Mediaweek Roundup: Jon Faine, ABC head of specialist, AWMA + more

• Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Playing for Keeps, Michelle Guthrie, Rod Sims, Ratings season, Seven, ABC + SBS

Business of Media

Michelle Guthrie’s ABC exit: new legal cost revealed

Taxpayers can add another $233,913 to the $1.3m bill the ABC paid to get rid of Aunty’s former managing director Michelle Guthrie, reports The Australian’s Will Glasgow.

Previously secret documents show the ABC’s external lawyers Minter Ellison were paid $233,913 at the end of January for their work advising then ABC chair Kirstin Ferguson and her boardmates in their legal dispute with Guthrie.

Readers might remember that the ABC tenure of Guthrie – a one-time Google executive in Singapore – came to an abrupt end in September 2018 when the then ABC chair Justin Milne sacked her for not being, in his and the board’s opinion, up to the job.

The ABC didn’t end up settling with Guthrie until March.

That was after the intervention of investment banker Simon Mordant – a former ABC board member – who helped negotiate an additional $500,000 for Guthrie in return for her future non-disparagement of the public broadcaster and its current and former board members.

The $500,000 top-up from taxpayers was in addition to the earlier $800,000 that Guthrie was paid after her September dismissal.

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SBS boss lashes media tokenism and ‘tick-box’ diversity

SBS managing director James Taylor is set to call on the media industry to avoid a “tick-box” approach to diversity and instead look at genuine efforts to tell the stories of a multicultural country, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

In a speech to be delivered on Thursday evening, seen in advance by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Taylor criticises the media for failing to represent diversity accurately.

“Too often, when it comes to reporting and representation in the media, the nuances of communities are not reflected, and stereotypes prevail,” a copy of his speech says.

“Whilst I applaud the recent awakening at other media operators that diversity is in equal measure important and lacking, for SBS this has long been a hygiene factor. It is just simply the way we operate,” he says.

SBS is now set to launch a new feature for streaming app SBS On Demand to allow non-English language logins and navigation.

As part of his speech, Taylor will be revealing this new initiative which he describes as a “first” in Australia. He’s also hoping to expand the language options on the app, which offers Chinese and Arabic options at the moment.

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ABC to ‘review’ property portfolio amid funding pressure

ABC managing director David Anderson has found millions of dollars in cost savings across the public broadcaster and is now looking to review the taxpayer-funded organisation’s property holdings as he grapples with a funding freeze, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Anderson has been reviewing ways to save $84 million over the next three years after an indexation pause was revealed by the Turnbull government in the 2018 federal budget, with $40 million a year in savings needed from the 2021 financial year.

In an email to staff on Wednesday he said the broadcaster had so far managed to cut $17 million in annual expenses from 2021 onwards and was looking into other initiatives.

In June, Queensland Liberal senator James McGrath said the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane should be sold. The ABC has 37 properties and Senator McGrath claimed 81 per cent of the portfolio’s $522 million value is tied up in these capital cities.

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Competition boss warns Australia must act to thwart tech takeovers

Competition tsar Rod Sims has warned Australia will be left behind if the government does not give it fresh powers to block mergers and acquisitions involving tech titans as its global counterparts unite behind the proposal, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Following an 18 month inquiry into digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has asked for new laws allowing it to block tech giants from buying startups, if the acquisition risks thwarting a potential competitor from being created.

The digital giants have opposed additional oversight of their future merger plans as potentially damaging to the Australian tech sector.

Sims told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that when he convened a meeting in New York in September of about eight global competition regulatory bodies to talk about common approaches “everybody was keen to do that”.

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AWMA winners: Women in music take a bow on their night of nights

A year after co-hosting the inaugural Australian Women in Music Awards, two of the nation’s leading artistic voices have been recognised for their significant career achievements, reports The Australian’s Andrew McMillan.

In Brisbane on Wednesday night, singer Christine Anu took home awards for artistic excellence and diversity in music, while singer-songwriter Katie Noonan (pictured) received the award for creative leadership.

