Mediaweek Roundup: Joe Hildebrand, Big Bash League, Julian Assange + more

Studio 10

• Facebook, Google, Digital Media Research Centre, and Communist Party propaganda operation

Business of Media

Why big tech gorillas will submit to wrestled media revenue deal

The federal government’s recent decision to mandate a News Media Bargaining Code has been a long time coming but is still a trail-blazing experiment, whose outcome will be watched around the world, reports The Guardian Australia‘s Richard Alston.

The decision has already been met with a hysterical response from big tech and its allies, but this is little more than par for the course.

This is almost certainly disingenuous.

As well as depriving its multitude of users of ready access to quality journalism it would enable disinformation and conspiracy theories to flourish – hardly a good look.

These concerns were heightened during last summer’s bushfires, when false and misleading information about the cause of the flames and various conspiracy theories were rife.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has established that there are significant public concerns about misinformation on digital platforms – a key source of news and information for many Australians. Hence the authority has concluded the digital platforms should share considerable responsibility for providing readers with a safe and user-friendly environment in which to digest news and information.

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Government pays $200k for third media review in a year

The federal communications department has awarded the Queensland University of Technology a tender worth nearly $220,000 for the third independent report into the media sector in less than a year, reports AFR‘s Max Mason.

QUT houses the respected Digital Media Research Centre. Several other government reviews are also underway in the sector, covering topics including content requirements, classification and election ad blackouts.

QUT will receive $219,989 for the Assessment of Media Business Models and Supports, which is due to be handed in on October 2. QUT referred The Australian Financial Review to the department for details.

Sources said some of the analysis may be used to inform budget measures, although the close timing to the October 6 budget may make that difficult. The report was initially planned to be handed in by August 31, but the department’s tender process was delayed.

There have been rumblings in Canberra that the government would outline its roadmap for the so-called harmonisation of media framework, which was recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its Digital Platforms Inquiry. Some sources suggested an outline of its content requirement review may require changes to the budget.

This is on top of the ACCC’s process for code of conduct legislation to govern the relationships between Facebook, Google and local media companies, which aims to have the technology giants pay for journalism on some of their platforms.

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News Brands

Assange trial halted over Covid infection fears

Julian Assange’s extradition trial has been halted because of fears that members of the court may have coronavirus, reports News Corp’s Jacquelin Magnay.

One of the lawyers representing the US prosecution team is being tested for the virus after her partner came down with symptoms. But there are fears that if the test is returned positive, the entire Old Bailey court precinct could be shut.

It is believed the Assange trial is one of the first in Britain to be ­affected in this way.

On Thursday morning, the ­entire prosecution team representing the US government joined the court hearing via ­remote videolink from their homes.

Two members of Assange’s legal team, including Mark Summers­ QC, were seen in the Old Bailey courtroom wearing masks for the first time.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that she had been informed on Wednesday evening that one of the barristers might have had exposure­ to the virus.

“For that reason, the prosecution team doesn’t attend here in person and some of the defence is not here, out of caution, and are attending remotely by videolink,’’ Judge Baraitser said. She added that testing for “all concerned’’ would take place and that the outcome would be known sometime on Friday.

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Chinese ‘journalists’ linked to propaganda unit

Four Chinese “journalists” raided by ASIO were part of a Communist Party propaganda operation in Australia, ­influencing local Chinese-language media and reporting to Beijing on members of the Australian-Chinese community, reports News Corp’s Ben Packham.

China’s harassment and ­attempted detention of Australian journalists Bill Birtles and Mike Smith is believed to have been payback for the raids on the Chinese state media representatives, according to senior Australian government sources.

It’s unclear whether the detention of Australian journalist Cheng Lei by Chinese security services was also retaliation for the ASIO raids.

One of the Chinese journalists interviewed by ASIO is believed to be former Sydney Xinhua bureau chief Yang Jingzhong, who left Australia after the June 26 raids and was removed as the listed ­director of the news agency in ­August.

Unlike two already identified journalists raided by ASIO — China news service bureau chief Tao Shelan and China radio international bureau chief Li Dayong — Yang was not part of a ­WeChat group linked to NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane and his adviser John Zhang.

Chair of the Senate finance and public administration committee James Paterson said he would raise the issue of whether Chinese state media should be able to access federal parliament.

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Studio 10 host Joe Hildebrand quits program after seven years

Studio 10 host Joe Hildebrand broke down in tears as he confirmed he was leaving the Channel 10 morning show program after seven years at the helm, report News Corp’s Karlie Rutherford and Jonathon Moran.

Hildebrand announced the news live on air on Thursday morning after weeks of negotiation with the network.

“I am leaving Studio 10,” Hildebrand, who been on the show since it started in 2013, said on air. “I have given it a huge amount of thought. It has been really hard.”

Hildebrand’s exit is the latest in a long line of departures from the embattled breakfast show. Last month Channel 10 announced that due to cost-cutting, Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Natarsha Belling were set to leave the program.

The panel show also declared it would return to a more traditional morning television format by bringing on Dancing with The Stars judge Tristan MacManus to co-host the show alongside Sarah Harris.

Hildebrand wouldn‘t discuss any of the changes with The Daily Telegraph but said he wishes the show well.

“The truth is that Channel 10 offered me a job two days a week and wanted to keep me on as part of the show but not as one of the two hosts,” Hildebrand told The Daily Telegraph.

“I was very grateful that they wanted me to stay on but I felt it was best for me and best for the show if I made a clean break. It would hardly be fair to Tristan to have me hanging around.”

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Cricket Australia on front foot over Big Bash after blast from broadcasters

A senior Cricket Australia executive has issued a defence of the Big Bash League after a fortnight of scathing criticism from broadcasters, saying the availability of Australian internationals had never been “the be-all and end-all” of the competition and reaffirming the governing body’s commitment to a full home-and-away season, reports SMH‘s Chris Barrett.

The Twenty20 competition was in the sights of Seven West Media as its chief executive James Warburton unloaded on CA over concerns about its deteriorating quality last month, threatening to tear up the network’s $450 million cricket contract. Nine chief Hugh Marks also last week questioned CA’s strategy in extending the duration of the BBL in recent years, saying “there was just too much cricket”, while even Australia’s limited-overs captain, Aaron Finch, has conceded the jump from 10 to 14 matches in a regular season was “probably a little bit too drastic”.

As CA prepares to unveil the revised dates and venues for this summer’s showpiece – Australia’s four-Test series against India – it has jumped onto the front foot about its most scrutinised product.

The game’s governing body is on Friday announcing a new deal with long-time BBL naming-rights backer KFC which also extends into supporting the WBBL and the Australian’s women’s team. Anthony Everard, CA’s executive general manager of fan engagement, said “it was a great vote of confidence in the strength of the competition”.

Seven’s major gripe was a further draining of Australian players from the Big Bash this season due to a congested international schedule and the need for bigger national squads in biosecurity bubbles.

While the network had been alarmed that the league might be stripped of one-day internationals like Finch and Glenn Maxwell for longer periods, not only the Test players, Everard argued the tournament’s capacity for uncovering stars of the future such as Jofra Archer, Josh Philippe and Riley Meredith had more to do with its steep rise over much of the past decade than the national players on display.

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