Mediaweek Roundup: Google, Hot Seat, Seven West Media, ACM + more

Channel Nine, Daily Mail, Ben Roberts-Smith, Emma Alberici, ABC, Claire Harvey, and Twitch

Business of Media

Google in a pickle if it doesn’t play ball with ACCC code

This Friday looms as an industry-defining moment in the Australian media landscape, reports News Corp’s Chris Griffith.

It’s the deadline for responses to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s draft mandatory code that lets Australian media players bargain with the $US1 trillion-valued Google and fellow tech giant Facebook to secure fair payment for their news content.

Media organisations say that Google’s use of their content in search results amounts to information theft and it’s time Google paid up. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs and hundreds of media outlets have been forced to shut since the rise of the tech titans.

On the face of it, you may think Google has the upper hand in this dispute; that with 90 per cent of the desktop search market, and 98.21 per cent of the mobile search market, it can afford to play hardball and dictate the terms.

But experts say Google has much to lose by walking away from a deal. The tech giant won’t like it, but there’s a viable Plan B for Australian media.

University of Sydney media lecturer Fiona Martin says Google risks losing its advertising monopoly, with other vendors filling the void on alternative sites that aggregate mainstream news content.

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Think global, fight local: Google steps up ACCC fight

Google revealed its war plan against Australia’s competition watchdog last week, turning to its playbook of corralling its massive user base to pressure politicians and industry into backing down on a new code forcing it to negotiate with local media organisations to pay for journalism on its platforms, reports AFR’s Max Mason and Natasha Gillezeau.

For the US search and advertising giant, this isn’t just a battle about Australia. Google is using the stoush with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as a proxy war to send a message to Washington regulators about how it would respond to stronger enforcement of anti-competition or privacy laws from US regulators.

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Seven in data deal with Ticketek-owner TEG

Seven West Media has inked a new deal with TEG Analytics to combine its ticketing data with the free-to-air network’s own data, to better target audiences across its digital assets for its soon-to-be launched consumer data platform, reports AFR’s Max Mason.

The network will use TEGA’s dataset of more than 16 million ticket buyers – TEG owners Ticketek – to help advertisers target the 4.6 million users Seven has on its database, of which 3.8 million have been verified as users of 7Plus with data from Ticketek.

Seven’s consumer data platform 7REDiQ will launch in the coming weeks, for advertisers to be able to better target across video-on-demand platform 7Plus, 7News.com.au and the network’s other digital assets.

Seven previously announced a deal with loyalty program flybuys for its dataset to combine with 7REDiQ.

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News Brands

Palm Island residents launch human rights complaint over ‘racist’ Channel Nine and Daily Mail reports

Hundreds of Palm Islanders have signed up to an Australian Human Rights Commission complaint against Channel Nine and the Daily Mail after media reports suggested they wasted “taxpayer dollars” on luxury goods after receiving $30m in compensation, reports Guardian Australia‘s Amanda Meade.

An exclusive Channel Nine investigation, broadcast in May, claimed the residents spent “lavishly” on luxury four-wheel drives and sports cars which were “bought in bulk”, two years after the Queensland government agreed to pay them for police breaching the Racial Discrimination Act in 2004.

The $30m settlement was shared by 447 claimants and was accompanied by a formal apology from the Queensland government.

A follow-up report in the Daily Mail, based on the Nine broadcast, claimed much of the $30m in compensation was spent on “luxury items”.

Lawyer Stewart Levitt told Guardian Australia the media reports were racist and vilified the community and as such breached section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the same law Andrew Bolt was found to have breached in 2011 for two articles in the Herald Sun.

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War hero ‘crucified’ in weekly attacks: lawyer

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith is suffering from a protracted “campaign of slander” by three newspapers determined to “crucify” the former soldier’s reputation, a court has heard, reports News Corp’s Kieran Gair.

Roberts-Smith is suing The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, and The Age for defamation over articles he claims portray him as a war criminal who committed murder during the Afghan war and “broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement”.

Barrister Bruce McClintock SC, for Roberts-Smith, told the Federal Court on Friday a trial date should be set as soon as possible to prevent the war hero’s mental health from ­deteriorating any further.

“My client is being continually crucified by the respondents and it’s having a dire impact on his mental welfare,” he said.

