Mediaweek roundup: The Block, bushfires, 2020 Olympics + more

• Domain, Marina Go, Peter Fray, Today show, Steve Wood + Nine

Business of Media

Domain sees signs of improvement after housing’s horrible year

Housing market conditions remain challenging for listings company Domain but chief executive Jason Pellegrino says there are signs of improvement with growth in prices and auction clearance rates signaling a return of buyers, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

New listings for the 2019-20 year-to-date were down 14 per cent nationally, while auction volumes in the two largest markets, Sydney and Melbourne, were down 10 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

Domain’s digital revenue was down 8 per cent compared with the same time last year – an improvement from the final quarter of 2018-19 which was down 11 per cent. Total revenue in the period was down 12 per cent – better than the 17 per cent decline in the final quarter of the last financial year.

Chairman Nick Falloon said the company was making progress on its long-term strategy despite the tough property market conditions.

“To put the environment in context, there were unprecedented declines in listings volumes in high-value auction markets in Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

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Former Bauer exec backs private equity takeover of publisher

Former Bauer Media executive Marina Go is hopeful a new era of ownership for the publisher of titles including Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’sDay could help revitalise the struggling magazine sector, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

Go, who left Bauer in 2016 after two years as general manager of the company’s Hearst brands, was encouraged by reports Sydney-based private equity firm Mercury Capital was in advanced talks to buy the Australian and New Zealand arm of the German publisher for $150 million.

“A private equity sale would be a great outcome for the owners, particularly at the multiples that are being talked about,” Go said. “It could potentially be a positive outcome for the company too and the good people who work there providing that the intention would be to develop the business, the people and the brands.”

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News Brands

Former editor moves from academia to editor-in-chief of indie publisher

Eric Beecher’s Private Media has appointed Peter Fray (pictured) as its new editor-in-chief (EIC) and managing editor of Crikey.

As EIC of Private Media, Fray will oversee the editorial direction of the company’s three publications, Crikey, The Mandarin and SmartCompany.

As managing editor of Crikey and its Inq investigative unit, he will take a hands-on role in running the editorial operation, leading its reporters, writers and editors, and working closely with the publisher and commercial team.

Fray is currently a professor of journalism practice at UTS and the co-director of the Centre for Media Transition, an applied research centre supported by the faculties of law and social sciences. He has previously been the editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald, the editor of the Canberra Times and The Sunday Age and the deputy editor of The Australian. In 2013, he established Australia’s first stand-alone fact-checking site, PolitiFact Australia.

“We’re delighted to bring Peter into Private Media,” said Eric Beecher, chairman, and Tamsin Creed, general manager and Crikey publisher. “He is one of the outstanding editors of his generation, he is passionate about journalism and wants to play a big part in shaping its future.”

Fray said: “I am over the moon to be joining Private Media and be given this chance to make a significant contribution to the growth of its titles, staff and financial success. The health of a fiercely independent, home-grown news media is vital to Australia.”

“I have long admired the work of Crikey and celebrated the work of the Mandarin and SmartCompany. The new Inq team brings a compelling dimension to Crikey’s subscriber offering, with its investigative work. I am very much looking forward to being part of its development.”

News publisher knocks down paywall surrounding bushfire coverage

“Catastrophic” is not a word used flippantly. The highest possible level of bushfire danger across NSW has led the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare a State of Emergency for the first time in six years, writes the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Lisa Davies.

As a result, the Herald will provide open access to our coverage – meaning that for the duration of this crisis, bushfire stories will be free for all readers.

We will be updating readers live via our blog and at smh.com.au. Amid the tragic tales of lives and homes lost, our teams of reporters and photographers on the ground around NSW will also bring you tales of bravery from our emergency services, volunteers and residents alike.

On behalf of us all at the Herald, please stay safe and stay informed.

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Television

Deb Knight addresses ‘challenging year’ at Nine breakfast show

Today presenters Deborah Knight and Tom Steinfort have paid tribute to their departed co-host Georgie Gardner, reports The Age’s Michael Lallo.

“Before we get to the news, we wanted to acknowledge this morning our colleague and friend Georgie Gardner,” Knight said.

“You might have read over the weekend that Georgie has left the Today show and after a really challenging year, we want to wish Georgie all the very best.”

Newsreader Tom Steinfort added: “She really has been a committed and passionate member of the team here, particularly when she’s been sharing the stories of everyday Australians who are doing it tough. These are issues that she wanted to focus on, and [to] shine a light on people who needed it most. She has always been a woman of strength, a woman of class. Who could forget her very wicked sense of humour that would just pop up from time to time as well.”

