Mediaweek roundup: Today show, My Kitchen Rules, Seven-Prime + more

• RSF yearly round-up, Love Island UK, Wagner brothers, AAP, ABC Canberra, Facebook defamation case + Stan

Business of Media

John Hartigan poised to sign off following Seven merger vote

John Hartigan – Harto – has for three decades been a significant player on the Australian media landscape. That’s likely to come to an end on Thursday afternoon, reports The Australian’s Caroline Overington.

That’s the day of the merger vote of regional broadcaster Prime Media. But the agreed merger with Kerry Stokes’s Seven West Media television network may not get up given a blocking stake held by two key investors, and Hartigan is expected to bow out as chairman immediately after the opportunity dies.

“That’s not something I can talk about,” he says, but if he does go, it will hardly be a shock. Hartigan flagged his intention to leave Prime a little over a year ago, but stayed on, “because there was a trickle of an opportunity to do a deal”.

“But the fact is that the vote is going to fail,” he said. “It will fail because of the voting intentions of Bruce Gordon, and Antony Catalano, backed by Alex Waislitz. They’ve got totally different agendas from the rest of the shareholders.”

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Bauer, Seven West Media and Daily Mail fight Facebook defamation case

A trio of media outlets including magazine publisher Bauer Media has intervened in a landmark defamation case about the liability of organisations for readers’ Facebook comments, arguing the outlets are not legally responsible for the comments and are not obliged to monitor posts, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michaela Whitbourn.

In a preliminary decision in June, NSW Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rothman ruled news outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian were liable as publishers for the comments of third parties on their Facebook pages, in a defamation case brought by former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller.

The media outlets lodged an appeal. At a hearing in the NSW Court of Appeal on Tuesday, three media outlets that were not sued by Voller – magazine publisher Bauer Media, Seven West Media and Daily Mail Australia – intervened in a bid to have the decision overturned on different legal grounds.

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AAP back in black after multimillion-dollar restructure

Australian Associated Press posted a profit in 2019 after a major restructure that chief executive Bruce Davidson says will be the last of the major editorial redundancy rounds for the news wire service, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.

AAP achieved a $929,000 profit for the year after income tax, compared to a $10.45 million loss in 2018, documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission on Monday evening show. It booked a before-tax profit of $940,000 in 2019 following a loss of $5.59 million the prior year.

Davidson said this was a “solid result” for the year ending June 30 after a tumultuous period for media companies.

AAP cut 25 staff members in mid-2018, representing about 10 per cent of its editorial team, blaming a “disrupted” environment. The news wire subscription service previously lamented hundreds of thousands of dollars had drained from the business due to clients using search giant Google.

“We took quite a bit of cost out 18 months to two years ago,” Davidson said.

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News Brands

Nine could have paid a quarter of damages to Wagner brothers

Five Channel 9 defendants could have got away with paying a quarter of the $2.4 million defamation damages they have to pay four Toowoomba brothers, if they had accepted a settlement offer, reports Courier-Mailcourt reporter Kay Dibben.

And a journalist who was ordered to pay Denis, JohnNeill and Joe Wagner $1.2 million for defaming them could have settled without paying a cent, by simply apologising.

The settlement offer by the Wagners, who wanted the Nine defendants to pay them $600,000 total, plus costs, and make a full apology on their terms, was made in February.

It was rejected months before a jury found the brothers had been defamed in Nine’s 60 Minutes program and by journalist Nick Cater in 2015.

A Brisbane Supreme Court judge, deciding on the level of costs to be paid by the Nine defendants and journalist Nick Cater, said the Wagners’ settlement offer was reasonable at the time.

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ABC Canberra forced to broadcast news outdoors due to bushfire smoke

The ABC team in Canberra was forced to host its nightly broadcast from outside the building due to alarms triggered by the bushfire smoke, reports news.com.au.

Presenter Dan Bourchier and his team were evacuated from the studio minutes before the 7pm broadcast, where they gave an impromptu outdoor broadcast.

He signed off saying: “Hopefully I’ll be back with you tomorrow from the studio, goodnight.”

ABC News Director Gaven Morris praised the team on Twitter, describing them as “true pros”.

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RSF yearly round-up: “historically low” number of journalists killed in 2019

A total of 49 journalists were killed this year, 389 are currently in prison and 57 are being held hostage, according to the annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment against journalists, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Journalism remains a dangerous profession but the number of journalists killed this year is at its lowest in 16 years.

The number of journalists killed this year – 49 – is the lowest since 2003, and represents a spectacular 44% fall on last year’s figure. This year’s “historically low” figure, compared with an annual average of 80 journalists killed during the past two decades, is above all the result of a fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones.

