Mediaweek Roundup: CBS, ACCC, Nine, NRL Hall of Fame + more

• Michael Cassel, ABC, AFP, and Fitzy

Business of Media

Merger: CBS and Viacom to reunite in victory for Shari Redstone

After more than a decade apart, CBS and Viacom, both under Shari Redstone’s control, agreed to merge on Tuesday in a deal that will reunite a roster of once-mighty media businesses, reports The New York Times.

Viacom’s Paramount film studio and MTV and Nickelodeon cable networks will be added to the broadcast giant CBS and the book publisher Simon & Schuster.

The combination of CBS and Viacom is a victory for Shari Redstone, the leader of a family business that has led the two media giants for two decades. Their reunification (the two companies were once a single entity, called Viacom, until they were split up in 2006) was seen as necessary at a time when television audiences have eroded. Tech platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Netflix have chipped away at big media, eating into the once-fat profits that companies like CBS and Viacom reaped.

Redstone had pushed for a deal for at least three years but faced fierce opposition from CBS’s board, including its former chief executive, Leslie Moonves. Moonves was pushed out last September after several women accused him of sexual assault. He has denied the charges. Redstone will be chairwoman of the combined company.

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CBSViacom chief sees Australia as part of continued global expansion

In emails to their respective employees sent after the Viacom-CBS merger announcement, CBS CEO Joe Ianniello and Viacom CEO Bob Bakish touted the potential of the combined companies, while acknowledging that the move will result in staff changes, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Bob Bakish will be president and CEO of the combined company, to be called ViacomCBS, while Ianniello will be chairman and CEO of CBS after the merger is completed, reporting to Bakish. Viacom’s brands include MTV Networks and Paramount Pictures, while CBS also owns CBS TV Studios and Showtime.

“As we all know, there is a race to create more of the best content. We are already leaders in this regard, and today’s news will accelerate our global ambitions,” Ianniello wrote in his memo to CBS staff.

“This merger comes with a lot of expectation, but it also comes with what I believe is a rare and exciting opportunity,” Bakish wrote in his memo to Viacom employees. “Together, we have the opportunity to be one of the few companies positioned to shape the future of the entertainment industry.”

The memo from Viacom CEO Bob Bakish included:

Our combined company – which will be called ViacomCBS – will have a library of content with incredible breadth and depth, and a reinforced capability to produce premium and popular content at scale. We’ll have greater reach, strengthening our position with advertising and distribution partners. We will have an extended portfolio of direct-to-consumer products – both ad-supported and subscription-based – that will accelerate our growth. And we’ll be able to build on our leadership positions in the US, UK, Australia, Argentina and India for continued global expansion.

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ACCC boss Rod Sims lays down law on Facebook and Google

Australia’s competition boss Rod Sims has warned tech giants Google and Facebook to either abide by our laws or leave our shores, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Sims, who led a landmark regulatory investigation into digital platforms over 19 months that uncovered many “adverse effects” associated with the tech giants, said “Australia can, if necessary, act alone” with its crackdown.

“Facebook and Google are clearly subject to our laws. They either comply or do not do business in Australia,” Sims said in a speech to the Melbourne Press Club.

In the past, the tech giants have threatened to withdraw services from a country in response to local laws, but Sims does not think that will happen here.

“Not only are our measures carefully calibrated, but we are closely in touch with our overseas counterparts who are sympathetic to both the issues we have raised, and our solutions,” he said.

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Photo Guests at the Melbourne Press Club: Nine’s Hugh Marks, ABC’s Michael Rowland, ACCC’s Rod Sims and AAP’s Bruce Davidson (via @MichaelRowland)

Nine Entertainment close to appointing new CFO, two contenders

Nine Entertainment is believed to have launched a search for a new chief financial officer, reports The Australian’s Bridget Carter.

The move puts focus on whether current CFO Greg Barnes is about to depart the media company or shift to another role.

It is understood that two short-listed candidates are now said to be in the final running for the CFO role at the broadcaster and publisher.

It is understood that Nine (NEC) has hired recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to find a replacement and an announcement on the successful candidate could be imminent.

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Michael Cassel group appoints directors of publicity and tourism

International live entertainment producer Michael Cassel Group has hired Joanna McEwan as director, tourism and Remy Chancerel as director, publicity.

“We’re thrilled to welcome both Joanna and Remy to the team. Their combined wealth of knowledge and experience will prove invaluable to the success of our productions” said Michael Cassel, CEO/producer, Michael Cassel Group.

Michael Cassel Group has seen rapid expansion since it opened its doors in 2013, most recently executive producing and general managing the Australasian premiere of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child in Melbourne, launching the first international tour of Disney’s The Lion King and announcing the Australian premiere of Hamilton, opening in Sydney in March 2021. Forthcoming tours include Celeste Barber (in partnership with Live Nation), Lea Salonga and Tina Arena as well as producing the opening celebration of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 in Sydney, to be watched by a live television audience of 1.5 billion people.

Joanna McEwan will lead the company’s tourism and marketing initiatives.

Previously Visit Victoria’s head of major events marketing & relationships, McEwan was responsible for marketing Melbourne as a global events city, which included major sporting and cultural events such as the Australian Open Tennis, Formula 1 Grand Prix, the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and numerous theatrical productions including Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

Remy Chancerel will lead all production-based PR strategies.

Prior to joining the Michael Cassel Group, Chancerel was responsible for delivering visitation-led international and domestic press campaigns for The National Gallery of Victoria. Previously, he served as national publicist for leading arts & entertainment PR agency BridgesPR, on Australian tours of Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King, as well as Michael Cassel Group’s productions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Kinky Boots.

