Mediaweek Roundup: Foxtel, Alan Jones, Nine, AFR, Seven + more

• Mick Millett, The Australian, Kevin Rudd, and Rachel Griffiths

Business of Media

‘There’s a role for Foxtel’: Telstra CEO on future of its TV investment

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn has backed the telecommunications company’s investment in Foxtel as part of a long-term strategy despite falling audiences for the pay TV service, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Since the start of the year to September 8, Foxtel’s pay TV audience declined 8 per cent on OzTAM figures while year-on-year there have been double-digit declines. Foxtel does receive revenue from advertising, which would be affected by audience declines, but is largely reliant on subscriptions.

“The good thing about that is actually the number of people in Australia who are paying for content today has increased dramatically. So it used to be only about 30 per cent of the population were paying for pay TV, today it’s probably closer to 70 or 80 per cent of the population,” Penn said.

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany said in a statement that the pay TV platform is set to unveil a “wholesale repositioning and renewal of Foxtel’s entertainment and Lifestyle channels” on Tuesday.

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News Brands

Tributes for Mick Millett, media man who ‘remained a reporter at heart’

Journalists, policymakers and media executives have paid tribute to ABC public affairs boss and former Sydney Morning Herald editor Mick Millett following his death on Saturday. He was 60, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Koziol.

Millett spent 20 years at the Herald, holding roles as a political correspondent, Canberra bureau chief, Tokyo correspondent and the newspaper’s deputy editor.

In 2009 he joined the public broadcaster as director of communications – a job that saw him frequently return to Canberra to represent the ABC’s interests. But he “remained a reporter at heart”, the ABC’s managing director David Anderson said on Saturday.

James Chessell, the group executive editor of the Herald and The Age, praised Millett as an excellent journalist, an editor who “backed his people” and a wonderful colleague.

“He was blessed with a sharp eye for stories and the skills to tell them,” Chessell said.

“But Mick had many qualities that went beyond the job of editing and reporting. He was calm and funny and had a sense of perspective. He was someone you could go to for a quiet word or some sensible advice.

The head of the NSW education department Mark Scott, who worked alongside Millett at the ABC and the Herald, praised his former colleague as a “great newspaper reporter and foreign correspondent who became a tireless champion for the ABC and the right-to-know”.

“Straight talking, unpretentious, always wise and insightful – he fought for the important things,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “Gone too soon.”

ABC presenter Leigh Sales said she was saddened by the loss of “a great and staunch ally”.

“Mick was peerless at strategising about how to keep the ABC relevant, funded, connected and respected,” she said.

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Read ABC managing director David Anderson’s tribute to Millett here.

AFR: Nine Entertainment should not be involved in political fundraising

An editorial in The Australian Financial Review:

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks quickly realised and admitted his mistake in hosting a high-level Liberal Party fund-raiser on his TV network’s Today show set last week, as revealed by The Australian Financial Review. Nine’s lobbying includes media freedom in the wake of a security crackdown and Google and Facebook’s domination of the advertising market that undercuts the traditional financing of journalism. Its lobbying does not influence the editorial judgment of its recently acquired mastheads such as the Financial Review. Yet a serious news media company obviously should not be involved with political fundraising.

The relaxation of media ownership rules that allowed the Nine-Fairfax merger should set the tone for further reform.

Nine has the opportunity to exploit its first-mover advantage as the biggest, most diversified and independent media company in Australia. It is not taxpayer-funded like the ABC; not run by a media mogul like News Corp; does not run a foreign-influenced political agenda like The Guardian; and is not financed by big super like The New Daily.

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The Australian overhauls app for subscribers: updates, new features

The national daily published by News Corp is updating the app used by many of its digital subscribers. It has sent this note to readers:

Dear subscriber, at The Australian we’re committed to giving you the best reading experience on any device.

Soon you’ll notice significant changes to the app, including more news updates and exciting new features.

• We are introducing a Home section featuring the most recent and important news, commentary and features selected by editors. This section will be updated at 7am, noon, 5pm and 8.30pm on weekdays, 7am on Saturdays and 7am and 1pm on Sundays. We’ll alert you when the Home section is updated.

• To keep you informed our editors will also update the Nation, Business, World and Sport sections in the app when they publish a new story. We’ll also alert you to important news whenever it breaks and other stories we think you’ll enjoy.

• Mind Games has been rebuilt to work on all devices and new puzzles added.

• We have adopted Times Classic Display – the same font used in print – to improve readability, and design tweaks will make the app visually richer.

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Rudd resumes attack on News Corp, not happy about Nine either

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd writes for Guardian Australia in a piece titled Democracy overboard: Rupert Murdoch’s long war on Australian politics:

The Murdoch media has mutated to become a cancerous growth on our democracy. It no longer even pretends to be a media organisation, separating out news coverage from editorial option. Instead it has become a de facto political party prosecuting its own ideological and economic interests, acting as an effective coalition partner of the Liberal party.

