Mediaweek Roundup: Hugh Marks, Sports Power 100, Australian Open + more

Australian Open

Nine opens North Sydney campus, Lachlan Murdoch, Airtasker, The Australian, Nine dumps its China bureaus, ABC & New Daily, and Michelle Stamper

Business of Media

Nine Entertainment Co officially opens North Sydney campus

Nine Entertainment Co has opened the doors to its new offices at 1 Denison Street in North Sydney, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

The television, publishing and radio company, which owns The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, hosted politicians, business executives and shareholders at an event on Friday evening to mark the official opening of the new campus which will be home to most of the $4.1 billion company.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, NRL boss Andrew Abdo, Rugby Australia executives Hamish McLennan, Rob Clarke and former Fairfax Media boss Greg Hywood were among the attendees hosted at the new campus by Nine chairman Peter Costello and outgoing chief executive Hugh Marks.

“From a board’s point of view an investment like this doesn’t come cheap. Willoughby was a grand dame in her day but she has faded and this was a huge investment in our future. It’s coming together and as long as we stay focused it’ll be a great future. With that I say we open the new era and I formally open 1 Denison Street,” Costello said.

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Does TV behemoth Banijay/Endemol Shine want Hugh Marks on board?

Outgoing Nine boss Hugh Marks has been mooted as a possible future chief of the newly forged production giant Banijay/Endemol Shine, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The media company executive – who resigned from his post as Nine CEO on November 14 after confirming he was in a relationship with a newly departed subordinate – is said to be among short-listed candidates for the job of overseeing the newly-merged entity created earlier this year when French TV production company Banijay acquired one of Australia’s biggest production companies, Endemol Shine.

According to industry sources, Marks’ name was first talked about as being on the wishlist for the role months ago. He was asked for comment last night and his spokeswoman at Nine said that “it was absolutely not happening”.

French-headquartered Banijay has been busy recruiting Australian executives for the production giant, with Endemol Shine International CEO Cathy Payne signing on as CEO of Banijay Rights Ltd in April.

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Labor MP Jim Chalmers flew to Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas drinks

Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers charged taxpayers more than $800 to travel to Sydney and attend Christmas drinks held by News Corp’s co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and his wife, Sarah, reports The Australian’s Richard Ferguson.

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have faced criticism in recent days for taking a $5000 publicly funded jet to the exclusive Christmas drinks in December last year and returning to Canberra the next morning.

Dr Chalmers’ parliamentarians’ expenditure records show he charged taxpayers $827 to fly from Canberra to Sydney on December 5, where he attended Murdoch’s drinks, and left for his home city of Brisbane for an undisclosed amount on the same night.

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Seven could cash in its Airtasker stake in float in early 2021

Online jobs outsourcing company Airtasker is believed to be lining up a public listing for February, a move that will allow investor Seven West Media to exit and extract cash to pay down its debt pile, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Seven owns more than 18 per cent of Airtasker and, based on the 2019 valuation, could secure more than $45 million if it completely divested. However, the listing could go at a higher valuation.

Seven is selling its studio business and broadcast towers business TX Australia, which is 50-50 owned by Seven and Nine, owner of the Financial Review.

The price for Seven Studios several prospective buyers are looking at is believed to be between $170 million and $200 million. Before the pandemic, Seven said it was also considering a float for its investment in SocietyOne.

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News Brands

The Australian promotes editors Jennifer Campbell and Alan Howe

Award-winning editor Jennifer Campbell has been appointed The Australian commentary editor, as part of a move to broaden the masthead’s national coverage. She has edited a range of sections during her 28-year career at The Australian, including Inquirer and features.

Alan Howe, who has a long association with The Australian, will take up a new role as history and obituaries editor. “It is so important in this 24/7 media environment that mastheads like ours bring depth and context to current debates,” The Australian editor Michelle Gunn said. “This new role will also enhance our obituaries coverage, making sure we properly honour the contributions of those who have gone before us.”

Howe, who first worked on The Australian in 1985, takes on the new role after serving as opinion editor for the past four years. He edited the Sunday Herald Sun in Victoria for 12 years and has worked as a senior journalist on London’s The Times and Sunday Times and the New York Post.

