Mediaweek Roundup: Your Right To Know, Plate of Origin, Hoyts + more

• Southern Cross Media, Guy Sebastian, Melbourne Press Club, BBC Earth, and Fox Cricket

Business of Media

Southern Cross Media pushes for change to compete with digital

Southern Cross Media Group will look for opportunities to grow its regional broadcasting footprint, but has called for changes to legislation to allow the business to compete against digital platforms, reports The Australian’s Zoe Samios.

At its Annual General Meeting, chairman Peter Bush said the business believed in the “resilience” and “value” of regional radio, but said the regional television model faced challenges that needed to be addressed.

Bush said broadcasting legislation “constrained” the operating model for regional broadcasters, and prevented them from competing in the internet era.

“There are significant disparities in regulation of content and advertising on broadcast platforms compared to online platforms,” he said.

“The ACCC’s final report on the digital platforms inquiry has recommended that the government should address these regulatory disparities.”

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Lights, camera, action! Hoyts eyes off Palace Cinemas

Australia’s second-largest cinema business Hoyts is looking to purchase the boutique, family-owned Palace Cinemas chain, reports The AFR’s Street Talk.

Palace owner the Zeccola family has tapped PwC to run a sale process and Hoyts is one of a handful of parties to have expressed an early interest.

The Zeccola family has run Palace since the 1960s and does not have plans to sell out altogether, sources said. From humble beginnings in Victoria, the family operates 22 cinemas and more than 150 screens in locations on Australia’s east coast, as well as in Adelaide and Perth.

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Guy Sebastian and former agent legal dispute to be heard in 2020

The legal stoush between singer Guy Sebastian and his former agent has finally been given a court date, reports News Corp’s Perry Duffin.

The Australian Idol singer sensationally split from his long-time manager Titus Day in late 2017 after the 12-year relationship soured.

Sebastian took the matter to the Federal Court in mid-2018 and it has been working its way through administrative meetings since.

The singer and the agent both allege they’re owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by the other.

Federal Court Justice Tom Thawley, on Thursday, set the case down for three days of hearings in June next year.

Sebastian is seeking $200,000 in performance and other fees.

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Your Right To Know

Journalist barred from Australian free speech conference

An award-winning Cameroonian investigative journalist invited to give a speech about media freedom at a conference in Brisbane on Friday has been denied a visa by Australian authorities, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Nick O’Malley.

Mimi Mefo, winner of this year’s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award, was due to give the keynote address at the Integrity 20 conference hosted by Griffith University, but was told in correspondence that Australian authorities, “were not satisfied that the applicant’s employment and financial situation provide an incentive to return”.

Mefo told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that she was concerned officials denied her visa based on “stereotype views of Africans” rather than on her circumstances. “Maybe it would have been different if they just Googled me or looked at my Twitter or Facebook page. Not everyone who comes to Australia [from Africa] wants to stay.”

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Attorney-General Christian Porter hits out at Right-to-know campaign

Attorney-General Christian Porter has slapped down the Your Right to Know campaign, warning that moves to hand media organisations the ability to contest warrants could prevent police from stopping a “serious criminal offence”, reports The Australian’s Joe Kelly.

Porter suggested media organisations could pose a threat to national security, citing the case of Julian Assange, who published military and diplomatic documents on his WikiLeaks website.

The dumping by WikiLeaks of caches of secret documents was widely condemned for revealing the names of informants and intelligence sources, potentially putting people’s lives at risk. “He was given a Walkley,” Porter told 6PR.

Porter’s comments come after a coalition of media organisations demanded six reforms to protect journalists and whistleblowers. The reforms include the right to contest warrants for journalists and media organisations, an overhaul of whistleblower and defamation laws and the Freedom of Information regime.

“What is being asked for is an exemption to laws that might affect journalists for, quote, doing their job,” Porter said. “Now that’s national security laws. That’s criminal laws. And there have been instances where journalists have gone too far. And there just shouldn’t be a blanket exemption because of someone’s belonging to a profession.”

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There’s need for secrecy – it’s a question of balance

As the blacked-out front pages of Monday’s newspapers reminded us, a free press is the foundation of liberty. In a world in which the abuse of power comes as no surprise, its vigilance helps to expose injustice, deter those who would perpetrate it and ensure governments are held to account, writes Henry Ergas in The Australian.

That the press often falls far short of its lofty ideals is certainly true; but no matter how imperfect it may be, analysis and experience show that where it is muzzled, corruption flourishes, rights are ignored and democracy atrophies.

It is, however, no coincidence that when America’s founding fathers entrenched free speech in the first amendment to the US constitution, they also provided, in article one of the constitution itself, for the houses of congress to shield from the public matters “as may in their Judgment require Secrecy”.

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John Rolfe: Press freedom still the same old story

Shortly after boarding his plane “Shark One” last Sunday in Jakarta for the return trip to Canberra, Scott Morrison strode down to the economy cabin where members of the media were seated. It was about 11.30pm Sydney time.

