Mediaweek Roundup: Daniel Johns, Alan Jones, The Brady Bunch + more

• Domain, Antony Catalano, Google, Facebook, Sky News, Saul Shtein, and Bell Shakespeare

Business of Media

Domain hires Woolies exec David Bolton as new tech boss

Domain has hired Woolworths executive David Bolton as its new technology boss, farewelling the long-serving Mark Cohen who has worked across Fairfax Media and the digital property classifieds business on-and-off for the last 16 years, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Bolton is current head of engineering and e-commerce technology at WooliesX, which combines the supermarket giant’s loyalty, digital, data and e-commerce businesses. He has previously worked at ING Direct, William Hill and News Corp.

Domain confirmed Cohen’s exit when contacted by The Australian Financial Review. He will finish up at Domain next Friday. Staff were told on Thursday.

Cohen had several stints at Fairfax over 16 years, starting as a technology manager in 2003 before leaving in 2005. He returned to Fairfax that year as a technology director for online real estate before taking on the role looking over classifieds more generally.

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Consolidation needed in regional media: Antony Catalano

Regional media needs to consolidate to survive and the government needs to act fast by removing more ownership restrictions to make sure Australians outside metropolitan cities won’t be “living in the dark”, Antony Catalano said, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Catalano is executive chairman of regional publisher Australian Community Media, which he and his business partner Alex Waislitz bought from Nine in a deal worth $125 million, which completed June 30. Nine inherited the business via its $4 billion merger with Fairfax Media, which completed in December 2018.

Catalano said his ambition is to turn ACM into a similar business model to Nine following the Fairfax merger, with a range of different mediums to take to advertisers.

“I want to grow our business and I want to look to consolidate it. Potentially are we a multimedia regional business that has print, digital, TV, radio? They are things we should look at,” he said.

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Google, Facebook cozy up to publishers as regulators circle

Alphabet Inc. ’s Google and Facebook Inc. are making concessions long sought by news publishers whose business has been hurt by the platforms’ dominance, moves that some in the media industry see as an effort to pre-empt potential regulatory backlash, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Google last week announced changes to how it ranks stories on its news page to better promote original content, addressing publishers’ long-running complaints that their scoops were often overshadowed by quick rewrites by other outlets.

Facebook, meanwhile, is negotiating with media outlets to pay them for the rights to publish their stories in a special news feed on the social media platform, and will rely on humans to determine which stories to feature, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.

Google executives said the prospect of regulation didn’t influence their effort to better promote original news, adding that technological advances had finally allowed the company to address a longstanding concern among publishers.

Facebook has expressed a commitment to improving its partnerships with news outlets, particularly those that publish legitimate, high-quality reporting.

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News Brands

Rock star denies ‘hurtful, humiliating, and damaging report’, sues paper

Singer Daniel Johns has commenced defamation proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria against The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, its editor and a journalist.

Johns says the legal action follows an article on August 11, 2019, when the newspaper published a photograph of him was splashed across the front page under the headline “King of the Kastle”.

In a social media post, Johns said: “According to the newspaper, it was a photograph of me leaving a brothel called The Kastle, which the article described as specialising in bondage, S&M, ‘brown showers’ and ‘adult babies’. The article stated that I am there so frequently that it has become my second home, spending up to 18 hours a day there for the previous two weeks. Additionally, it was stated that staff and patrons were ‘fed up’ with me, and I was full of venom and anger.

“The article was simply untrue.

“No contact was made with me or my representatives to check the facts before the article was published.”

Johns added he had asked the newspaper for an apology and retraction and neither has been provided.

“I have now issued legal proceedings in order to publicly correct the facts and vindicate my reputation.

“This false reporting has been very hurtful, humiliating, and damaging to me and my family. It is disappointing that the newspaper has not acknowledged this and apologised despite assertions from both myself, and a representative of the Kastle, that I simply was not, and have never been, there. In fact, I never even knew of its existence.”

Sky News congratulates award winners David Speers and Sharri Markson

Sky News political editor David Speers and The Daily Telegraph’s political editor and Sky News presenter Sharri Markson were this week recognised as the joint winners of the 2019 Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery Journalist of the Year Award at the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball in Canberra.

