Mediaweek roundup: Concert industry, ABC, COVID-19 + more

• Triple M Brisbane, Footy Classified, Rugby Australia, Seven, NRL + AFL

Business of Media

The Australian concert industry needs $850 million to survive

Musicians from Keith Urban to Chris Martin are live streaming concerts to entertain self-isolated fans around the world as the Australian live music industry urges the Federal and State Governments to assist the shattered sector with a $850 million package, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.

Urban, with his wife Nicole Kidman on roadie and percussion duties, broadcast a half-hour set from their Nashville warehouse.

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin launched the first Together At Home virtual concert series on Tuesday, chatting to tens of thousands of fans in between playing some of the band’s biggest hits and a cover of David Bowie’s Life On Mars.

Artists and their teams faced more bad news on Tuesday with Splendour in the Grass moved to October, Groovin’ The Moo cancelled and many other tours shifted to later in the year.

Meanwhile, Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson and other concert industry representatives met via teleconference with Federal arts minister Paul Fletcher to push for a $850 million support and stimulus package for the arts community.

Richardson believes gigs are gone for up to six months.

“Australia’s $4 billion live performance industry is on the brink of collapse without immediate government support,” she said.

“Realistically, we’re looking at a 3-6 month closure period at least before any recovery phase. In this scenario we will have not just thousands of people out of work but major companies going under along with a decimated small to medium sector.”

[Read more]

Coronavirus: ABC changes aim to protect staff, guests

The ABC is reorganising its television, radio and online operations to protect “vital services”, staff and guests, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

The public broadcaster announced on Tuesday that it is suspending all audiences for any live broadcast or in-studio recording, a day after News Breakfast and Q&A implemented the same changes.

Instead, the ABC will rely on technology such as Skype to interview guests.

Non-essential meetings and events at ABC offices have also been put on hold, plus non-essential visitors, including public tours of ABC buildings. Live Playschool and Giggle & Hoot children’s concerts are also off.

“At this challenging time the priority for the ABC is to ensure we continue to provide the trusted service all Australians expect and can always turn to,” the ABC said on its website.

[Read more]

News Brands

Digital audiences climb as consumers search for virus information

On Tuesday Mediaweek reported the surge in viewing audiences for news and current affair TV shows on Monday night. The response has moved some broadcasters to increase their coverage of the spread of COVID-19. Both Nine and Seven are now programming a one-hour late night news bulletin to focus on the latest developments.

Following our update on Seven News with news boss Craig McPherson on Monday, has continued to experience audience growth with last Sunday its highest day ever with 2.2m Australian users, the first day across 2m for the news brand launched almost 12 months ago. It almost crossed the 2m barrier on the preceding days too – 1.9m on Friday and then 1.8m on Saturday.

Meanwhile over the past seven days has had a daily average audience of 1.9 million, according to Nielsen DCR data. Thursday 12 March and Friday 13 March were the most active days with a unique audience of more than 2.1 million on both days.

To-date,’s coronavirus coverage has generated over double the number of page views the site’s bushfire coverage generated over summer from just over 1,200 articles published since the virus came to light around 70 days ago. editor-in-chief Kate de Brito editor-in-chief Kate de Brito told Mediaweek: “We’ve seen a huge surge in readership around the coronavirus starting last month and leading to record audience numbers over the past week. We are running at least two live blogs every day which are being updated throughout the day and evening plus multiple stories about the virus and its impact on Australia and the world. The massive increase in audience numbers comes from search, social, app and direct traffic to our homepage and shows how important this issue is to Australians and how urgently they are seeking credible and up-to-date information on health issues and around closures, shutdowns and shortages.”

$212m settlement a victory for the community and for journalism

The federal government will pay out $212.5 million to settle three class actions launched by victims of toxic firefighting contamination across Australia, comments an editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The landmark legal settlement – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – can be revealed after the Department of Defence polluted thousands of properties with firefighting foam containing potentially carcinogenic per- and poly- fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals.

These sorts of wins are all the sweeter because they are so rare. This victory has only come after five years of complaints to local authorities, political lobbying and legal arguments, which cost residents and their supporters both time and money. They could easily have given up but they fought on. It is difficult to talk about without sounding self-serving but this is also, in a small way, a win for the Herald and Newcastle Herald, both formerly part of Fairfax Media. Both mastheads helped the people of Williamtown raise the alarm at crucial times.

