Mediaweek Roundup: NBN sale, Craig Hutchison, Stranger Things, HBO Max + more

• SBS, ABC, Pacific Star Network and Kevin Bartlett

Business of Media

Communications Minister Fletcher rules out NBN sale to Telstra

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has ruled out any chance of Telstra buying the National Broadband Network and nixed hopes of a cut to wholesale prices to ease pressure on the listed telco’s profits, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Telstra has been battling falling profits amid fierce competition in both the mobile and fixed line markets. As part of a broader turnaround effort, it last year created a division called InfraCo, which houses the infrastructure it leases to the NBN including pits and ducts.

But the plan has now been dealt a blow with Fletcher saying the policy structure of the NBN Co meant a business like Telstra would not be able to own the wholesale network.

“A clear feature of the policy structure is that NBN cannot be owned by a vertically integrated telco. In other words, somebody who delivers retail telecommunications services cannot own NBN. That’s baked into the legislation,” Fletcher said, adding the rules were there for “good public policy reasons”.

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News Brands

Mayor ordered to pay ABC legal costs in pre-trial stoush

Colourful Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate has been ordered to pay 90 per cent of the ABC’s legal costs over a legal argument in preparation for his defamation claim against the national broadcaster, reports The Australian’s Charlie Peel.

The mayor has accused the ABC and city councillor Peter Young of wrongly implying he was corrupt and influenced council decisions to benefit developers who made political donations.

The matter results from a Four Corners episode, All That Glitters, aired in September 2017.

The ABC program followed a Crime and Corruption Commission probe into the 2016 Gold Coast local government election. But the watchdog this year cleared Tate of the corruption allegations.

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Farmer groups angered by ABC’s Murray-Darling Basin report

The National Farmers’ Federation has accused the ABC of trying to “unravel” the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and force a royal commission into the water management scheme, as farming groups prepare to make a formal complaint into Monday night’s episode of Four Corners, reports The Australian’s Richard Ferguson.

The ABC current affairs program reported that millions of dollars of commonwealth funds meant to go into protecting the environment were instead given to big irrigators.

Writing in The Australian today, NFF president Fiona Simson says: “For 45 minutes, Four Corners sought to discredit the plan’s irrigation efficiency program. A program that supports farmers to improve their water use efficiency, grow more and ultimately return more water back to the environment.”

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See also:
Steady trickle of fibs on ABC’s Four Corners
By Fiona Simson, president of the National Farmers Federation.

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Tributes for ABC & SBS programmer Marena Manzoufas

Former ABC & SBS programmer Marena Manzoufas, who was a founding member of SBS broadcasting, has died aged 68, reports TV Tonight.

She died on July 5th after a battle with brain cancer, following a long commitment to public broadcasting, diversity and equality. She was also an early female television executive in an industry dominated by men.

In the late 1970s, Manzoufas was actively involved in the development of Australian multicultural and equal opportunity policies, including her work on the NSW Government’s Ethnic Affairs Commission Report and a subsequent inquiry into multicultural television.

This work prompted Bruce Gyngell to recruit her to the foundation team for SBS Television in 1980, where she established its first Subtitling Unit. In her role as SBS Deputy Program Director, she was instrumental in setting the programming policy and philosophy of the new multicultural television station.

She first joined the ABC in the late 1980s as Head of Acquisitions and ABC International. Under her guidance, Bananas in Pyjamas went international and the ABC purchased a huge catalogue of movies.

She left in the mid-1990s to work for production company Beyond as General Manager, where she developed and sold Australian content for audiences here and overseas, before returning to the ABC in 2001 as Head of Programming until retirement in 2010.

Michael Carrington, Acting Director Entertainment & Specialist said, “Marena was an invaluable part of the ABC over many years and a leading advocate for the importance of public broadcasting, who I was fortunate to work with from the other side of the world while I was at the BBC.