As Sky News Political Editor, Speers led the team for the channel’s Federal Election coverage. He was at the centre of one of the defining campaign moments as host of the Sky News People’s Forum, which saw Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten go head-to-head with the Opposition Leader accusing the Prime Minister of being a “Space Invader”.

David Speers

Speers also hosted the first-ever Sky News investigative documentary Bad Blood: Toppling Turnbull and New Blood: Morrison’s Miracle, which delivered some of the channel’s best ratings year to date.

Markson’s exclusive reporting in The Daily Telegraph revealed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton intended to challenge for the prime ministership, significantly impacting the course of the political events of the Federal Election year.

Paul Whittaker, Sky News chief executive officer, said: “From all the team at Sky News, congratulations to David and Sharri on this prestigious award, which recognises their extraordinary skills in political journalism and their ability to set the national news agenda.”

Facebook expands local news accelerator to support publishers

The Facebook Journalism Project is expanding the Local News Accelerator program to Australia and New Zealand. Launched in partnership with the Walkley Foundation, program will convene 11 publishers from September to December in Sydney, and support their efforts to boost direct reader revenue through subscriptions, memberships, and one-off payments.

Facebook’s news partnerships lead ANZ, Andrew Hunter, said the Accelerator provides platform-agnostic training, coaching, and project funding for news organizations to connect with – and monetise – their audiences on and off Facebook.

Participating publishers include News Corp, Australian Community Media, The Guardian, The Conversation, Crikey, The West Australian, The New Daily, Schwartz Media, and New Zealand publishers The New Zealand Herald, The Spinoff, and Newsroom.

The Facebook Accelerator Program began in 2018 as a three-month pilot program in the United States to work with metro newspapers to elevate their digital subscription business strategies. Building on the success of previous Accelerators in North America, Latin America, and Germany, the Australia and New Zealand Accelerator will take place in two parts.

The first stage will be a three-month curriculum of hands-on workshops led by news industry experts and global media leaders, who will share best-in-practice reader revenue strategies and tactics.

Louisa Graham

New publishers will also be invited to face-to-face meetings at Facebook’s Sydney office. In the second stage, each publisher will receive funding to test and implement new reader revenue strategies that they will develop with coaches. Grants will be administered by the Walkley Foundation.

“The Walkley Foundation is committed to fostering resilience and growth in the industry in practical, measurable ways,” said Louisa Graham, chief executive of the Walkley Foundation. “Facebook’s Accelerator Program is designed to support Australian newsrooms in maximizing new revenue streams. This will ultimately allow news organizations to continue their important work and report on the issues that matter to Australian society.”

Radio

‘My dear Prime Minister’: Alan Jones’s apology letter to Jacinda Ardern

Australian broadcaster Alan Jones’s apology letter to the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, spells out he never intended “violence” towards her, and wished no harm on her and her family, reports New Zealand reporter for The Guardian, Eleanor Ainge Roy.

It includes the broadcaster pitching for an interview with Ardern despite earlier saying he would “puke” if he saw her again on TV.

On 16 August Jones penned an apology letter to the New Zealand PM, saying he never intended to cause offence, which has been released to the Guardian under an Official Information Request – New Zealand’s version of FOI.

“My dear Prime Minister,” the letter begins.

Jones says he and Ardern’s opinions on climate change “differ significantly” and his comments, which don’t need to be repeated, “didn’t come out quite as I intended”.

Jones goes on to say that, if she so wishes, he is happy to discuss the matter by telephone with the PM – and then pitches for an on-air interview.

“I would also like to extend a standing invitation to participate in an interview on my programme, which would allow us to constructively debate the issue of climate change,” he writes. “Again, my sincerest apologies and please know I wish you and your family only the best.”

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Television

Foxtel celebrates 20-year partnership with Bell Shakespeare

Foxtel is celebrating a 20-year partnership with Bell Shakespeare this month as the National Schools Partner, which introduces Shakespeare’s work to 80,000 school students across Australia, from major cities to regional towns every year through school visits and stage productions.

To mark the occasion Foxtel Arts will showcase this month, four Foxtel Original/produced short films which highlight Bell Shakespeare’s initiatives, including the story of John Bell who founded Bell Shakespeare in 1990 and his idea to create a theatre company dedicated to producing the plays of William Shakespeare in a way that is relevant and exciting to Australian audiences.

