Mediaweek Roundup: Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, Federal Election, Lego Masters + more

• All the early morning news you need for May 15

Business of Media

Lachlan Murdoch defiant in face of Fox News ad boycotts

Lachlan Murdoch was defiant Tuesday when he declared that advertising boycotts – like ones against shows hosted by Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham – will not dictate the content on Fox News, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

“The boycotts themselves are not having a financial impact of any significance,” said the CEO of Fox Corporation, the parent of Fox News.

Murdoch, speaking to Wall Street analysts, then launched into a story involving himself as a teenager watching his father, Rupert Murdoch, speak to a large advertiser at one of the newspapers he owned.

The advertiser warned the elder Murdoch that if he didn’t call off an investigative reporter about to reveal something negative about the business, he’d yank his advertising.

“Without a pause or taking a breath, my father said, ‘fine, pull your advertising.’ He ended up not pulling his advertising and we ended up continuing our investigation into what was real fraud in the business,” said Murdoch. “I learned a lesson…advertisers don’t tell our journalists what they can say or what they can write.”

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Elizabeth Knight: Murdoch pulls Foxtel out of the financial fire

Only a month ago Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation pulled its 65% owned Foxtel out of the financial fire. It lent Australia’s largest pay television operator $300 million it owed to its creditors, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Elizabeth Knight.

In just two weeks Foxtel needs to repay additional borrowings of $200 million. Whether Murdoch will come to the rescue again remains to be seen. Even if he does, the challenges don’t stop there.

In two months Foxtel will need to stump up another debt repayment, then rinse and repeat in September.

Foxtel’s rapid-fire debt repayment schedule is gruelling over the next two years.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Foxtel is the enormous cost of securing big ticket sporting rights.

Typically Foxtel had teamed with free to air broadcasters to pitch for the large sports contracts but there are early signs that the TV networks have a finite expenditure appetite. Last year Nine let go of the cricket and opted instead for tennis rights which provided it with a better return on investment.

While most of the big sport contracts have years left to run, it will be a rude shock to sporting codes now used to raking in billions in revenue if television and pay TV operators are forced to curb spending.

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Coalition rolls out ads at petrol bowsers to circumvent media blackout

The Coalition has rolled out ads at over 12,000 petrol stations across the country, as part of its bid to target undecided voters and circumvent the media blackout on political advertisement that kicks in on Wednesday night, reports The Australian’s Alice Workman.

The “Pump TV” ads are currently playing at petrol stations across five states and will continue across the final week of the campaign, right until polling day.

Filling up with petrol is one of the rare times Australians are without their phones and the Coalition are hoping to catch the eyes of voters who are unsure about Labor.

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News Brands

More job losses loom at The West Australian and Sunday Times

Staff at The West Australian and Sunday Times newspapers in Perth have been warned that more jobs may go following the departure of 33 journalists as part of its voluntary redundancy program, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Senior editor Anthony De Ceglie, who took the helm in January, has told staff that there could be “involuntary redundancies” as part of Seven West Media’s ongoing review of its newspaper operations, which are shifting to a seven-day newsroom.

“Our ambition to evolve into a truly seven-day newsroom is still an ongoing process. And I think it’s important that management is transparent about this transformation,” De Ceglie said in an email that was sent to staff late yesterday, which has been seen by The Australian.

“Therefore I think it’s only fair that management is upfront about the fact that as part of this review there still could be a requirement for involuntary redundancies in certain areas. Of course, we may also find that some areas need more resources.”

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Television

Lego Masters champs buying more Lego and sharing $100k with family

They are the newest champions in Australian reality TV — the duo who took home the trophy on the surprise smash hit show, Lego Masters, reports News Corp’s Fiona Wingett.

Henry Pinto and his brick-building buddy, Cade Franklin, said they were “totally pumped” to learn on Tuesday after a nerve-racking five month wait, that they would be taking home the trophy and $100,000.

The show which features grown men and women making weird and wonderful Lego sculptures, has averaged more than 1.5 million viewers each episode in its short run, with those watching online or on catch up bringing viewing figures up to an average of 2.25 million each episode and sending Lego sales soaring.

The two were paired by Channel 9 and teamed up after one phone call – and have become firm friends.

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Sports Media

Australian sport’s TV gravy train heading to the end of the tracks

The sports gravy train in Australia will slip most of its carriages following recent filings, both here and in the US by News Corporation, signalling spending cuts by Foxtel on “non-marquee sporting content”, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters.

The subscription TV service, owned 65% by News Corporation, funds approximately 80% of broadcasting fees paid to Australian sports, with its most recent $1.2 billion cricket deal with Seven West Media the catalyst of the coming train wreck.

Foxtel’s cost-cutting represents an immediate challenge for Rugby Australia, a crisis for FFA in two years time and a problem for Supercars.

Even the major winter codes, such as NRL and AFL, will flatline revenue wise and be forced to increase attendance, sponsorships and membership sales if they want to sustain players’ salaries at current levels.

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35,000 sold in hours: A-League grand final tickets fly out the door

The record attendance for an Australian football grand final could be broken on Sunday with a massive demand for tickets for the first decider held in Perth in the A-League era set see a full house at Optus Stadium, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Dominic Bossi.

Just one hour after going on sale to the general public, more than half the available seats at Optus Stadium had been taken-up for Perth Glory’s clash against Sydney FC at the new 60,000 capacity arena.

As of 6pm AEST on Tuesday, more than 35,000 tickets had been purchased for Sunday’s grand final. At the current rate of sale, the “house full” sign could be on display well before kick-off on Sunday evening for a match that could break the previous attendance record of 55,436 for an Australian football grand final. That was set in 2007 when Melbourne Victory beat Adelaide United in Docklands.

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Seven’s Brian Taylor and the Orazio Fantasi commentary controversy

Brian Taylor hopes he has ended a five-day storm over one of his signature commentary lines, reports News Corp’s Al Paton.

Taylor has explained why he pronounces Orazio Fantasia’s name in his now famous style – and the answer is simple.

Debate erupted over the weekend after Essendon captain Dyson Heppell said on Friday night that the livewire forward’s surname was pronounced “Fanta-sia”, and Channel 7 commentators adopted that pronunciation during the Bombers’ loss to Sydney.

Taylor said on radio the next day he would be sticking with his trademark “Fant-aysia” pronunciation, drawing criticism from figures including state Sport Minister Martin Pakula, who labelled Taylor disrespectful.

On Tuesday BT described the reaction as “unbelievable”.

“This was cleared up a couple of years ago,” he said on the SuperFooty podcast.

Taylor said Saturday’s discussion on Triple M, when he said he would continue to pronounce Fantasia’s name the “Australian” way, was part of a jokey conversation in which callers were “taking the P-1-SS” out of each other.

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