Katie Noonan

As well, Noonan performed a tribute to the 2019 AWMA honour roll inductee, Judith Durham of folk-pop group The Seekers, who was unable to attend in person but accepted the accolade via video link from Melbourne.

Singer-songwriter Joy McKean received a lifetime achievement award for her extensive work within the country music realm alongside her husband, Slim Dusty, who died in 2003, while at the other end of a life’s work Melbourne-based musician Alice Skye took home the emerging artist award.

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See a complete list of the AWMA winners here.

News Brands

‘Congratulations Mrs Nassif’ meme star sues Seven over report

Her husband’s lavish gift of a bright yellow Lamborghini elevated Nisserine “Nissy” Nassif to social media fame that spurred a torrent of send-ups, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Angus Thompson.

Now the wife of western Sydney developer Jean Nassif is suing the Seven Network over a news report that took aim at the finances of the non-profit organisation the pair founded, Wiping Tears Charitable Foundation.

Mrs Nassif, whose husband’s zealous cry of “congratulations Mrs Nassif” spawned a popular meme, has launched defamation proceedings in the Federal Court alleging the February 2019 Seven News broadcast portrayed her as running a charity under false claims.

Court documents allege the network made out the charity as having raised $210,000 for the “stated aim” of helping struggling families but only spent $5000.

In its defence, Seven denies the portrayals alleged by Mrs Nassif and the charity were capable of being conveyed by the story. It further claims that if it is found to have portrayed Mrs Nassif and the charity in the way alleged, the report was justified by the defence of truth.

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Kerri-Anne Kennerley suggests running over climate change protesters

Studio 10 host Kerri-Anne Kennerley has slammed climate change protesters, suggesting motorists should “use them as a speed bump”, reports’s Frank Chung.

Kennerley made the comments on the Channel 10 show after a news story about arrests of Extinction Rebellion protesters currently disrupting traffic and services across the country as part of a week-long “Spring Rebellion”.

“Personally, I would leave them all super glued to wherever they do it,” she said.

“The guy hanging from the Story Bridge. Why send emergency services? Leave him there until he gets himself out. No emergency services should help them, nobody should do anything, and you just put little witches hats around them, or use them as a speed bump.”

Realising she may have gone too far, she said, “Oh, we’re going to get into trouble! Is that wrong?” She added, “Put them in jail, forget to feed them. Some of the aged care homes around Australia, that would really sort them out.”

A Channel 10 spokesman said, “This morning on Studio 10 Kerri-Anne Kennerly made comments regarding climate protesters that were said in jest. Before the show concluded, Sarah Harris reiterated the tone of her remarks, affirming that Kerri-Anne wasn’t inciting violence.”

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ABC appointment: Aidan Laverty appointed ABC head of specialist

The ABC has appointed award-winning creative, commissioner and producer Aidan Laverty as head of specialist, overseeing content across the genres of arts, science, health and technology, religion and ethics, education and society and culture.

Since joining the ABC in 2017 to relaunch flagship science program Catalyst, Laverty has been influential in the creation of shows such as Gut Revolution, Feeding Australia, The Great Australian Bee Keeping Challenge, Staying Younger for Longer and this year’s Stargazing: Moonand Beyond celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Michael Carrington, ABC Director of Entertainment & Specialist, said: “The ABC’s specialist content is at the heart of our duty to inform, educate and entertain all Australians. Aidan’s wealth of experience in public broadcasting, particularly in driving digital innovation and creativity, will ensure we continue to tell important stories to audiences that impact their daily lives and the world around them.”

Aidan Laverty

Aidan Laverty said: “I’m really thrilled to be taking on this new role. Specialist is home to so many talented people across radio, television and digital and what we do has never been more important to the ABC.  I’m looking forward to working together to find new ways to inform, delight and surprise our audiences.”

Laverty will start in his new role on 10 October.

Laverty joined the ABC in May 2017 as executive producer of Catalyst. In 2018, he was appointed manager of the ABC’s newly-created specialist science genre, working with our leading journalists, producers and digital creators.

