Mediaweek roundup: Pussycat Dolls, AAP, James Murdoch + more

• JCDecaux and ViacomCBS, MKR, Netflix + Rugby Australia

Business of Media

Campbell Reid: Guardian hypocrisy over AAP shutdown

Australian Associated Press chairman Campbell Reid has described a report by The Guardian that it is closing the national newswire to hurt small media organisations as “gobsmacking hypocrisy”, saying the British-based media company had slashed its payment to AAP, report The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich and David Swan.

It is understood The Guardian cut its spending with AAP, which provides stories, videos and photos to media companies for a fee, by 40 per cent to $75,000 annually from about $120,000.

Reid, who is also a senior News Corp Australia executive, said on Thursday that The Guardian was “one of the very companies that slashed the amount it was prepared to pay for AAP”.

Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor wrote in an opinion piece on Thursday that the online publication relied on the “safety net” of an AAP subscription to cover events her outlet could not. She also argued that without AAP, it would be far more difficult for other media players to grow big enough to have influence in the market.

Australia’s competition regulator chairman Rod Sims said it was examining the closure of AAP on June 26 after 85 years.

[Read more]

Lenore Taylor: We relied on AAP when Guardian Australia launched

Every morning the list of stories Guardian Australia should cover is far longer than the list of reporters I have to assign to them. Many mornings the AAP wire service helps make up some of the difference, writes Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor.

If we can’t get to the disability royal commission on a particular day, or commit to cover a court case, we know AAP will be there. If we miss a press conference, AAP will have the quotes. Except after June they won’t. They’ll be gone.

This commercial decision by the biggest players has significant consequences for the industry as a whole.

Guardian Australia will certainly miss AAP, but with 6.5 million unique readers in January, we are now big enough to work around its demise.

[Read more]

MEAA: News and Nine have questions to answer on closure of AAP

The majority shareholders of AAP Newswire must be upfront with workers and subscribers about whether they had an agenda to shut the service down in order to inflict damage on their media competitors, says the union for Australian journalists.

Disturbing revelations have emerged that the final impetus for the decision on Tuesday to close AAP was a desire by Nine Entertainment and News Corporation Australia to hurt their smaller rivals who rely on the wire service for breaking and national news.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance says Nine and News must answer for the decision to shut AAP.

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom said: “In total 600 people, of which 300 are journalists including 100 photographers, will be out of work as a result of this decision made by the media bosses at Nine and News.

“News Corp and Nine said the reason for shutting down AAP was that it was no longer financially viable and had been damaged by the proliferation of free news on social media and digital content aggregators.

“However, today’s reports suggest a more sinister motive: the closure is designed to deliberately harm their print and online rivals who subscribe to AAP for news about politics, sport, business, courts and crime, and for breaking news. The fact that they didn’t put AAP up for sale indicates News and Nine simply wanted AAP shut down.

“For months, AAP staff were misled by management that the company was in good shape. Some employees have taken out mortgages or shifted cities in good faith because of the assurances they were given by management,” Strom said.

“The closure of the newswire is a kick in the guts for those staff. But the loss of the extensive news coverage provided by AAP means consumers around Australia will lose a trusted, reliable, accurate and impartial source of vital information.

“The media bosses responsible for the decision to shut AAP should pledge to employ any AAP editorial staff who want to remain in journalism,” Strom said.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said where the market had failed, the government must intervene to protect public interest journalism. “It is now urgent for the federal government to address the crisis in news media caused by the erosion of revenues through the proliferation of sharing content for free by the giant digital platforms and by the loss of crucial news coverage that was only available from AAP,” he said.

“This could be addressed by a levy on a percentage of the revenue digital platforms like Google and Facebook make from their use of news media content. The levy would then go to a Public Interest Journalism Fund that would help fill the void left by the loss of AAP and promote high quality journalism to ensure the public’s right to know,” Murphy said.

JCDecaux and ViacomCBS send staff home due to coronavirus fears

French outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux and ViacomCBS have sent Sydney staff home due to fears people in their offices may have been exposed to the coronavirus, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Sources told The Australian Financial Review the decisions were made on Thursday. JCDecaux sent its York St office home, while ViacomCBS sent home its Darlinghurst office, which houses networks such as MTV and Nickelodeon.

Network 10 in Pyrmont, which is owned by ViacomCBS following the merger of CBS and Viacom in December, has not been affected.

It follows media agency OMD and Foxtel Media doing the same last Friday.

[Read more]

James Murdoch’s firm invests in start-up to build “trustworthy” tech

James Murdoch is adding a new technology start-up to his growing post-Fox investment portfolio, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

The mogul’s firm, Lupa Systems, is partnering with former Time Warner and AOL executive John Borthwick‘s platform Betaworks on a new lab to develop tech products.

Murdoch’s co-investment in what’s called Betalab aims “to fund early stage startups that aim to Fix The Internet,” Borthwick wrote in a Medium post on Thursday. Specifically in products in a “new emerging category of trustworthy, humane technology” that aim to protect users privacy online as well as “a more sustainable news ecosystem and a better informed citizenry.”