The short films also cover Bell Shakespeare’s Regional programs including their Regional Teacher Mentorship program where 30 regional teachers travel to Sydney each year to practice techniques to bring Shakespeare’s works off the page and into the classroom. The third film features a follow up to one of the teachers from the program, Kate Dyer, who returns to her school in Darwin to inspire her students about Shakespeare and to produce a Macbeth performance.

The last film features Bell Shakespeare’s mainstage play Much Ado About Nothing which launches its national tour in Orange each year, and follows the creative process and the behind the scenes logistics that go into bringing a theatre production to the regions.

Foxtel has a commitment to fostering, supporting and participating in Australia’s creative industries and arts organisations and is delighted to be involved with Bell Shakespeare over the last 20 years and beyond.

Fraser Stark, Foxtel’s group general manager, Entertainment & Music Channels said, “By helping teachers and students in Australia’s cities and its regions access Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare does much more than develop appreciation for The Bard. By forging a close connection with potent narratives, vivid characters, as well as the virtuosity of the language itself, Bell helps teachers and students from anywhere unlock their own potential to teach, inspire and entertain. Such is the richness of the texts and the dedication of the Company to draw them from the page. It’s an honour for Foxtel to support such a fine calling and we’re proud to have done so for twenty years. We hope that our short films form a fitting tribute to our partner’s great work.”

Image: William Shakespeare, English poet and playwright, Madame Tussauds Berlin wax museum

Fan victory: A Very Brady Renovation coming to TLC in October

After pleas from fans and a campaign from TV Tonight and Triple M’s Jane Kennedy, Discovery has announced A Very Brady Renovation will launch in Australia on Monday 7 October at 8:30pm on TLC.

The production, from TLC’s sister network HGTV, sees six original cast members reunite in an emotional journey as the sitcom’s iconic house – the most coveted and photographed in America after the White House – gets a mind-blowing renovation and replication.

The six Brady Bunch siblings, Barry Williams (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Susan Olsen (Cindy), team up with HGTV’s biggest renovation star experts Jonathan and Drew Scott (Property Brothers), Mina Starsiak Hawk and Karen E Laine (Good Bones), siblings Leanne and Steve Ford (Restored by the Fords), Jasmine Roth (Hidden Potential) and Lara Spencer (Flea Market Flip), to execute the boldest home renovation the world has ever seen.

In A Very Brady Renovation, the Brady cast and HGTV team deliver a show-stopping transformation of the home by adding 2,000 square feet to its original footprint – all without compromising its instantly recognisable street view. Proving why they are the best in the business, the renovation experts leave no stone unturned as they create the perfect replica down to the vintage furniture, wallpaper and décor items, to ensure that the final renovation results stay true to the spirit of The Brady Bunch family home that everyone loves and remembers. From the unforgettable signature wood-panelled living room with floating staircase and the orange and green kitchen, to Mike’s den and Greg’s attic, and of course their memorable credenza and horse statue, The Brady Bunch house will forever hold a special place in television history and pop culture.

Sports Media

Game over: Saul Shtein out as head of Seven Sport

Seven’s head of sport Saul Shtein will depart the network after 15 years, following the AFL Grand Final next week, reports TV Tonight.

“We’re very grateful for all his service over the last 15 years with the network,” a Seven spokesperson told TV Tonight.

“An announcement in regards to his replacement will be made in due course.”

Sources suggest his shock redundancy is one of several announcements to be made by newly-installed CEO James Warburton and comes despite AFL performing well for the network in a challenging ratings year.

Shtein has an impressive CV across some 40 years the industry, enjoying 17 years with Nine before 9 years at Fox Sports.

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Shtein spoke to Mediaweek in 2017:

“I have loved every moment of it since I have been involved. I started in 1980 – 37 years ago. I started at Nine, later moved to Fox Sports and then joined Seven. I was at Nine for 17 years, nine years at Fox and have been with Seven since 2004. I have loved all the people I worked with during my time in telly.

“I still have mates at all places I worked and there is a collegiate friendship with people working in sport.

“We are lucky in Australia in that we enjoy the best sports telecast in the world which comes partly from the competitive environment we are in.”

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