Photo: Joanna McEwan and Remy Chancerel

News Brands

Journalists with leaked documents treated like they have ‘stolen goods’

Journalists who publish stories based on leaked Government documents are being treated as though they have received “stolen goods”, an inquiry into press freedom has heard, reports ABC News’ Paige Cockburn.

ABC managing director David Anderson told a parliamentary inquiry the world’s attention was on Australian media following the AFP’s raid on the national broadcaster’s headquarters in June.

He said the warrant on the ABC was issued with a “patchwork of laws” which relied on the criminal offence of “receipt of stolen goods”.

“Immediate and tangible reforms to legislation that inhibits the ABC’s ability to do its job are required,” he said.

Executive chair of News Corp, Michael Miller, told the inquiry the Government talked about the value of a robust and free media, but legislative changes were needed to ensure Australians did not lose their democratic freedoms.

“[We’re] a fundamental pillar, they say, keeping the public informed, they say … the rhetoric plays to the right tune but we have many laws that criminalise journalism,” he said.

“They are creating a secret society that most Australians would not recognise as our own.”

Miller said the media industry was not seeking to place journalists above the law, but simply demanding a whistleblower privilege, in the same form as patient-doctor and lawyer-client relationships.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks said the onus was on journalists to argue a public-interest defence, which worked on the premise that “we could be criminals”.

“[Whereas] an exemption is a mark of respect.”

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AFP raids chilling investigative reporting, say ABC, Nine

Journalist sources have “freaked out” and in some cases withdrawn from participating in stories following the Australian Federal Police’s high-profile raids, ABC and Nine executives say, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios.

At a public hearing on press freedom in Sydney, ABC news director Gaven Morris said while the broadcaster was “assiduous” on working thoroughly on stories involving national security, the raids have meant it can no longer “absolutely” guarantee a source would be protected. Some sources had since withdrawn from participating in stories, he said.

“Sources have withdrawn from the story and said, ‘I’m not going to be involved anymore. This is not worth the risk to me anymore’,” Morris said.

“And sometimes I think that might be what the authorities here want: fewer whistleblowers and fewer revelations, and less information coming out from behind a curtain of confidentiality within government and within the bureaucracy. I don’t think this is healthy for our democracy.”

Group executive editor of Australia Metro Publishing at Nine James Chessell said that as a result of the raids, a whistleblower had almost pulled from an investigative story being written by Adele Ferguson.

“To give you a concrete example … when the (AFP) raids occurred, Adele Ferguson – one of our better known investigative reporters – was dealing with a whistleblower who wanted to expose the cosy relationship between the auditor EY and National Australia Bank; a story that has already now resulted in a parliamentary inquiry,” Chessell said.

“Adele said, quote, ‘The whistleblower freaked out after the raids happened’ and almost decided not to go ahead with working with her on that story.

“Similarly Nick McKenzie, another one of our reporters, describes an atmosphere of huge anxiety in dealing with his whistleblowers and confidential sources after the AFP raids occurred.”

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Radio

Nova’s Ryan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald joins raise foundation as ambassador

Nova radio host, former Sydney Swan and Big Brother housemate Ryan Fitzgerald this week announced he is joining Raise, The Youth Mentoring Foundation as an ambassador. Raise Foundation is committed to impacting the wellbeing of young people through its early intervention, best practice in school mentoring programs.

Fitzy was introduced to Raise when he chose to be a part of Raise’s new, national creative campaign.

Letters To My Mentor has been developed by creative agency Channelzero on behalf of Raise to broaden awareness and drive mentor recruitment. Alongside other much-loved, authentic Australians,

the campaign features Fitzy sharing his own letter to his mentor in a heart-felt piece designed to engage and connect on an emotional level.

 In the role of ambassador, Fitzy will help spread word of the important work Raise does and grow appreciation for the mentoring movement.

Fitzy said, “You underestimate how important having a mentor is in your adolescence. It’s very hard to comprehend how many children don’t have anyone that they can trust and talk to. Raise is a saviour, the volunteers that mentor these children are heroes.”

Raise is looking to recruit thousands of adult volunteers from around the country to become mentors to young people in its programs.

Sports Media

History made: Journalist & broadcaster added to NRL Hall of Fame

Iconic commentator Ray Warren, pioneering administrator James Joseph Giltinan and revered journalist Peter Frilingos are the first contributors to join the NRL Hall of Fame.

The NRL reports the trio will be formally inducted into the prestigious club alongside former players Danny Buderus, Craig Young, Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones during a ceremony at Carriageworks in Sydney on Wednesday evening.

Warren, the only living Hall of Fame contributor, began calling the game with the Young radio station 2LF in 1966. He rose to prominence at Channel Ten in the 70s before moving to Channel Nine in 1988.

Dubbed “the voice of rugby league”, Warren has added to footy’s theatre like no other; his dulcet tones the soundtrack of many unforgettable moments over an illustrious career.

“Rabbits” was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2014 for his outstanding contributions to broadcast media. Now in his 53rd season at age 76, Warren continues to lead Nine’s call team with aplomb.

Frilingos was one of the most influential league journalists, breaking news and spinning yarns across print, television and radio.

Starting as a cadet with the Daily Mirror in 1962, “Chippy” became the outlet’s deputy sports editor and eventually chief rugby league writer in 1980. He continued in the esteemed position when the Mirror merged with The Daily Telegraph a decade later.

After his tragic death from a heart attack in 2004, Frilingos was tributed with the naming of the Peter Frilingos Headline Moment Award – presented at the Dally M Medal – and the Peter Frilingos Media Centre at the new Bankwest Stadium.

Read NRL reporter Troy Walker’s report on the inductees.

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