“Doesn’t look like we made any of tomorrow’s front pages,” he lamented after a long day of meetings with leaders from Brunei, Indonesia and China. I replied: “No, Prime Minister. There was never much chance of that.”

Because in an unprecedented move, every daily newspaper in the country had agreed to “splash” on Monday with a new Right to Know campaign.

Each masthead’s front page carried a mocked-up heavily redacted government document. All but a few words were blacked out.

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News Brands

Eileen Berry acting president & chief executive at Melbourne Press Club

The Melbourne Press Club has appointed Eileen Berry as acting president and chief executive following the swift departure of three board members within 24 hours. Reports Lilly Vitorovich.

Berry, who is the club’s other vice president, was overwhelmingly elected by the board on Thursday morning, with its remaining members keen to get back to business, including planning for the Quill awards and the Perkin award.

The Australian reports there is no danger of the awards being axed following the departure of vice-president and co-host of ABC News Breakfast, Michael Rowland, president Adele Ferguson, and CEO and former editor of The Canberra Times Mark Baker on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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BBC Earth increases channel audience after replacing BBC Knowledge

The BBC this week reported ratings for the first week of the rebranded BBC Earth channel. Replacing BBC Knowledge, figures show BBC Earth has increased audience share and brought in new audiences who are watching the channel for longer when measured against the performance of its predecessor.

In launch week, primetime share was up 67% on the previous three months for BBC Knowledge. The advertising demo of Live P25-54 also saw a significant increase, with primetime share up 60% on the previous three months, and primetime average audience increasing by 42%. Primetime average time spent viewing was up 34% and 35% of the audience reached were new viewers.

Earlier this month BBC Knowledge had a subscription homes TV share of 0.4% and a weekly reach of 307,000.

BBC Earth showcases a broad range of world-class factual programs including the best of Sir David Attenborough from BBC Studios Natural History Unit, alongside adventurous travels, human stories and science programs from experts such as Michael Mosley, Louis Theroux, Kate Humble, Professor Brian Cox and Ben Fogle.

Tim Christlieb, director of branded services, Australia and New Zealand said: “We are thrilled with the performance of BBC Earth on Foxtel. In its first week we have seen bigger audiences with a stronger engagement compared to BBC Knowledge. The strength of the global brand and the mix of natural history, science, travel and human stories are resonating with traditional BBC Knowledge viewers who are still able to see many of their favourite shows and presenters on the channel, as well as attracting new audiences to the channel.”

Upcoming shows on BBC Earth in November include the Australian premiere of Earth’s Natural Wonders, David Attenborough explores intriguing stories of animal peculiarities in Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, charismatic wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan spends time with the bear cubs of the Bubonisty Orphan Bear Rescue Centre in Russia in Grizzly Bear Cubs and Me and Sam Neill takes viewers on a journey through Wild New Zealand.

BBC Earth is sponsored by Tourism and Events Queensland.

Melbourne radio host questions Seven’s Plate of Origin copyright

Seven’s announcement of Plate of Origin, a new cooking show with Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and Manu Feildel has raised eyebrows from 3AW breakfast co-host Ross Stevenson, reports TV Tonight.

The Seven Studios-produced format is described as “a worldwide food fight (which) will pit cuisine against cuisine, plate against plate, cook against cook.”

On Thursday morning on 3AW Stevenson said, “Two years ago I hawked around my idea for a cooking show, called World Cup of Food in which ethnic cuisines competed against each other in a format, to see which was the best. I hawked it around and was told ‘No, we’re not interested.’ So when I read that this new show is an original format, in which teams from diverse cultural backgrounds will compete to see which cuisine will reign supreme it is very, very familiar to me.

“I’ll have a talk with someone today about how they came up with this so-called original format.”

Shaun Miller from Shaun Miller Lawyers told TV Tonight there is no copyright in broad brush themes or ideas, but in the expression of those ideas.

“Channel 7 may have been inspired by the concept of worldwide cuisines being pitted against each other, as presented to them by Ross Stevenson, but Channel 7 may have added a great deal of its own originality to what is to become Plate of Origin, including in terms of the way in which contestants are selected, the powers of the judges, the rules of the contest and things like set design and theme music.”

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Sports Media

Smash Factor: New Fox Cricket device to reveal batsmen’s secrets

A computer boffin from America has finally unpacked the mysteries of batting that have stayed a tantalising secret in cricket for over a century, reports News Corp’s Ben Horne.

Speculation over bat speeds and shot power, as well as the eternal search for ‘the middle’, has long fascinated cricket’s army of obsessed followers, commentators, and players from the backyard to the MCG.

In a world first for cricket broadcasting, all will be revealed this summer as Fox Cricket launches its revolutionary Smash Factor, which will provide an unprecedented level of batting analysis for viewers in real time, all thanks to a tiny sensor hidden behind the sticker on the back of the players’ bat.

Smash Factor will measure data such as bat speed, launch angle, shot power and timing, while the sensor will pick up vibrations off the bat to determine an accurate reading out of 100 for whether the player has hit the ball out of the “sweet spot”.

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