Prior to joining the ABC, Laverty was specialist factual commissioner at the BBC, where he launched series such as Make It Digital, The Truth About, Natural Wonders, The Secrets of Quantum Physics and Girls Can Code. He was also Editor of the BBC’s science program Horizon and launched The Secret Life of the Cat, Science Under Attack and Eat Fast and Live Longer, which helped spark the 5:2 diet phenomena. He also developed the long-running BBC series Trust Me I’m a Doctor.

Ratings season’s tail end, when reality TV feels prehistoric

We’re on the home straight, the final run of programs before the November conclusion of the official ratings season, a period sometimes colourfully referred to as “the back end”. This is the time when the commercial free-to-air networks stage their last bursts for the year, reports The Age’s Debi Enker.

They’re now approaching the critical period in which advertising rates are negotiated for the coming year and victory brings a certain prestige, bragging rights and a promotional advantage. For Seven and Nine, again wrestling for domination this year, it’s a tussle so close that every point counts.

But as the commercial broadcasters trot out their offerings – loudly and proudly plugging what’s just arrived and what’s to come – it has to be said that, overall, it isn’t a selection destined to send the spirits soaring with giddy anticipation. Nor is it likely to alter the views of those who darkly predict that free-to-air television is a dinosaur simply marking time until its inevitable extinction.

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Playing for Keeps: Art imitates life for TV star Olympia Valance

There she was. Standing in a gaggle of WAGs wearing a floor-length, red fur coat and knee-high boots, watching her AFL beau out on the field.

It could have been a scene from Network 10’s drama Playing for Keeps, but for the show’s star, Olympia Valance, this was real life. Since Valance began dating Essendon ruckman Tom Bellchambers earlier this year, she has noticed how often her personal life can mirror that of Tahlia Woods, the feisty character she plays on screen, reports The Age’s Siobhan Duck.

Like Tahlia, Valance has a naughty sense of humour. She is also a savvy entrepreneur who has gained a huge social media following – and a variety of sponsorship deals – since finding fame on Ramsay Street in 2014. And she shares her character’s passion for flamboyant fashion.

“Every time I go to the football, I always seem to dress up a bit Tahlia-like and stick out like a sore thumb,” she laughs. “It is weird. It really is. And I honestly never thought I would go out with a footballer.

“Obviously it is dramatised, but I have gone to a few games and you can see similarities. You can see who the Tahlia of the group is. And the wives and girlfriends of players all go out for dinners and lunches,” she says.

When we last saw Tahlia, Kath (Madeleine West) and the other WAGs at the Playing for Keeps fictional Southern Jets Football Club, most of their relationships were in tatters. Yet, Valance laughs, when the show returns for season two on October 16, they are all still “lurking around the club”.

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‘I don’t apologise for that’: Jon Faine leaves ABC with no regrets

ABC broadcaster Jon Faine is renowned for criticising his own bosses. But on the eve of his retirement, the veteran radio presenter has revealed he hasn’t always gotten away with it, reports The Age’s Broede Carmody.

“I’ve been hauled over the coals quite a few times,” the 63-year-old says. “I’ve been sat down and told, what do you think you’re doing? And I always argue, well, I’m doing what you employed me to do. Which is to say what I think on the audience’s behalf and to give them an authentic experience. We should not be so glass-jawed and thin-skinned that we can’t ask ourselves the same questions we ask of everybody else.”

Strangely, this isn’t the first time Faine is preparing to hang up his headphones. In 1994, the broadcaster’s afternoon program on 3LO (as ABC Radio Melbourne was then known) was given the chop. But ABC management asked him to come back two years later.

“Back then, it was very much the practice of ABC Radio to turn presenters over every couple of years,” he says. “No one lasted long. And so the idea that someone has been in the job like this for 23 years is, quite frankly, hilarious.”

On Friday, Faine will farewell listeners after more than two decades hosting his popular mornings timeslot – a much longer period of time than the “decent” four or five year stint he asked for when returning to ABC Radio in 1997. This farewell, of course, will be different – the veteran broadcaster hasn’t been sacked. Instead, he is passing on the baton to respected television host Virginia Trioli.

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