The Newcastle Herald, led by Carrie Fellner– currently an investigative reporter for The SMH– started following the issue from 2015 when the Department of Defence issued a brief press release admitting the site might be contaminated. This was more than a decade after 3M – the manufacturer of PFAS chemicals – indicated there were issues with its products.

[Read more]

Nine Entertainment publishing’s James Chessell writes to subscribers

• Won’t sensationalise COVID-19 coverage, measured analysis

The executive editor of The SMH and The Age, James Chessell, has written to subscribers of the two Nine Entertainment news brands, updating them about the company’s continuing coverage of coronavirus and its trail of destruction around the world:

Our newsrooms are used to fast-developing stories but the coronavirus pandemic is without precedent. Since we first reported on the outbreak of a new virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January, the coronavirus has spread across the world infecting more than 180,000 people, paralysing countries, and upending global financial markets.

Misinformation during this time can spread as quickly as the virus itself. Our newsrooms are committed to reporting the facts about COVID-19 calmly and explaining what the outbreak means for our economy, businesses, schools, sports, culture, households and daily lives. We will do so without straying into sensationalism. It is imperative that our community is prepared and informed as we face this challenge together. Our reporters on the ground in Australia and overseas take this responsibility seriously and are working hard to fulfil it.

We have made our daily live coverage of the pandemic free to all readers given its critical health and community information. It’s thanks to our subscribers that we’re able to provide this service to the wider community. Subscribers power our newsrooms and access to a trusted source of news is more important now than it has ever been.

Our wider coverage includes:

• Federal and state political bureaus led by David Crowe, Rob Harris and Peter Hartcher pursuing and examining the government’s response to the serious health and economic challenges ahead

• Foreign correspondents filing from Europe, the United States and Asia to provide a global insight, including Bevan Shields’ excellent piece about the ‘herd immunity’ debate in the UK

• Expert business reporters and columnists analysing the impact on jobs, the economy and business including Stephen Bartholomeusz’s must-read on the myriad forces ending the longest bull market in history

• Opinion writers including Jacqueline Maley, Chris Uhlmann, Ross Gittins, Sean Kelly, Shaun Carney and Julia Baird, who wrote eloquently about the importance of hope recently, providing the best range of measured analysis of events for readers who don’t like to be told what to think

• Science and health reporters giving regular updates on the nature of the virus, vaccine developments, and personal health advice. Our journalists abide by a set of reporting guidelines when writing about medical research, which you can read here.

Most importantly, we will tell you what it all means for you and your family.

Each morning we publish a Morning Edition newsletter that provides a summary of the day’s most important stories.

We first published our comprehensive explainer on the virus on January 21. It has had more than 2500 updates since and continues to be constantly revised. It serves as an excellent primer on the basic questions we all want to know including how worried we should be. Our award-winning explainer team has also written about what coronavirus does to the body, the rules of self-isolation and the origins of COVID-19.

The safety of our staff is paramount and we are taking as many measures as we can to do our bit to minimise the spread of the virus throughout the community. But we are also very conscious of our duty to report the news no matter what the circumstances.

I want to thank you, as a subscriber, for supporting journalism which in the coming days will be vital. We hope your family stays healthy and safe.

China to revoke credentials of journalists as media war escalates

China says it will revoke the credentials of Americans at three US newspapers in response to new US restrictions on Chinese media, reports Associated Press.

In a news release posted online, the foreign ministry said early on Wednesday that China demands American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post whose credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020 to hand back their press cards within 10 days.

The move comes after the Trump administration designated five Chinese media outlets as foreign missions and restricted the number of Chinese who could work for them.

China said that its steps were necessary and reciprocal countermeasures in response to what it called unreasonable oppression of Chinese media in the US.

[Read more]

Sports Media

TV/radio cliff-hanger: AFL delays decision on R1 until Wednesday

The AFL will delay until Wednesday a final decision on whether to play its opening round of the 2020 season, reports’s Damian Barrett.

[The delay means TV and radio broadcasters still don’t know if they will have four days of football to cover starting Thursday.]

After another full day of meetings and phone hook-ups with government officials, clubs, players and medical experts, the AFL Commission on Tuesday evening again deferred its decision.

The AFL is now committed to making a decision on Wednesday about the full set of round one matches – and, in the event of a cancellation, effectively a minimum of five rounds beyond round one – and not wait until the actual day of the season-opening game.

The League has analysed every possible scenario in the days leading into the scheduled season start, knowing that there are no guarantees on a resumption of play after the ultimately inevitable decision not to play is made, whenever that decision falls, be it before or sometime after round one.

