Mediaweek Roundup: Media bargaining code, Ita Buttrose, Name That Tune + more

• Hugh Marks, Nine & China Daily, Joe Aston, and 2020 Rose d’Or Awards

Business of Media

Bargaining code: Facebook maintains its threat of news blackout

Facebook is still considering blocking Australian users from sharing news on its platform if the federal government’s proposed media bargaining regulations become law, reports The Australian’s David Swan.

Despite significant concessions being made to the social media giants, Facebook has not changed its position on the news media bargaining code and is continuing to threaten consumer restrictions on its platform.

If the code – which will govern how Facebook and Google pay local media companies for using content – becomes law, Facebook will stop allowing publishers and users to share news, The Australian understands.

“We’re reviewing the draft legislation tabled by the Australian government,” Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton said in a statement on Wednesday. “We’ll continue to engage through the upcoming parliamentary process with the goal of landing on a workable framework to support Australia’s news ecosystem.”

[Read more]

Bargaining code: ‘Arbitration is a last resort’: ACCC’s Rod Sims

Competition boss Rod Sims hopes Facebook and Google can reach agreements with Australian media companies to pay them for journalism distributed on their platforms without having to use new legislation that regulates business dealings between the two sides, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sims said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission supports the legislation, which was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday, despite changes which have split the country’s two largest media companies.

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Bargaining code: Instagram now a hot source for news snippets, explainers

Instagram is fast becoming a go-to site of news media consumption, particularly for people aged under 35, raising questions as to why the federal government’s new media bargaining code will not apply to the platform, reports The AFR’s Natasha Gillezeau.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday said Facebook’s newsfeed and Google search would be included in the code, which will require the tech giants to strike agreements with local news media publishers on how to pay for news content.

Sam Koslowski, co-founder of one of Australia’s only Instagram-native news sites The Daily Aus, who started the account in March 2017 with business partner Zara Seidler, said they had grown their account from 6000 followers to nearly 70,000 followers in the past 12 months.

“We think that it’s relatively early in the piece in terms of the news being an industry on Instagram like it is on Facebook,” Koslowski said.

“I think when Instagram is included in that sort of scope, you’d have to look at platforms like TikTok to also be included because the new generation of news is going to expand on whatever platform comes next.”

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Nine boss Hugh Marks accuses government of bowing to Google, Facebook

Outgoing Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks has accused the federal government of bowing to pressure from Google and Facebook and watering down proposed laws that will force tech giants to pay media companies for their news content, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios and Lisa Visentin.

Marks, who resigned from the broadcasting and publishing company last month, took aim at the government’s decision to insert a “two-way value exchange” into its landmark media bargaining code. The change means referral traffic tech giants send to news outlets will now be considered when an independent arbitrator decides the value of payments from the tech giants to media organisations.

“We didn’t know that the government was going to go this way until they lobbed the legislation into the parliament,” Marks said. “I really strongly object to lobbing at the last minute a value exchange in an arbitration process where there’s already a commercial process to determine the value.”

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News Brands

Nine Entertainment newspapers quit carrying China Watch supplement

Nine Entertainment has quietly dropped an arrangement with China Daily to carry an eight-page Communist party newspaper each month in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, reports Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade.

Nine’s move to drop the propaganda sheet China Watch follows similar decisions by media organisations across the world, such as the UK’s Daily Telegraph, which shelved its own lucrative agreement as the pandemic hit in April.

Under previous owners Fairfax Media, in 2016 the newspapers began carrying the lift-out which is prepared by the Chinese Communist party’s official English-language organ.

Nine declined to comment on the ending of the relationship on Tuesday but Guardian Australia understands the contract was not renewed six months ago.

Rival publisher News Corp Australia publishes a Chinese language version of The Australian website with a limited number of its stories translated. The editor-in-chief of The Australian, Chris Dore, said the website was still operating but was not funded by the Chinese state.

The Australian is not receiving money from China for its Chinese-language edition,” Dore told Guardian Australia. “Unlike the Nine Entertainment tabloids, The Australian has never taken sponsored content deals from the Chinese government.”

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Barrister casts light on case of missing witness Joe Aston

“Where is the witness?” asks The Australian’s Caroline Overington.

Where indeed? The Australian Financial Review’s Joe Aston had not been excused from his defamation hearing in Sydney’s Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon. Justice Michael Lee was expecting him back in the witness box on Wednesday morning.

“I want to ask questions,” Justice Lee said.