Covering conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan was two times less deadly for journalists in 2019 – with a combined total of 17 journalists killed in these three countries compared with 34 in 2018.

This unprecedented fall does not eclipse the fact that the number of journalists killed in countries at peace continues to be as high as in previous years. In Mexico, for example, 10 journalists were killed in 2019, the same number as last year. With a combined total of 14 journalists killed, Latin America is now as deadly for journalists as the Middle East, with all of its wars.

Another worrying aspect of this year’s round-up is the number of arbitrarily detained journalists, which has risen yet again.

Worldwide, a total of 389 journalists are currently in prison in connection with their work, 12% more than last year. Nearly half of these journalists are being held by three countries: China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Having intensified its crackdown on the Uyghur minority, China alone holds a third of the worldwide total of arbitrarily detained journalists.

Television

New series from Emmy-nominated Aussie comedian new on Stan in January

Stan has announced that the new 10-episode comedy series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay from Josh Thomas – the creator and star of the International Emmy-nominated series Please Like Me – will premiere on 17 January, same day as the US and only on Stan.

Set and filmed in the US, the well-intentioned but ill-equipped characters try to find happiness in the middle of difficult times.

Once again, Thomas takes on a multifaceted role as creator, writer, executive producer and star of the comedy, which introduces Nicholas (Josh Thomas), a neurotic twenty-something-year-old visiting his dad and teenage half-sisters – one of whom is on the autism spectrum. When Nicholas’ trip is extended due to his father’s untimely death, the siblings are left to cope with not only a devastating loss, but also the realisation that Nicholas is the one who will have to rise to the occasion, move in, and hold it all together.

Navigating autism, budding sexuality, consent, parenthood, adolescence, family and grief, the heartfelt comedy will follow this imperfect family as they discover the importance of finding happiness in the middle of really difficult moments, one awkward conversation at a time.

Josh Thomas said: “Finding an Australian home for Everything’s Gonna Be Okay that could air the episodes at the same time as the US was super important to me and I’m just so glad we found that in Stan, alongside their other cool, boundary pushing offerings.”

Thomas is the creator, writer, star and showrunner of the series. David Martin, Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner serve as executive producers for Avalon Television, with Stephanie Swedlove and Kevin Whyte also serving as executive producers. The series is produced by Avalon Television and Freeform, and also stars Kayla Cromer, Maeve Press and Adam Faison.

UK-based producer and distributor Avalon Television is the home of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to global comedy hit Catastrophe.

Claims of secretly filmed sex heats up My Kitchen Rules

Channel 7 has responded to claims from two cooks who were filmed getting carnal while making the 2020 season of My Kitchen Rules, reports News Corp’s Nui Te Koha.

The two contestants said they were filmed being sexually intimate without their knowledge, and the footage was then allegedly shared among some Channel 7 staff.

“I had no idea (the cameraman) was there until we spotted him,” one of the contestants captured in the footage told BuzzFeed Australia.

A Seven insider said the incident took place in a “general area of the house, a public space” and contestants knew “there were cameras everywhere”.

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Two contestants on the next My Kitchen Rules were filmed on set in a sex act without their knowledge

Read the Buzzfeed report from Gina Rushton here.

Rumour: Incoming news, sport & weather presenters for Today show?

There are whispers Nine is close to announcing further cast changes for the Today show for 2020, with Tracy Vo as news presenter, Alex Cullen as sports presenter and Tim Davies as weather presenter, reports TV Tonight.

That would see them join Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon next month.

If confirmed, it would almost surely mean Tom Steinfort, Deb Knight and Stevie Jacobs are out. While Knight recently announced a new radio role, a complete refresh during the silly season could also be seen as the show’s second bloodbath in less than a year.

Tracy Vo is currently a Perth-based presenter and reporter for Nine News and has been with the network since 2007. She has been a political reporter, field producer, medical and general reporter, covering stories on Nelson Mandela, Schapelle Corby’s release & Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

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UK host suddenly quits ITV’s Love Island after assault charge

Caroline Flack has stepped down as the UK host of the hit ITV2 show Love Island after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend, in a major blow to one of the channel’s most important programmes ahead of its return next month, reports The Guardian.

The presenter has fronted the programme since it was relaunched in 2015, helping to turn it into a cultural phenomenon which achieved the seemingly impossible task of convincing young viewers to watch live television – turning it into a much-needed cash cow for ITV.

However, this was derailed when Flack, 40, was charged with assault by beating following an incident at her London home last week involving her 27-year-old boyfriend, Lewis Burton.

She was due to host Love Island’s first winter series next month, which will be filmed in a villa in South Africa, but has now confirmed she will not be taking part.

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