“The respondents are continuing their campaign of slander and defamation through the pages of their newspapers. There’s a weekly article.”

Mr McClintock said the newspapers’ “deranged attack” on former AFP chief Mick Keelty on Monday, who they claimed leaked information to Roberts-Smith about a covert war crimes probe, proved why his defamation trial should begin in March rather than next June.

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Emma Alberici calls Malcolm Turnbull a bully as she confirms ABC exit

Some of the ABC’s most prominent journalists – past and present – have thrown their support behind public broadcaster’s former chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, who has confirmed her departure from the organisation, reports News Corp’s Angelica Snowden.

The Australian on Friday revealed Alberici had accused the ABC of kowtowing to personal complaints by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in a legal missive sent as part of negotiations over her exit from the broadcaster. Alberici has now settled her dispute with the ABC.

Former 730 Report presenter Quentin Dempster said it was ABC “mismanagement” that had caused the departure of Alberici, a former Europe correspondent for the broadcaster.

The high-profile journalist said it was “too painful” to remain in the public eye following the legal battle involving ABC news director Gaven Morris who is accused in a legal letter of telling Alberici that Mr Turnbull was constantly calling him to make complaints about her.

In a heated exchange, Mr Turnbull refuted claims “that I called Morris about Emma is denied both by me and the ABC”.

“As to her 14 Feb 2018 article on tax, it was full of errors, confused basic accounting concepts and was widely and publicly criticised including by me in the House,” Mr Turnbull tweeted.

Ms Alberici responded: “Just cos you bully people doesn’t make you correct and others not.”

“The countless letters you sent to the ABC were ridiculous and unbecoming of a PM,” she said.

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Andrew Probyn and Gaven Morris confront Media Watch host Paul Barry over Ruby Princess story

Andrew Probyn’s 7.30 investigation on the Ruby Princess is causing big divisions at the ABC, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Probyn and ABC news supremo Gaven Morris are on one side, with Media Watch’s Paul Barry on the other. Political adversaries Peter Dutton and Kristina Keneally are also in the mix, as the story becomes a pawn in a wider political blame game.

The ABC political editor alleged late last month that an Australian Border Force officer mistook negative flu tests for COVID-19 results on the cruise ship, helping to set 2700 passengers loose.

However, the man in charge of the NSW Ruby Princess inquiry, Bret Walker SC, criticised Probyn’s story, concluding: “It is a pity that serious journalism … seems to have proceeded on this erroneous basis of a part played by the ABF.”

On last Monday’s Media Watch, Barry echoed Walker’s finding: “In the end, the incompetence of the Border Force was not a key factor. And the ABC’s suggestion was wrong.”

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Arts, culture ‘invisible’ across ABC, says ex-board member Simon Mordant

Another former ABC board member­, prominent businessman and arts philanthropist Simon Mordant, has attacked the public broadcaster’s “poor’’ approach to cultural programming, claiming such programs are invisible across its platforms, reports Rosemary Neil.

“I have been very disappointed that since I left the board a few years ago, the focus on arts and culture has not been visible to me,” Mr Mordant told The Weekend Australian. “My sense from the outside is that the ABC continues to do a poor job promoting its arts coverage across platforms.’’

Mr Mordant’s comments follow­ those of Michael Lynch, a former ABC board member who said he was “appalled” and “pretty bloody distressed” by the steep fall in arts programming on ABC’s television network. Mr Lynch, a former general manager of the Sydney Theatre Company and ex-chief executive of London’s ­Southbank Centre, accused the ABC of breaching its charter and “walking away’’ from the arts as the industry faced its worst crisis in 50 years because of COVID-19 shutdowns.

Mr Mordant was on the ABC board from 2012 until 2017 and chaired a major review which urged the broadcaster to make cultural­ programming “a key output­ genre across all platforms’’.

However, The Weekend Australian revealed last week that new arts programming on the broadcaster’s primary television channel, ABC1, had plummeted from 114 hours in 2008-09 to just 15 hours in 2018-19.

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Top journalist Claire Harvey returns to her roots

One of Australia’s most accomplished journalists, Claire Harvey, is joining The Australian as editorial director to lead the development of premium news content for the masthead’s fast-growing audience, reports The Australian.

