Mediaweek Roundup: Greg Hywood, James Murdoch, Kevin Rudd+ more

James Murdoch

ACCC, ABC Cadetship Intake, The Age, Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Married At First Sight, Halifax: Retribution, Cricket Australia, Premier League and Thoroughbred racing

Business of Media

ACCC welcomes France Google move on media payments

Australia’s competition tsar Rod Sims has welcomed France’s move to order Google to negotiate with media companies, and says he’s working closely with regulators across the globe, including in France, as Australia moves towards a mandatory media bargaining code, reports The Australian’s David Swan.

On Thursday night a Paris appeals court upheld an order for Google to negotiate with media groups in a long-running dispute about revenues from online news.

The French skirmish closely echoes the fiery battle playing out between media companies and Facebook and Google in Australia, over to what extent tech giants should compensate media companies for news.

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‘Clash of ideas’ keeps newsrooms vibrant, says Free TV chair Greg Hywood

Former Fairfax Media boss Greg Hywood has urged journalists to embrace “clashes of ideas” as a way of preserving vibrant and independent newsrooms, reports The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Hywood, who has just been appointed chairman of Free TV, the peak body of the nation’s commercial television broadcasters, told The Australian that having “a diversity of voices in media” was critical to the future of the industry.

The former journalist and Fairfax editor cited the example of Nine news political editor Chris Uhlmann’s recent criticism of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews in an editorial piece that ran in Nine’s metropolitan masthead The Sydney Morning Herald on September 16 but not in sister publication The Age in Melbourne until the next day.

The 66-year-old’s appointment as chairman of Free TV comes two months after he completed a review of Seven West Media’s print operations in Western Australia.

As Free TV chair, Hywood will focus on changing industry regulation, including the news media bargaining code that would allow media companies to negotiate with Google and Facebook over payment for news content on their platforms.

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NY Times interview: James Murdoch more critical of Trump than News Corp

Rupert Murdoch’s youngest child with his second wife, Anna, is loath to get into the epic family drama that found its climax in the 15 months between pushing a deal to sell 21st Century Fox to Disney and ankling the family business he once hoped to lead, reports The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd.

But in his briskly analytical way, over lunch and a subsequent phone call, he tried to explain why he “pulled the rip cord,” as he put it, after deepening estrangement with his father and brother and growing discomfort over the toxicity of Fox News and other conservative News Corp properties.

“I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important,” he told me. “But it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimise disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of. And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.

“And I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made. So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate.”

[On US politics, James Murdoch said:]

“I’m just concerned that the leadership that we have, to me, just seems characterised by callousness and a level of cruelty that I think is really dangerous and then it infects the population,” he said, referring to the Trump administration. “It’s not a coincidence that the number of hate crimes in this country are rising over the last three years for the first time in a long time.”

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News Brands

ABC blames bushfires, coronavirus as it cancels 2021 cadet intake

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has cancelled its 2021 cadetship intake, citing disruption from bushfires and the coronavirus as major contributors to the decision, reports The Age’s Danielle Collis.

The 12-month paid cadetship program is offered each year to eight journalism graduates with one taken on in each state and territory.

An ABC spokeswoman said the pause of the cadetship program was due to numerous reasons.

“Firstly, because of disruptions caused by the bushfires and coronavirus it hasn’t been possible to carry out the full training schedule for the current cadets, which we’ll need to complete next year,” she said.

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The Age dumps Michael Leunig’s anti-Dan cartoon

First it was Chris Uhlmann’s evisceration of Dan Andrews’ extreme Melbourne lockdown.

The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff reports on a second instance in which a critical snapshot of life under Dan has been chucked out by jumpy senior editors at Nine’s The Age newspaper. And as with Uhlmann, the item was pulled because it was deemed too sensitive in Melbourne’s current mindset.

In this case, it was a cartoon by The Age’s marquee cartoonist, Michael Leunig, scheduled for publication on Monday, September 7.

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Kevin Rudd petition calls for royal commission into media ownership

The former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has launched a petition calling for a royal commission into News Corp’s dominance of Australia media, arguing Rupert Murdoch’s media company employs tactics that “chill free speech and undermine public debate”, reports Elias Vistonay with AAP in Guardian Australia.

The petition, launched on the Australian Parliament website on Saturday, had gained more than 38,000 signatures by Sunday morning, with Rudd tweeting that the popularity of the petition had caused the website to suspect users signing it were robots.

On Sunday the Labor leader Anthony Albanese distanced himself from the push.

Albanese told reporters in Adelaide that Rudd, as a former prime minister, was entitled to call for a royal commission but he did so as a “private citizen” and the idea was not Labor policy.

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Publishing

Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health could return under new licensing deals

Popular magazines Harper’s Bazaar, Men’s Health and Women’s Health could be brought back to life by the end of the year under new license holders after being axed by private equity firm Mercury Capital three months ago, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios and Melissa Singer.

Mercury, which bought the former owner of the magazines Bauer Media (now known as ARE Media) in July, shut down eight titles including NW, OK! and Elle to avoid signing long-term licensing deals with international publishing houses to save money.

Harper’s Bazaar had five months left to run on its contract with Bauer, while Men’s Health and Women’s Health contracts were expiring later this year. All three titles are licensed from Hearst Magazines in the US.