You don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to work out that since 2007 through to 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019, the Murdoch media, representing some 70% of the nation’s total print media, has hated the Australian Labor party’s guts. More broadly, they despise the progressive left. And they will do anything within their power to keep Labor out of office.

Even in 2007, when some Murdoch mastheads technically endorsed me in their pre-election editorials, Murdoch’s tabloids for the year prior to that election did everything they could to destroy my leadership through one series of personal accusations of scandal, misdemeanour or corruption after another. No Liberal leader has been subjected to anything similar, but it has become routine for Labor leaders. Once they failed and Murdoch concluded that a Labor win was unavoidable, that’s when the technical, pre-election “editorial” endorsement was deployed to put themselves on the right side of history.

Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, the country’s only remaining independent newspaper organisation including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Financial Review, is a further nail in the coffin of media diversity in Australia. Nine’s chairman is Peter Costello, long known for his fair and balanced views on Australian politics. And then we have Hugh Marks, Nine CEO, who hosted a $750,000 fundraiser for the Liberal party at Nine headquarters, as if this was now perfectly normal, before a belated apology after a backlash from reporters.

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Rachel Griffiths to deliver 2019 Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) and Film Victoria have announced director, producer and actress Rachel Griffiths as this year’s Hector Crawford Memorial Lecturer.

After bursting onto the international scene in 1994 with P.J. Hogan’s much-loved feature film Muriel’s Wedding, Griffiths has had a prolific acting career across film, television and the stage, decorated with an Academy Award Nomination (Hilary & Jackie), a Golden Globe win (Six Feet Under) and an Emmy Award nomination (Brothers & Sisters). In 2015 she also made her television directorial debut on the second season of Matchbox Pictures’ hit drama Nowhere Boys.

Most recently she stars alongside Deborah Mailman as a strong-willed, resolute woman in Australia’s top office in Black Bitch, which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this week.

Later this month Griffiths will add “feature film producer and director” to her long list of accomplishments, with Michelle Payne biopic Ride Like A Girl (due for release 26 September), a feminist sports film deeply rooted in Australiana. As the first feature produced under the Screen Australia Gender Matters initiative, the film speaks to Griffiths’ commitment to greater diversity in the industry.

The Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture has been a keynote feature of the annual Screen Forever conference since 1992, presented in 2018 by fellow Australian triple threat, Leah Purcell. The speech honours its namesake’s legacy and emphasises the importance of independent production in Australia’s cultural life.

“At our Awards two years ago, Rachel spoke of the shocking discovery she’d made while negotiating her producing fee for Ride Like A Girl: producers make no money, have no power and are exhausted! While this statement highlights the all too common plight of the feature film producer in Australia, it is also an example of the depth and breadth of industry experience Rachel now brings with her to every role. Actor, director, producer – Rachel has, quite literally, done it all and we are honoured to have her join the Screen Forever program,” said SPA CEO, Matthew Deaner.

This year the Hector Crawford Memorial Lecture will take place on the first day of Screen Forever, 12 – 14 November, in Melbourne.

Seven eyes two MasterChef judges for new show, not George

Seven West Media’s newly-appointed chief executive James Warburton is looking to sign former MasterChef judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan – but not George Calombaris – for a new cooking show in 2020 after rival Network 10 pulled the plug on the trio in July.

Warburton is keen to sign Preston and Mehigan as part of a plan to reinvigorate the network but there was not an appetite for controversial judge Calombaris, sources close to Seven said.

Preston’s manager Henrie Stride said the celebrity chef, who is currently travelling, was not in discussions with Seven and added that he was contracted with 10 until the end of the year.

“International opportunities are our priority and there are a number of big international opportunities currently on the table,” Stride said.

Justine May from talent management agency ChefsInk, which represents Mehigan, said there had been “lots of interest and discussions both within Australia and internationally, but no deals have been done”.

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See also:
Former MasterChef judge Gary Mehigan tells Mediaweek he expects all three former judges to again be working together.


2GB considering appointing censor button to veteran host Alan Jones

Alan Jones may soon be adapting to a new world order at 2GB with radio management considering the appointment of a “dump jockey” to ride roughshod over the veteran broadcaster – the first such censor attached to Jones in his 30-plus year radio career, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Following the fallout from Jones’s comments regarding New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – and an advertising boycott expected to cost the Macquarie radio network upwards of $4 million – the radio star’s bosses are considering measures to prevent Jones offending or alienating his audience and advertisers in the future.

The latest move comes less than three weeks after Jones was issued with a final warning from management over his use of offensive and violent language about women.

Top of the list is a “dump jockey” – a panel operator who listens intently to a radio program and hits a switch to mute or censor any commentary that might be considered too offensive, provocative or legally sensitive.

Such an appointment would be at the discretion of management and would likely be a radio employee independent of Jones’s current production team, something not expected to sit well with Jones.

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