Harvey, who has been deputy editor of Sydney’s The Sunday Telegraph for almost nine years, will pioneer new methods of storytelling across all of The Australian’s platforms.

The Australian’s chief leader writer Tom Dusevic will become national chief reporter, writing about the forces remaking the nation, with a focus on the economy, public policy and the people on the frontline of historic change.

Tess Livingstone, a senior staff writer with a deep interest in religion and social policy, has been appointed chief leader writer, while respected author Catherine McGregor joins The Australian as a writer and commentator.

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Publishing

Seven West’s five-year fightback plan for print

Seven West Media will develop a five-year plan for its newspapers in Western Australia in the wake of a review of the company’s print operations by former Fairfax Media boss Greg Hywood, reports News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich. 

Executives at the Kerry Stokes-controlled media company were presented with Mr Hywood’s recommendations earlier this month, ahead of the release of Seven’s annual results on ­Tuesday.

The six-week review assessed the performance and commercial viability of every one of the company’s print titles across the state, including prominent mastheads The West Australian and The Sunday Times, and 31 regional and community newspapers, according to Anthony De Ceglie, editor-in-chief of Seven’s WA newspapers.

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ACM and McPherson Media in talks over Albury-Wodonga print site

McPherson Media Group is in negotiations with Australian Community Media to buy its Albury-Wodonga print site, preserving jobs at the plant under new ownership and allowing Antony Catalano to continue to exit print manufacturing, reports AFR‘s Max MAson.

Sources told The Australian Financial Review that McPherson has entered due diligence on the site and last week briefed its Newsprinters staff that it was looking to purchasing ACM’s Albury-Wodonga print site.

The staff briefing indicated there would likely be redundancies at Newsprinters if a deal went with ACM goes through, but employees would have all entitlements paid.

In July, ACM confirmed it would close three of the four print sites it proposed closing earlier this month, as revealed by the Financial Review. The final printing plant in Albury remained under review.

A successful sale of the Albury-Wodonga site to McPherson would mean ACM has exited five of the nine print sites it had when Antony Catalano and Alex Waislitz bought the business from Nine in June 2019. ACM closed down its Beaudesert plant in Queensland in March 2020.

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Television

Live-stream platform Twitch eyes Australian expansion

Twitch’s first senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region Sunita Kaur says the live-streaming video platform is looking to ramp up its local presence and away from its gaming-only roots into music, sport, comedy and more, reports AFR‘s Natasha Gillezeau.

Kaurs new gig is to draw Twitch’s content into music, sport, comedy and general chatter and subsequently entice local advertisers onto the platform. The challenge will be doing this while not scaring off the early adopters of the platform.

But for all the newness of highly digital companies, their commercialisation and expansion playbook is now fairly well established. Foreign companies including Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bumble and TikTok have all set up camp in the region. They have appointed local heads to formalise commercial relationships and help attract local users, artists, influencers and content creators onto their services.

Like YouTube, people can watch some Twitch content for free, or they can pay subscription fees to one or multiple channels, and they can also “donate” to Twitch streamers, which is like tipping.

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Masked Singer COVID-19 outbreak forces Hot Seat to suspend filming

A COVID-19 outbreak linked to the set of Network 10’s The Masked Singer in Victoria has forced the closure of Nine’s Millionaire Hot Seat, which films in a neighbouring studio, reports SMH‘s Michael Lallo and Paul Sakkal.

While the two programs are recorded in different parts of Victoria’s Docklands Studios precinct, they share some common areas.

On Saturday, The Masked Singer suspended filming after a crew member returned a positive coronavirus test. Six additional cases have since been linked to the program.

All cast and crew – including host Osher Gunsberg and judges Dannii Minogue, Dave Hughes, Jackie O and Urzila Carlson – are now in mandatory self-isolation for at least 14 days.

The singing contest was shooting its finale on Saturday when production was halted. Producers had hoped to film the conclusion of that episode following the two-week isolation period but may now be required devise an alternative plan.

A Nine spokesman said that health authorities have asked Millionaire Hot Seat to suspend filming in Docklands until at least the end of stage 4 restrictions, which are currently scheduled to lift in mid-September. (Nine is the owner of this masthead.)

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