[Read more]

Sam McClure: Seven to hold fire over broadcast refund discussion

Host broadcaster Channel Seven will wait until later in the year before discussing a potential refund from the AFL, reports The Age’s Sam McClure.

Gillon McLachlan’s decision to shorten the season to 17 games – the first interrupted season since World War 2 – means the contract of the six-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal has been breached.

The contract, which involves Seven, Fox and Telstra, sees the three broadcasters pay the AFL just under $420 million per season.

Television sources have confirmed to The Age that there is a ‘force majeure’ clause in the contract, which talks about ‘unforeseeable circumstances or events.’

Of that, Fox pays approximately $250 million for all 198 home and away games, while Seven pays $150 million annually.

[Read more]

Caro and Hutchy talk AFL sports rights on Footy Classified

Sam McClure’s report about Seven and an AFL refund comes just a day after his colleague at Nine Entertainment, Caroline Wilson, claimed on the first of two episodes of Nine’s Footy Classified to screen this week that the AFL was close to revealing an extension of the existing broadcast rights deal with Seven, Foxtel and Telstra. An extra two years would take the existing rights holders through until the end of the 2024 season.

Broadcaster and media executive Craig Hutchison said if the AFL could pull off such a deal in the current financial climate it would be like “Christmas Day” for the League.

A second episode this week of Nine’s Footy Classified will screen tonight with Eddie McGuire hosting with his long-time adversary Caroline Wilson sitting alongside him.

During the Monday episode, Hutchison was asked as the CEO of radio rights holder Crocmedia how much a cancellation of the AFL would impact his business. “We will survive,” said Hutchison.

New long-term TV deal could save NRL: ex-News Corp boss

Former News Corp chairman and chief executive John Hartigan believes the NRL and broadcasters should look to immediately re-negotiate long-term television deals in an effort to shore up their uncertain futures amid the coronavirus crisis, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Chris Barrett.

With sport forced into COVID-19 lockdown around the globe, competitions such as the NRL and AFL stand to be cruelled financially if they lose significant portions of their seasons to the virus and they are left stranded without the millions in broadcast rights revenue that prop up the games.

The NRL’s $1.8 billion agreement with Foxtel, Nine and Telstra runs until 2022, as does the AFL’s $2.5bn deal with Seven West Media, Foxtel and Telstra, and while the code would have to accept a reduction in rights fees in the circumstances, with player payments going backwards, it could help secure its future.

“That’s something they would have to be contemplating, just because of that cash flow and the certainty of it. It’s an opportune time,” Hartigan said on Tuesday.

[Read more]

No deal: Rugby Australia suspends broadcast talks

Raelene Castle insists Rugby Australia will come out the other side of the coronavirus crisis intact despite being forced to suspend its broadcast rights process for the foreseeable future and flagging the possibility it may discuss its financial predicament with the government.

These are uncharted waters for rugby in Australia as the code prepares to be “impacted in ways that we could never have imagined” due to self-isolation protocols that have already resulted in Super Rugby being cancelled for the time being.

RA had hoped to field offers this week for the next five-year broadcast rights cycle but that deadline has been ditched due to the ongoing uncertainty facing potential bidders Optus and current rights holder Fox Sports.

[Read more]

Triple M Brisbane welcomes Kev Walters home for Rush Hour

Queensland State of Origin coach and former Brisbane Broncos captain Kev Walters has rejoined the Triple M Brisbane scrum and will be heard on The Rush Hour every Wednesday night, co-hosting with Ben ‘Dobbo’  Dobbin (pictured), as well as giving his regular Monday recovery session on The Big Breakfast with Marto, Margaux and Nick Cody.

Triple M Brisbane content director Scott Menz said the station couldn’t be more stoked to welcome Walters back.

“He first joined the Triple M team back in 2014 for Dead Set Legends and we all discovered that his on-air chemistry with Dobbo combined with his expert coaching brain generated a swag of thumbs ups from our listeners. He’s always given us an inside look into the world of Rugby League in Brisbane and of course, he’s the best bloke to give ‘Dobbo’ an absolute ribbing on the air – we love that.”

Walters said: “I’m over the moon to re-join the Triple M family and get behind the mic again in Brisbane. I’ve always loved coming into these studios and having fun, so I can’t wait to kick off.”

Kevin Walters co-hosts The Rush Hour with Ben Dobbin every Wednesday night 6-7pm and joins The Big Breakfast every Monday morning to review the weekend’s games.

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