“She gave it a red hot go,” Knight said. “For now though, Georgie’s enjoying the time with her family, with her friends, taking Wilbur the dog for a walk. And we look forward to seeing you, Georgie, on our screens again very soon.”

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Scott Cam guarantees the one thing you won’t see on The Block anymore

“I’m looking forward to a break. It’s been a big one.”

That was the first thing The Block host Scott Cam said after wrapping up this year’s season of the popular renovation show on Sunday night, reports news.com.au’s Shireen Khalil.

Speaking candidly to news.com.au after Tess and Luke’s triumphant win, the always honest Cam revealed the one thing you wouldn’t be seeing on the show again.

Throughout the three-month series, Cam reminded viewers of the sheer magnitude of The Oslo – a once rundown, trashy hostel that Channel 9 bought for a reported $10 million.

At first, many thought it was just a way to entice people into watching the show, and while that may have been true, it didn’t dismiss how it affected the five teams and the crew.

“We learned that it was too big, and we won’t be doing it this big again, I can guarantee it,” Cam told news.com.au.

“We always try and go bigger and better but we probably crossed the line.

“It’s achievable because it all got done and sold really well. But I think just for the crew and everybody in future, it will still be a big construction and still be big, but it just won’t be as big as this.”

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Sports Media

ABC ‘short-sighted’ over cancelling Olympics radio coverage

The Australian Olympic Committee has condemned the national broadcaster as being “monumentally short-sighted” and ignoring the obligations of the ABC Charter by failing to provide live radio coverage of next year’s Tokyo Games, reports AAP.

AOC chief executive Matt Carroll has vowed to do everything in his power to see the decision overturned before Tokyo 2020 starts next July and said the committee would be contacting ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose personally about the matter.

“The ABC should reconsider this decision. The AOC is prepared to put this case to the chair of the ABC directly, on behalf of the eight million Australians who participate in Olympic sports,” he said. “(That is) not to mention the millions more who follow, support and celebrate those athletes.”

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ABC sports veteran shattered after broadcaster quits Olympics

A grateful listener once called former ABC broadcaster Gerry Collins to thank him for his accurate and atmospheric calls of Olympic swimming, telling him: “You can’t take a TV down a mine,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Lutton.

The point was, that wherever you could take a radio, you could tune in to the fortunes of Australia’s athletes at the Olympics. And the assumption was that the national broadcaster would always be there when the medals were won, or perhaps lost, in dramatic and often unforgettable fashion.

“So many people tell you those stories,” Collins said. “Newspaper front pages are covered with the biggest news and usually the ABC is always there. Now there will be gold medals where it will be all over the front pages but the ABC won’t be there describing it.”

Collins, who was the voice of ABC’s swimming coverage from the 1988 Games in Seoul to the 2008 Games in Beijing, was shattered for those among his former colleagues who would have been part of the broadcast team at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

They may still be on the ground in Japan as part of a news team but the ABC won’t be providing live calls of Olympic events for the first time since 1952, citing budget pressures and a changing broadcast environment for the decision.

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Ex-Tennis Australia boss reveals he didn’t tell board of rival offers

The former boss of Tennis Australia says he did not tell the board of the organisation about the level of interest for the broadcast rights to the Australian Open despite being in receipt of this information, a court has heard, reports The Age’s Sarah Danckert.

The ex-boss of Tennis Australia, Steve Wood, told the Federal Court that he was aware of potential offers from Nine Entertainment and Network 10 but thought board director Harold Mitchell would raise the matter at a board meeting.

Wood’s evidence could help to blow a hole in a key part of the corporate watchdog’s case: that it was Mitchell and former Tennis Australia director Stephen Healy who deliberately withheld such information from the board, thus giving preference to the incumbent holder of the rights, Seven West Media.

His testimony on Monday also raised questions about how seriously the rival offers and the interest from Ten was, with Wood agreeing Ten’s offer may have been a “mischievous” ploy to get Seven to increase its offer for the rights.

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Channel 9 chase network rival in search of Ray Warren replacement

Channel 9 is planning for life after legendary commentator Ray Warren by approaching highly regarded Fox Sports and Triple M caller Dan Ginnane, reports News Corp’s Phil Rothfield.

We can reveal Channel 9’s director of sport and now 2GB boss Tom Malone contacted the off-contract Ginnane last week about joining the free-to-air network next season.

This isn’t to say the great Ray ‘Rabs’ Warren won’t continue next year but it’s not guaranteed that he will.

Warren has told Channel 9 he will make a decision before Christmas.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Warren said. “Tom Malone spoke to me a few weeks ago and is expecting me to make a decision soon. They’ve got to plan and I understand totally.

“I have a different thought in my head every day. Seriously I don’t know.”

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