But Aston was nowhere to be seen. His barrister, Sandy Dawson SC, had told him not to come.

His failure to appear wasn’t deliberate. He knows that he’s Nine’s best weapon in court. So, when Justice Lee inquired “Where’s the witness?” it was for a sheepish Dawson to reply: “I’m sorry … I thought Your Honour had excused him.”

Dawson immediately offered to summon Aston, or bring him to court via Microsoft Teams.

“Don’t worry about it, that’s fine. That’s fine,” Justice Lee said.

[Read more]

See also: Where’s Joe? AFR’s Aston a no-show at Elaine Stead defamation trial

Ita Buttrose to offer no retreat on ABC Four Corners program

Journalists with decades of experience dealing with politicians were full of suggestions on how the ABC chair, Ita Buttrose, should respond to a letter from Communications Minister Paul Fletcher seeking a detailed “please explain” about the recent Four Corners program Inside the Canberra Bubble, which focused on allegations about the private lives of cabinet ministers Christian Porter and Alan Tudge, writes The Australian’s Niki Savva.

Buttrose has spent a huge chunk of her life dealing with extreme pressure and with much scarier people, such as the Packers. She needs little or no instruction in handling difficult situations. She was never one to be pushed around, and she is not about to let anyone, not even the Prime Minister who appointed her or any of his ministers, do it now. All peaches and cream on the outside, Buttrose is steely on the inside.

In her reply, she will reject absolutely the charge that she and the board failed in their duties. Those familiar with the inclinations of the board were confident her reply, expected to be pages long in order to cover the substance of the 15 questions from Fletcher, will give “short shrift” to the complaint.

[Read more]


Adelaide’s Epic Films and Brisbane’s Ludo Studio win Rose d’Or Awards

The 2020 Rose d’Or Awards virtual ceremony was hosted by Nish Kumar on Wednesday.

This year’s winners include television programming from six different countries – UK, USA, Germany, Argentina, France and Australia – as host Nish Kumar paid homage to an unexpected year by joking the awards would henceforth be known during lockdown as the Rose ‘Indoor’ Awards.

This year’s Rose d’Or Awards saw a record number of entries with 766 entries across 12 categories. Voted for by over 80 international judges from across the television industry, the 2020 awards included entries from every major territory in the world.

Mark Rowland, chair of the 2020 judges, said: “It has been an extraordinary year for television, reinforcing its role as central to all of our lives. It’s been an honour to review this incredible body of work – produced before and during the pandemic. Congratulations to the winners, all our entrants and every production team member who made these great shows possible.”

There were two winners from Australia this year amongst the 766 entries.

Brisbane’s Ludo Studio picked up yet another trophy while the other award went to Adelaide’s Epic Films.

Ludo Studio won in the social media and video category for Content made for the ABC. Also nominated in that category from Australia was the Facebook series Cancelled from More Sauce.

Epic Films won in the children and youth category for its series First Day made in associations with Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the ABC.

Also nominated this year in the audio category was the Marc Fennell podcast Nut Jobs made for Audible Australia.

Other Rose d’Or winners this year included David Attenborough and James Corden.

A fraction too much friction in TV’s year of living dangerously

In this year of watching dangerously broadcasters were constantly at the sharp end. In Victoria the dialogue at Premier Daniel Andrews’ daily Covid press conferences became hotly contested subjects, while nationally the friction between the ABC and the federal government escalated repeatedly. On pay-TV, Sky News amped up partisanship with their evening commentary line-ups, while the ABC’s Insiders had to be publicly shamed into featuring a diverse panel of commentators.

Broadcast television is the centre of our viewing landscape – it was literally there first – but it’s being eroded by the fracturing of viewing habits and the growth of streaming services. It’s increasingly difficult to run a show that has mass appeal. What we’re going to see is more shows aggressively pursue a specific demographic. If that starts at reality competitions there’s no reason it won’t extend to current affairs.

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Eureka’s Name That Tune supersizes classic game show

Filming on Name That Tune, with host Jane Krakowsi & musical director Randy Jackson finished in Sydney last Friday, reports TV Tonight.

Eureka Productions filmed 10 rebooted episodes in a coup for the FOX Network in the USA. Australia’s relative success in handling the pandemic has seen a number of international productions seek local solutions.

When it screens in the US in January the show will be partnered with the anticipated launch of The Masked Dancer.

In the Aussie-made version, Name That Tune is super-sized from its classic game show (originally debuting in 1953) to a shiny floor 2020 edition, complete with a live band and 4 singers.

[Read more]

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