“As ABC Head of Programming, from 2001 to 2010, Marena was integral to the television viewing habits of our audiences, helping determine what Australians would watch and when. She spearheaded our television output and oversaw long-term strategy for ABC1 and ABC2, including acquisitions of domestic and international programmes.”

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Read also: Don Groves writing at

Veteran broadcasting and TV distribution executive Marena Manzoufas is being remembered as a smart and adventurous woman who made an immense contribution to Australian TV.

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Stranger Things 3 racks up record viewership, according to Netflix

Independent data on Stranger Things viewership cemented its status as one of Netflix’s biggest shows in previous seasons. Now, the streaming giant says the third season has racked up record viewership over its first four days, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the company’s latest selective data dump, 40.7 million member accounts have watched at least part of Stranger Things‘ third season. (Netflix counts a “view” as a member account having watched 70 percent of one episode of a series or 70 percent of a film.) That’s the fastest a Netflix original has ever accumulated such a large audience, according to the streamer.

Netflix also says 18.2 million member households have already finished the eight-episode season. Per usual, the streamer is not releasing data on the total number of viewers or average audience for a given episode.

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WarnerMedia confirms its Netflix rival will be called HBO Max

There’s HBO Go, HBO Now, and soon, there will be HBO Max, reports The Verge.

For WarnerMedia and parent company AT&T, the latter is most important, as it will become the subscription video service that they position against Netflix, Hulu, the upcoming Disney+, and a range of other paid video offerings.

“Anchored with and inspired by the legacy of HBO’s excellence and award-winning storytelling, the new service will be ‘Maximized’ with an extensive collection of exclusive original programming (Max Originals) and the best-of-the-best from WarnerMedia’s enormous portfolio of beloved brands and libraries,” the company wrote in a press release today.

WarnerMedia also confirmed that HBO Max will have exclusive streaming rights to every episode of Friends when it launches in spring 2020; that’ll be after the hugely popular sitcom departs Netflix. Friends is set to leave in 2019, so there might be a gap where the show disappears from streaming altogether until HBO Max’s debut.

The service will feature content from “Warner Bros., New Line, DC Entertainment, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, The CW, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes, and more.”

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Sports Media

Hutchy confirms KB’s departure and promises new drive show soon

Pacific Star Network has confirmed it had parted ways with Kevin Bartlett.

PNW chief executive Craig Hutchison confirmed that 1116 SEN had previously reached a mutual agreement with Bartlett and on-air colleague John Rothfield back in May 2019, that their drive show would not return in 2020.

It had been planned that the drive show would run until the AFL Grand Final eve, allowing time for a fitting farewell for Bartlett, but that decision has now been fast-tracked after receiving Bartlett’s resignation.

Hutchison said Bartlett had been one of the most influential figures in SEN’s history, being part of the inaugural line up when the station launched 15 years ago.

“KB has been an extraordinary part of the station’s history and was one of many who pushed through the early years to help drive SEN to the audience it has today,” Hutchison said.

“We respect his decision to call time early and thank him on behalf of all listeners for his energy and commitment to the station over the journey.

“We wish he and Denise every success in the future and thank them for their long and significant contribution.”

A new drive show will be announced soon, said Hutchison.

The changes in drive were a distraction of a radio ratings survey revealed 1116 SEN had recorded its best overall audience figures in six years.

1116 SEN has delivered the highest share of audience for five years, up to 4.5% for Breakfast with Garry and Tim (All People, 10+, Monday – Friday, 6am – 9am).

Pacific Star Network and Crocmedia chief executive Craig Hutchison said, “We’re at a great place on our sporting calendar, we’re just past the halfway point of the AFL and NRL seasons, the Australian cricket team are on the rise and Ash Barty has become everyone’s hero. 1116 SEN provides a platform for Melbourne’s sports fans to enjoy live coverage of their favourite sports, to join the sporting conversation 24 hours a day and for our partners to connect with fans.”

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