Mediaweek Roundup: SLR Productions, FINA world championships + more

• Australian Community Media group, Kevin Bartlett, Heather Mills, Sam Simmons, John Jarratt, and Qantas

Business of Media

Alex Waislitz chips in $30m of own money for regional newspapers

Billionaire investor Alex Waislitz is stumping up almost $30 million of his own money to fund the $115m buyout of Nine Entertainment’s regional newspapers by media entrepreneur Antony Catalano, new documents reveal, reports The Australian’s John Stensholt.

Waislitz is financing 25% of the deal via his private Thorney Investment Group, which he wholly owns, and his listed investment company Thorney Opportunities is contributing another 25%, the latter revealed yesterday.

The other 50% of the deal for the Australian Community Media group, which owns newspapers such as The Canberra Times, The Newcastle Herald and The Illawarra Mercury, is being funded by Catalano, the former chief executive of online real estate classifieds group Domain.

Catalano, backed by Waislitz, bought ACM from Nine in April, completing the deal in time for the start of new financial year. The duo paid $115m for the business, plus Nine will receive $10m in advertising over three years.

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News Brands

John Jarratt sues Daily Telegraph and journalist for defamation

Actor John Jarratt is suing The Daily Telegraph and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation after he was last week found not guilty of raping a woman in the 1970s, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Georgina Mitchell.

Jarratt, 66, was acquitted in the NSW District Court on Friday after he pleaded not guilty and faced a week-long trial in Sydney.

A jury of five men and seven women unanimously found him not guilty.

On Monday, one of Jarratt’s lawyers said defamation proceedings had commenced against Nationwide News, the News Corp-owned publisher of the Daily Telegraph.

A spokeswoman for News Corp Australia declined to comment.

Chris Murphy, principal of Murphy’s Lawyers, posted on Twitter that proceedings commenced in the NSW Supreme Court in November 2018 and documents “will now be served on the defendant”. The case had been postponed to allow the rape trial to conclude.

The court confirmed Jarratt’s lawyers have filed a statement of claim in the case against Nationwide News and Moran. The matter will be mentioned in court on August 16.

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Federal police forced Qantas to reveal travel records of a journalist

The Australian Federal Police demanded Qantas hand over the private travel arrangements of a senior ABC journalist as part of its controversial investigation into a major national security leak, report Nine publishing’s Kylar Loussikian and Bevan Shields.

The request reveals the sweeping nature of the probe into how the national broadcaster published top-secret government material containing allegations of misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan including the potential unlawful killings of unarmed men and children.

An AFP statement obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age shows investigators approached Qantas earlier this year asking for information about Daniel Oakes, one of two ABC reporters who broke the story known as ‘The Afghan Files’.

A spokesman for Qantas on Sunday said: “Like all airlines, Qantas receives numerous requests for information from law enforcement agencies and we comply with these requests in accordance with our legal obligations and privacy legislation.”

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As the world heats up, the climate for news is changing, too

As Europe heats up, Greenland melts and the Midwest floods, many news organizations are devoting more resources to climate change as they cover the topic with more urgency, reports The New York Times.

In Florida, six newsrooms with different owners have taken the unusual step of pooling their resources and sharing their reporting on the issue. They plan to examine how climate change will affect the state’s enormous agriculture sector as well as “the future of coastal towns and cities – which ones survive, which ones go under,” according to a statement released when the initiative was announced last month.

Florida’s record-breaking heat waves, devastating storms like Hurricane Michael and increased flooding at high tide have not been lost on Mindy Marques, the publisher and executive editor of The Miami Herald, one of the six organisations taking part in the effort.

The other five outlets that have joined the initiative are The Palm Beach Post, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, The Orlando Sentinel and WLRN Public Media. Marques said the partnership was not politically motivated.

“We’re not launching a campaign,” she said. “We’re launching information, knowledge.”

The Guardian, the left-wing British daily, recently updated its house style to prefer the phrase “climate emergency” over “climate change.” It also recommends “climate science denier” in place of “climate sceptic.” The publication has also started listing the global carbon dioxide level on its daily weather page.

The New York Times established a desk dedicated to climate change in 2017, with editors and reporters in Washington and New York who collaborate with bureaus around the world.

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Heather Mills receives apology and payout in phone-hacking case

Heather Mills has received an apology at the high court after settling her phone-hacking case against the News of the World in return for a substantial financial payout as part of an agreement under which she dropped similar claims against the Sun, reports The Guardian.

The former wife of the Beatles singer Sir Paul McCartney said a “criminal, targeted smear campaign” over the course of a decade by the news outlet had destroyed her reputation and left her unable to carry on her charity work.

Mills was one of about 90 individuals, including Sir Elton John and Elizabeth Hurley, who recently settled their cases for invasion of privacy against News Group Newspapers, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled publisher that owns the News of the World and the Sun.

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Television

SLR Productions and Giggle Garage in collaborative partnership

Australia’s SLR Productions and Malaysia’s Giggle Garage have announced a collaborative partnership which commences with SLR Productions’ recently announced new original CGI animated series, Space Nova.

SLR Productions’ executive producer Suzanne Ryan together with Giggle Garage’s executive producers, Juhaidah Joemin and Zeno Gabing anticipate a range of creative and financial cooperative opportunties between their studios.

“SLR Productions is honoured to work with Giggle Garage’s Juhaidah Joemin and Zeno Gabing. Space Nova is guaranteed to be a fun and thrilling space adventure and is providing a great framework for our studios to collaborate both creatively and financially in the future,” said SLR Productions’ CEO and executive producer, Suzanne Ryan.   

