Mediaweek roundup: Stefanovic, Thunberg, Seven-Prime + more

• Ben Roberts-Smith, Q&A, free TV, Kim Williams + day-night Test

Business of Media

Karl Stefanovic sues newspaper and columnist over pay-cut reports

Nine’s resurrected star Karl Stefanovic has launched defamation action against a rival media company, in a sign he will not shy away from generating headlines despite being sacked from the Today show a year ago amid negative publicity about his personal life, reports The Australian’s Nicola Berkovic.

Stefanovic, only weeks after being reinstated to helm Nine’s struggling breakfast show in 2020, has filed court documents against The Sunday Telegraph and columnist Annette Sharp.

He claims his reputation has been “greatly injured” by a series of articles that suggested he would take a pay cut to return to the Today show.

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No change to media laws despite Prime merger frenzy

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has shut the door on any immediate changes to media ownership laws, stymieing efforts by moguls Bruce Gordon and Antony Catalano to swoop on Prime Media, reports The AFR’s Andrew Tillett and Max Mason.

Appearing at the National Press Club, Fletcher said the government had already overhauled media ownership rules in 2017, which had made the proposed Seven-Prime marriage possible.

Catalano hit back on Wednesday, lashing the government for being out of touch with the communications industry if Mr Fletcher didn’t think media laws needed to change.

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Journalists fight attempt by Ben Roberts-Smith to expose sources

Two of Australia’s leading investigative journalists are fighting an attempt by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith to force them to expose their sources, reports The Age’s Bianca Hall.

Multiple Walkley Award winners Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters are fighting the effort in the Federal Court, amid a defamation claim Roberts-Smith has launched against The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times.

The attempt to out journalists’ sources by Roberts-Smith – who is also general manager of Seven West Media Queensland – comes amid an industry-wide push for greater press freedom. Roberts-Smith is suing the mastheads after a series of reports accused the decorated soldier of committing war crimes during overseas missions.

The defamation case will go to trial in June but the parties are fighting an advance battle over whether McKenzie and Masters should be forced to produce 49 privileged documents to the court, other documents, names of witnesses and the names of sources they relied upon in preparing their reports.

The court has reserved its decision.

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Time magazine names Greta Thunberg Person of the Year

That Thunberg is the youngest individual ever named TIME’s Person of the Year says as much about the moment as it does about her, reports the weekly news magazine.

The 92-year-old franchise is rooted in the so-called Great Man theory of history, the notion that powerful individuals shape the world. Historically, that has meant people who worked their way up the ladders of major organisations and were at home in the corridors of power. But in this moment when so many traditional institutions seem to be failing us, amid staggering inequality and social upheaval and political paralysis, we are seeing new kinds of influence take hold. It is wielded by people like Thunberg, leaders with a cause and a phone who don’t fit the old rubrics but who connect with us in ways that institutions can’t and perhaps never could.

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ABC finalises Q&A investigation over ‘radical views’ complaints

The ABC has finalised its investigation into Q&A and indicated last month’s controversial feminist episode won’t be returning to digital platforms, reports The Age’s Broede Carmody.

A summary of the ABC’s editorial review, published on Wednesday, said management took appropriate steps in acknowledging the confronting aspects of the program and pulling it from ABC iView and Q&A‘s website. An ABC spokesman said “sufficient action” had been taken.

Author Mona Eltahawy, who was a guest on the November 4 episode, described the ABC’s determination as “unbelievable”. She continues to argue that the public broadcaster shouldn’t have pulled the episode in the first place.

“The ABC has signalled it is privileging the fragile sensibilities of white men over the wellbeing and safety of women,” she said. “It is a reminder that imaginary violence against men upsets and disturbs more than actual violence against women.”

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A decade ends, but things remain much the same on free TV

A decade of television viewing is almost over. Or did it never really begin? If you last watched free to air television in this country in 2009, when the previous decade was drawing to a close, what was on your screen? asks The Age’s Craig Mathieson.

Breakfast television had Sunrise on Seven, where David Koch was the co-host, while MasterChef had been a ratings bonanza for 10 in its debut season. On the ABC Q&A and host Tony Jones were about to move to a Monday night slot after two years on Thursday evenings, and Nine was preparing to reboot The Block.

The structure of television and the very way we watch it has evolved so swiftly and significantly over the last decade – streaming platforms, video on demand, niche viewing, diversity in on-air talent, bingeing seasons – that it’s easy to paint a then-and-now picture, as if television a decade ago was some sepia-stained image of an earlier era no longer accessible. For some of us that’s mostly true, but the industry in this country and many viewers readily make a case for the opposite.

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Sports Media

Kim Williams claims rugby not worth “mountains of money”

Former Foxtel boss Kim Williams has launched a scathing attack on Australian rugby union, describing the struggling code as a “low-value sport” and criticising its administrators for “astonishing self-entitlement”, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke and John McDuling.

The comments from Williams, who was chief executive of News Corp’s pay-TV service for a decade until 2011, come amid pressure on the leadership of Rugby Australia as it prepares for critical talks with broadcasters over its next television rights deal.

“The issue with rugby that’s a challenge is the sense of self-entitlement from rugby itself,” Williams said in an interview on Wednesday. “Rugby seems to deem itself as inherently worthy and therefore deserving of mountains of money and that’s a major difference to the reality.”

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Thinking pink: Sydney puts hand up for day-night Test

SCG Trust chairman Tony Shepherd says Sydney will put its hand up for a day-night Test as competition intensifies for hosting rights to pink-ball games in Australia, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Wu.

For over 137 years, Test cricket at the famous ground has been played during the day, but that could change if the Trust can successfully lobby cricket authorities to allow the biggest city in Australia to be part of the pink-ball revolution sweeping the game.

The Trust made an audacious bid in 2016 to host a second Test in the summer, but those plans are now off the agenda with officials keen to limit the volume of traffic at the SCG until redevelopment of the adjacent football stadium is completed in 2022.

Cricket Australia has not held any more than two day-night Tests per season but the game’s free-to-air broadcaster, Channel Seven, has said it would consider a third.

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