson, FOI law, Foxtel + Antony Catalano

Business of Media

Catalano takes aim at ‘irrelevant’ rules restricting rural TV

Rural media proprietor Antony Catalano says he is ready to mount a campaign through his Australian Community Media to convince the federal government to change the “one-in-a-market rule” and allow the greater sharing of media resources in the bush, reports The Australian’s John Stensholt.

Catalano, who owns ACM with his billionaire business partner Alex Waislitz, said the one-in-a-market rule, which restricts a business from controlling multiple television licences in an area, was “irrelevant” in the modern media world and that he would be open to doing deals with WIN and Southern Cross if he could not strike an agreement with Prime Media for closer co-operation.

Catalano described the one-in-a-market rule as “antiquated and completely outdated”, and that it was absurd a company could only be allowed one TV licence in a region yet allowed to have two radio licences or multiple newspapers and as many websites as it liked.

“TV is not the influential medium it was, so it makes no sense to the people of Ballina or Newcastle or regional Victoria,” he said. “Do they need three services or would they be better served by the consolidation of those companies into one to produce a better quality newsroom and a more profitable business? The answer is yes.”

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Foxtel fortified by $1.6bn debt deal giving it financial flexibility

Foxtel has successfully locked in the refinancing of $US1.1bn ($1.6bn) of debt, including $US900m of new bank facilities from local and international banks and financiers including South Korea’s Hana Financial Group, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

Foxtel’s total debt facilities of $US2.1 billion are unchanged after the refinancing, although debt is now understood to be on a tenure of more than three years, giving Foxtel more flexibility to execute its reset strategy.

According to Korean media, part of the refinancing included completing a $US200m refinancing deal with South Korea’s Hana Financial to secure the debt facilities of the subscription broadcaster and streaming service.

The debt facility adds to a total of $US700m in loans provided to Foxtel by News Corp, which owns two-thirds of the company, with the remaining stake owned by Telstra.

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News Brands

Nine ordered to pay family $2m over defamatory 60 Minutes report

Nine has been ordered to pay a Toowoomba family more than $2 million in damages over a defamatory 60 Minutes story, reports ABC News’ David Chen.

A jury earlier this year found the program, which was broadcast on May 24, 2015, had defamed Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner.

The program made several allegations including that the Wagner family were responsible for the deaths of 12 people, including two children, in the 2011 Grantham floods when a quarry wall owned by the family collapsed.

Justice Peter Applegarth wrote in his 86-page ruling that Nine was “recklessly indifferent as to the truth or falsity of those imputations”.

Nine will pay the four brothers $600,000 each in damages plus $63,000 in interest.

Journalist Nick Cater, who was featured in the program, has also been ordered to pay $1.2 million in damages.

The Wagners won a similar case against broadcaster Alan Jones last year.

Jones and radio stations 2GB and 4BC were ordered to pay the family $3.75 million.

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Morrison government flouts law on Freedom of Information

The federal government is flouting laws designed to expose its decisions to scrutiny, with internal emails revealing that top officials are “unfazed” by the breaches of the Freedom of Information Act, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s own department has defied the law on repeated requests for information, forcing applicants to wait for decisions with no explanation for the delays.

The Department of Home Affairs has also confirmed that it is up to 131 days overdue on one application, far outside the statutory requirement to respond within 30 days of a request.

The results fuel the debate over the public’s right to know about government policies and decisions at a time when publishers are calling for more transparency including stronger adherence to the FOI law.

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Alan Jones’ radio show revenue down by 50% as boycott bites

Macquarie Media breakfast host Alan Jones‘ 2GB morning radio show has lost about half its advertising revenue after a boycott over the radio veteran’s comments about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Jones has faced a commercial backlash since he made comments in August that Ardern should be given “backhanders” and have a sock shoved down her throat.

Despite Jones apologising on air, brands have continued to abandon his top-rating show that typically brings in about $12 million a year and is worth under 10 per cent of the network’s revenue.

Sources with knowledge of the commercial dealings at the radio business said that on an annualised basis the backlash could cost the show about $6 million in advertising, though some of the advertisers had switched to other shows at the network helping limit the hit to Macquarie’s revenues overall. In September the damage was estimated to be about $1 million.

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Wil Anderson’s Hot Breakfast radio hosting under a cloud

Comedy giant Wil Anderson is still to commit to a new deal with Triple M Melbourne’s Hot Breakfast show, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Negotiations look set to go down to the wire as Anderson works out what his 2020 schedule looks like and how breakfast radio fits into that busy matrix.

Anderson signed a two-year deal when he joined the show at the start of 2018.

With a matter of weeks to go on his current contract, it is understood he is yet to indicate if he will be continuing with the popular and influential show that he hosts alongside Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy.

Should Anderson opt out of the breakfast shift for 2020, that opens up an enormous opportunity for someone to score one of the most highly sort after spots in Melbourne radio.

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Nine Entertainment Co radio star Hadley being sued for defamation

2GB radio broadcaster Ray Hadley is facing allegations he defamed a Blue Mountains City Council officer after suggesting she had deliberately lied about the council’s handling of an asbestos crisis, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios.