“Today’s announcement with SLR Productions is another solid step in our journey in creating character entertainment properties for family and kids to enjoy around the world. We are inspired by Suzanne and her team’s vision in creating great content and are super excited to partner with them on future projects” said Giggle Garage’s executive director, Zeno Gabing.

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister YB Gobind Singh Deo commented, “We are delighted to see our Malaysian animation companies partner with international producers and distributors: this is another validation of the skills and talents of Malaysia’s creative technology and digital content creators. Indeed, the animation industry here has a long track record of producing and creating world-class IP, which currently surpasses 38 IPs. This has generated more than RM 237mil revenue, more than 55% of which comprises exports to 120 countries. The government will continue to focus on developing our animation ecosystem, which includes talent growth to empower Malaysia’s position as a regional digital content creation hub. Giggle Garage, a company helmed by two Sabahans, based in Cyberjaya, has created stories and characters that are travelling around the world,  and symbolises the diversity, skill and talent that makes Malaysia stand out in the digital arena.”

Space Nova, an original SLR Productions’ programme, commissioned by Super RTL, ABC Australia and Nine Network, received major production funding from Screen Australia and is also financed with support from Create NSW.

With development funding from Super RTL, ABC Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF), Space Nova will be distributed worldwide by ZDF Enterprises, excluding Australia and New Zealand, which is being handled by ACTF.

Space Nova comprises 26 x 24 minute episodes specifically geared to a global six to nine year old audience.

Photo: Suzanne Ryan, Zeno Gabing and Juhaidah Joemin

Sam Simmons off-script: Squinters star on season 2 of ABC comedy

When it comes to acting, comedian Sam Simmons prefers to go off-script, reports TV Tonight.

In the second season of ABC’s car-pool comedy, Squinters, he’s done just that.

“I can’t help myself sometimes, it’s the stand-up comedian in me that wants to improvise,” he tells TV Tonight.

“Some people hate it but I find I give a much more naturalistic performance if I can be in the moment.

Trent O’Donnell is my go-to director now. He lets me muck around with the script, I annoyingly go off script a lot but he encourages that, which frustrates (creator) Adam Zwar. Adam is very particular about the word, which I really respect.

“There’s a reason why Trent is one of the top comedy directors in the country at the moment -if not the top. He’s a quiet guy but he comes up with so many crazy things.”

In the ABC comedy Simmons plays gay man Lukas who travels to and from work at Aussie distribution company Kosciusko, joined by his Aunty Alison (Genevieve Morris) and sister (Claudia O’Doherty).

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Sports Media

Australian broadcasters turn their backs on our swimming stars

Swimming fans have fallen victim to a world championships blackout with revelations no Australian broadcaster has purchased the television rights for the sport’s biggest event outside of the Olympics, reports News Corp’s Julian Linden.

Australia’s new wave of swim stars are primed to rip up the record books at this month’s world championships in South Korea, but fans back home won’t be able to see it.

It’s understood the stumbling block is that the sport’s global governing body FINA’s asking price is too high and, with less than two weeks to go before the action gets underway in Gwangju, time is running out to cut a deal.

“Swimming Australia is aware the rights for the FINA world championships have not been purchased in Australia,” Swimming Australia chief executive Leigh Russell said.

“We are currently in discussions with FINA regarding alternative options for viewing the broadcast in Australia and hope to be in a position to provide an update soon.”

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KB quits sports radio: Tensions with boss behind decision?

It was revealed yesterday that one of the original broadcasters at SEN sports radio resigned last week.

Kevin Bartlett was the host of the morning show from 9am until noon when the station launched in 2004 and was the highest-rating broadcaster on the station.

The new owners of Melbourne’s SEN, under the leadership of Craig Hutchison, moved Bartlett from morning to drive at the start of 2018 where he co-hosted with station part-owner John Rothfield (aka Dr Turf) as ABC broadcaster Gerard Whateley moved to the SEN morning slot.

“I really enjoyed the old SEN and it’s fair to say I haven’t enjoyed the new SEN,” Bartlett told the Herald Sun‘s Mark Robinson.

“It suits to me leave and it probably suits them that I leave as well.”

It has been a dramatic couple of weeks at the Melbourne radio station after a fire forced SEN to evacuate the building a fortnight ago. The station was off air for three hours after the evacuation because of a blaze on another floor in their building, with the station communicating to listeners via social media.

For a number of hours the station relocated to a radio commentary box inside the MCG before power was restored to one of their new studios. It took over a week for the station to be fully operational again late last week in their Southbank building.

Former colleagues of Bartlett’s paid tribute to him on social media after the news of the resignation broke.

Former SEN afternoon host now with RSN breakfast and 3AW, Daniel Harford wrote: “Without doubt, Kevin Bartlett is the greatest entertainer on radio. Comedic timing and sporting cache like no other. He ‘gets it’.

“He is also the most generous on air partner any presenter could wish for. He wants YOU to be the star. I am forever indebted to him.”

Seven’s Jason Richardson said: “KB has so much to be proud of during his brilliant career at SEN. He’s an incredibly generous host & absolute pleasure to work with! Well done ‘Two Dogs’. Send him off in style SEN.”

Writer and broadcaster Rohan Connolly said: “I’m sure KB didn’t make his decision lightly, he’s a very loyal person. All I’ll say is this: (1) It’s important to treat people who serve an organisation loyally with consideration and some respect. (2) Ditto the audience. Content actually matters.”

Photo: Bartlett posted a photo with former colleagues earlier this year, which wouldn’t have impressed management. Pictured with KB are Harford, Marko and The Ox (Macquarie Sports drive hosts) and Tony Schibeci (former SEN broadcaster, Voice of the G and podcaster.

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