Murdoch added of his new investment, “The Betalab project will help accelerate early movers and create a platform from which we can begin to learn how to navigate the blurred reality of our synthetic and natural worlds.”

Betaworks, founded in New York in 2008, has developed products that include Chartbeat, a web analytics tool for publishers, as well as Twitter display platform Tweetdeck.

[Read more]


Pussycat Dolls blitz radio with shows for Hit, Nova (and Sunrise)

The Pussycat Dolls have been in Australia this week doing promos for new music and their forthcoming Australian tour.

After a 10-year hiatus, the global popstars are back and their first performance for fans was Wednesday on the Hit Network’s World Famous Rooftop. The group performed Buttons, When I Grow Up, Stickwitchu, Dontcha and their new single React.

The girls then followed that up with a Nova Red Room performance on Thursday night in Sydney.

On Friday morning they were playing in Martin Plaza for a Sunrise live plaza event.

The Pussycat Dolls – Nicole Scherzinger, Ashley Roberts, Kimberly Wyatt, Jessica Sutta and Carmit Bachar have sold more than 55m records worldwide and have over 3 billion streams. In Australia they have had nine top 10 singles, eight in the UK, and four in the US. Their nine top 10 singles in Australia has earned them the title of one of the best-selling female groups of all-time.

The Pussycat Dolls return to Australia in April, playing Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne as the headliners for the pop throwback concert, So Pop. Alongside The Pussycat Dolls are UK pop royalty Steps, Jesse McCartney, Smash Mouth, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and others.


Manu Feildel on MKR: Hiatus the solution to saving format?

Manu Feildel has indicated taking a hiatus might be the solution to saving reality show My Kitchen Rules, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.

Currently being smashed in the ratings by rivals Married At First Sight and Survivor, industry murmurs have suggested this season could be the last for My Kitchen Rules.

“We have got Big Brother coming back, and how long was it rested for?” Feildel questioned. “Four years or whatever and it is coming back, good. Maybe a rest.

“I don’t think we have done anything wrong with the season,” Feildel said. “There is a lot for everyone to watch, some people whinge about too much craziness, some people whinge that there’s not enough cooking. It is a show that needs all of the above, you need a bit of food and you need a bit of craziness. It has always been like this.”

While Feildel is hopeful MKR will continue, he is busy elsewhere at Channel 7 as he returns as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent and will join fellow chefs Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan on new show Plate of Origin.

[Read more]

Netflix snaps up NZ’s Taika Waititi for two Dahl animated series

Oscar winner Taika Waititi has signed on to develop two animated series based on the work of Roald Dahl for Netflix report The Age’s Paul Kalina and Karl Quinn.

Waititi, the New Zealand writer-director-actor-producer of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit (for which he won the best adapted screenplay Academy Award last month), will write and direct two series that spin off from Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The first is described by the streamer as a series “based on the world and characters” of the book, while the second is “a wholly original take on the Oompa-Loompas”, the little people who work in Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Waititi will be showrunner on both.

The two new Charlie projects are far from the only Dahl offerings Netflix has in store. There are also plans to create animated series based on a number of other titles, including The BFG, Matilda and The Twits.

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‘We need laws and legislations’: Reality stars hit back at online abuse

Australian reality TV stars have commended a confronting segment on the US version of The Bachelor that highlighted the bullying and abuse participants received from viewers online, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Robert Moran.

In the viral segment, Rachel Lindsay– who in 2017 became the franchise’s first black Bachelorette – shared the racist abuse she received from viewers. “I know it’s uncomfortable for you to see this. Just imagine how uncomfortable it is to get this in your comments and your DMs every day, week, months,” she told the show’s viewers as she read out explicit messages that had been sent to contestants. When she asked this season’s field of US contestants if they’d experienced anything similar, everyone put a hand up.

Emma Roche, who featured in last year’s season of Network Ten’s The Bachelor Australia, says she was impressed by the segment and urged local broadcasters to follow suit in reminding viewers that such behaviour is unacceptable.

A Network Ten spokesperson said the network “takes its duty of care of participants on all of our programs very seriously. We work closely with our production partners to ensure the participants have access to a psychologist at all times. In addition, Ten and our production partners have staff dedicated to providing assistance and guidance to the participants pre-and-post show to make sure they receive the support they need.”

[Read more]

Sports Media

Optus to secure Rugby Australia broadcast rights on cut-price deal

Optus is favoured to become the new home of rugby, but the final deal could be disastrous for the code if the telco low-balls Rugby Australia as expected, reports News Corp’s Jamie Pandaram.

The Daily Telegraph reveals that three weeks after putting their broadcast package to the open market, RA has not had a single offer.

The lack of formal interest has forced them to extend their period for offers for another week.

It can also be revealed that Optus has begun talks with production companies, who they will need to film and package Super Rugby, club rugby and women’s rugby games, given they do not have the capabilities to do this in-house.

It’s estimated that these production costs will be around $10 million a year, and Optus will fold this into their offer to RA.

The only interested free-to-air network for rugby rights, 10, is expected to offer $5 million a year for Wallabies Tests and one live Super Rugby match on Saturday nights.

[Read more]

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