Blue Mountains City Council general manager Rosemary Dillon is claiming her character, reputation and business were damaged following a broadcast made by Hadley on Macquarie Media’s 2GB in May, which said she had “misled” a commissioner investigating the council’s response to problems with asbestos.

It follows changes made to new contracts for Macquarie Media, which has seen indemnity protections limited to $50,000 for staff following costly defamation actions against the network.

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Gogglebox favourites Adam and Symon quit the show

Gogglebox favourites Adam Densten and Symon Lovett have announced they’re leaving the show, reports’s Stephanie Bedo.

Lovett took to social media to announce their departure from the popular Channel 10 program, saying it was “sad and exciting news” that they wouldn’t be returning for season 11.

“After 5 years we wanted to thank everyone that watched the show, helped make the show and was on the show,” Lovett wrote on Instagram.

“We were asked to be on Gogglebox 5 years ago, sitting at a pub.

“We thought we might get some free beers out of it, on that front we’ve well and truly filled out boots.

“We’re pumped for the future and if you’ve got a job I know a couple of guys. #unemployed.”

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New Melbourne Housewives courted in secret for Foxtel series

The hunt for Melbourne’s next superstar Housewives is on in earnest with secret meetings taking place across the city between casting agents and women of influence, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Coffee shops in the leafy suburbs, classy restaurants on the bay and Jaggad-clad laps of the Tan have been the location for the furtive meetings to anoint the next well-heeled members of The Real Housewives Of Melbourne – Australian TV’s ultimate girl boss squad.

The new series of the hit Foxtel reality show is expected to start filming early next year and none of the current crop of Housewives, Gamble Breaux, Lydia Schiavello, Janet Roach, Jackie Gillies, Gina Liano, Sally Bloomfield and Venus Behbahani, are guaranteed to be asked to return to the show.

Those in the sight of producers include Dionnie Fahour, Felicia Leoncelli, Mandy Andrianakos and Nadia Bartel.

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TV director Gary Conway has died after 50-year career

Prolific director Gary Conway, who directed nearly 800 episodes of Neighbours, has died aged 73, reports TV Tonight.

Conway directed Australian drama for almost 50 years with early work on Matlock, Division 4, Ryan, Homicide, The Box, Bluey, Skyways, Sara Dane, Cop Shop, Bellamy, Prisoner, A Country Practice and Five Mile Creek. Other credits included The Flying Doctors, Bony, Blue Heelers, Snowy River: The McGregor Saga and Fire.

According to IMDb, he directed 786 episodes of Neighbours from 1988 – 2019. He was working until his final year and never losing his passion, never calling a scene completed until he was truly satisfied.

Neighbours executive producer Jason Herbison said, “Gary was a beloved member of the Neighbours family and a legend of the local industry. Proudly old-school, he honed his craft in the golden era of Crawford’s and Grundy’s, and we all loved to hear his stories about days gone by. He was never more home than on set and retirement was never in his script. There is so much to remember, not least his laughter. He did it his way and he gave it all to the end.”

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ITV Studios creating new Sydney facility for The Voice

The Voice is the latest television production to confirm a new studio home for 2020 due to a lack of available spaces, reports TV Tonight.

Producers ITV Studios Australia will fit out a new studio home in Sydney which can also be leased out to other production companies.

CEO David Mott told TV Tonight, “ITV Studios Australia is creating a bespoke studio. We are creating a new studio facility in Sydney.

“Essentially, Fox Studios Australia has basically shut the TV industry out. Frankly, it’s very disappointing given that we have an extensive lease.

“We were advised a little while ago that Disney was coming in and taking over FOX Studios and Marvel have taken all the sound stages. So that has shut out all TV production at FOX Studios.”

Mott is keeping his cards close to his chest as to where the new space is located.

“I’m not yet prepared to announce the location because the ink’s not dry. It’s quite an intricate process to go through.

“I’ve looked at old Bunnings warehouses, I looked at building a location.

“But I have found an exceptional location -essentially a warehouse that we are converting into a massive, working studio.

“We were even looking at taking The Voice elsewhere. But we didn’t want to do that. For the coaches and for the broadcaster, it made sense for us to remain in Sydney. There are other productions that have gone to Queensland, but there’s also capacity levels there as well.”

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Sports Media

Flick pass for rugby as Foxtel deal with Rugby Australia goes sour

Rugby union risks turning into a third-tier sport in Australia after Rugby Australia walked away from a Foxtel offer to broadcast Tests and Super Rugby in Australia, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan and Zoe Samios.

Rugby will not have a TV broadcast deal with any major provider after talks between Foxtel and RA broke down after meeting in Japan following the World Cup.

RA is now believed to be in talks with Optus after Foxtel withdrew its offer for the rights.

RA was offered a deal worth about $20m by Foxtel, which has had the rights for rugby in Australia for more than two decades.

While Optus has the rights to the English Premier League, it does not have broader sports or entertainment streaming services offered by the likes of Foxtel or its sports streamer Kayo.

It would also be unlikely that Wallabies games, outside those on anti-siphoning lists, would be sold to a free-to-air broadcaster under a deal with Optus. Currently, Foxtel sells some games to the 10 Network.

RA said in a statement it was in “general discussions with the broader market about the rights for the period for 2021 to 2025. No formal negotiations with the broader market have yet taken place.”

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