Hearst has been talking to multiple parties about deals that would allow the magazines to continue to be published in Australia. Negotiations were still underway last week. Industry sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Women’s Health and Men’s Health will likely be revived by a small publisher called Paragon Media.

Paragon Media is a special interest publisher that prints titles such as Australian Men’s Fitness and Ecogeneration. Paragon chief executive Ian Brooks confirmed the talks and said he was hopeful of finalising the deal.

Brag Media, the new publisher of Rolling Stone Australia, will also launch a new magazine in the next few weeks. It is unclear whether it will be a former title from ARE Media. ARE Media staff are currently de-commissioning Harper’s Bazaar while Hearst continues talks with prospective buyers.

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Television

Ex-Carlton AFL star slated to find love on Nine’s Married At First Sight

A former Carlton footballer who hit trouble off the field is looking for love the reality juggernaut Married At First Sight, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

It has been a long time coming but MAFS is following suit with reality casting trends in Australia and has for the first time added a former AFL player to the ranks of singles seeking romance and attention on the smash hit series.

Jake Edwards is widely believed to be one of the grooms on the new season of MAFS which is currently filming in Sydney.

Edwards had a brief career with Carlton, being a third-round pick in the 2005 National Draft aged 19. He made his senior team debut in 2008, playing five games. He was delisted at the end of the 2009 season.

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Nine drama boss: Halifax Retribution success good for industry

“I’m a firm believer that we roll out drama in episodic form, whether it’s on a free to air network, or even if it’s on streaming,” Nine head of drama Andy Ryan, tells TV Tonight.

“I believe in giving audiences some form of closure and satisfaction at the end of each episode, but pulling them through to next week.”

It’s a strategy that has paid off for Nine with Halifax: Retribution which concluded last week with its highest numbers across the season at 556,000 metro viewers.

In timeshifted numbers, the series has performed even better. In such treacherous times for Australian drama (when is it not?) Halifax is cause for optimism.

Halifax is a good news story for Nine and a good news story for television and the drama sector. I think the fact that we can hold our numbers week on week, lift them and then finish the season higher than where we started is kind of unprecedented these days. We’re delighted.

“When you deliver a show that resonates with the audience, they’ll come. The figures over the 28 days are over one and a half million (national),” he continues.

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Sports Media

Cricket Australia’s two options in Seven Network rights war

The Seven Network’s bold move to apply for an independent arbitrator to recast the value of the COVID-hit summer will force Cricket Australia (CA) to make a call next week on whether they will agree to the process or consider their own options at the Supreme Court. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg, reports News Corp’s Ben Horne.

Seven’s ultimate objective remains to try and blow up the entirety of their $450 million TV rights deal and get out of cricket, or at the very least, the Big Bash.

The positive is CA and their chief broadcast partner Fox Sports – who pay $130m a year – are aligned and are close to a new deal.

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Gideon Haigh on cricket turmoil: So bad you wonder why Seven bought it

[Seven’s CEO James Warburton has been] damning his network’s main summer fare and partner Cricket Australia, accusing “the most incompetent administration I’ve ever worked with” of producing a product that was “not acceptable” and a season his network would “not support”. A “train wreck”, in fact.

What kind of broadcast boss talks this way publicly about their content and its provider? The sort who in Seven’s annual report describes his strategy as multi-pronged with three key strategic pillars involving tentpoles to complement Seven’s dominant daily spine of news, sport and entertainment.

What Warburton wants, of course, is a discount on his rights fee – as much, it is said, as 40 per cent. He’s like the piqued lover at the door saying: “That’s it, I’m going … I’m going, right now … This is me going … Right out that door … Me. The door. Going through it … The next thing you see will be … etc.”

Fans shmans. For a big enough discount he’d broadcast whatever. Seven would show My Kitchen Sucks if it could be made for cheap. This is an argument about price not value.

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Premier League’s UK pay-per-view TV deal under fire from furious fans

The Premier League drew criticism and disdain from across football and beyond on Friday when it announced plans to screen matches played behind closed doors on UK pay-per-view TV, reports The Guardian.

With seven months having passed since fans were last allowed to attend stadiums and with the top flight in dispute with government and the rest of the football pyramid over its responsibility to help stave off financial disaster for the game, the news was the public relations version of conducting a two-footed tackle on yourself.

In a temporary arrangement that is to be reviewed at the end of October, half of the remaining matches over the next three weeks will be shown on BT Sport and Sky Sports’ pay-per-view platforms, priced at £14.95 a match. That fee comes on top of a standard subscription charge and, for many fans, the cost of season tickets that have already been paid for, and deferred, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Thoroughbred racing set to defy slump in TV broadcasting deals

Thoroughbred racing is set to defy the nationwide trend of a “coronavirus slump” in TV broadcasting deals, with the value of its media rights likely to soar in line with the surge in the sport’s audience numbers during the pandemic, reports The Australian’s James Madden.

Racing NSW is halfway through a five-year deal with its broadcast partners, Channel 7 and Sky Racing, but industry insiders say the broadcast rights are expected to increase significantly when the parties return to the negotiating table ahead of the next deal.

The situation in Victoria appears more uncertain. Channel 10 last year struck a five-year, $100 million deal with the Victoria Racing Club for the broadcast rights to the four race days across Melbourne Cup week, but the 2019 coverage delivered disappointing ratings for the network.

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