Nine dumps its China bureaus as relations hit historic low

As relations between Australia and China reach a historic low after last week’s “fake tweet” saga, some media organisations are resigned to relations not improving any time soon, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

Nine’s major newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Australian Financial Review, have decided in quick succession to shut down their operations in China altogether.

As we know, there are already no correspondents for Australian media outlets on the ground in China, after the AFR’s Mike Smith was, along with the ABC’s Bill Birtles, forced to hurriedly return to Australia in September amid deteriorating relations. But when they came home, Nine’s various China bureaus were initially kept open.

Three months later, there’s been a marked change of stance. The SMH, Age and AFR have now all closed offices and residences in China, and paid out news assistants they had been employing on the ground.

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ABC, New Daily deal faces fresh scrutiny over industry super investments

The ABC could be forced to hand over details of its commercial agreement with a news website that is bankrolled by industry superannuation funds, amid fresh questions over the national broadcaster’s independence, reports Nine’s Rob Harris and Zoe Samios.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, a fierce critic of industry super, will attempt to gain Senate support to demand the ABC provide more details of its content-sharing agreement in which The New Daily pays to use its content.

In a brief written answer to the Senate on Friday afternoon, ABC managing director David Anderson said The New Daily agreement was contracted with Motion Publishing, a subsidiary company of Solstice Media, which had been a client for the past seven years.

“They license non-exclusive online rights to ABC News content, including that published to www.thenewdaily.com.au,” he said.

Industry sources familiar with the commercial agreement said The New Daily paid the national broadcaster less than $50,000 a year for use of its articles and videos.

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Who’s next in Nine axing after publicity queen shown the door?

The axe is swinging at Channel 9 Melbourne as the Sydney bean counters swoop, reports News Corp’s Alice Coster.

Two high-profile casualties got the chop this week and who knows who’s next.

But if anyone knows where the bodies are buried in Melbourne or which skeletons are still rattling in the closet, it’s Michelle Stamper.

After more than 14 years keeping the tales locked in the Channel 9 Melbourne crypt, Stamper was unceremoniously shown the door.

On the same day Stamper received the call an email was circulated to 3AW staff announcing the departure of stalwart entertainment reporter Donna Demaio after almost 30 years in the job.

“It is with sadness we inform you Donna Demaio is leaving the business today following changes to the structure of our news department,” the email read.

“Donna has been a highly valued journalist and program reporter for almost 30 years.

“Her news and entertainment reporting has always been widely respected.”

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Sports Media

Sports Power 100: Peter V’landys ranks #1 on News Corp list

News Corp metro dailies on the weekend published a list of the 100 most powerful people in sport. Topping the list was Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’Landys.

Peter V’landys credits legendary commentator Bruce McAvaney for his success in sports administration, reports News Corp’s Phil Rothfield.

The most powerful man in Australian sport tells a story from 30 years when they first met in a terminal at Sydney Airport on a Sunday afternoon.

V’landys was CEO of Harold Park harness racing and had to pick up his star guest speaker from Melbourne for a Miracle Mile function.

“I have this philosophy that you can learn something new every day,” V’landys says. “And this day all those years ago was no different. It was a fascinating car ride.

“Bruce taught me a lot that day about preparation, about research, about being on top of your game. That he’d spend three to four hours on a race if he had to.

“A 100m final at the Olympics might be over in less than 10 seconds, but he’d work for hours and hours on it. That just hit the mark with me.”

Sports Power 100: News Corp’s Top 10

1. Peter V’landys
2. John Coates
3. Tim Paine
4. Gillon McLachlan
5. Sam Kerr
6. Dustin Martin
7. Michael Miller
8. Patrick Delany
9. Wayne Bennett
10. James Warburton

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Nine to ask TA for rights discount due to Australian Open delay

Nine Entertainment Co is expected to demand a discount from Tennis Australia for the delay of next year’s Australian Open tournament on the grounds it has defaulted on its broadcast rights agreement, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Industry sources briefed on Nine’s strategy said the broadcaster will seek a reduction on its $300 million five-year deal with Tennis Australia, which includes events in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart, once the final date of the tennis grand slam is confirmed.

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