Mediaweek Roundup: Tokyo Olympics, Facebook, Google, NRL + more

• Michael Gudinski, regional journalism, News Corp, 60 Minutes, Sunday Telegraph, Tracy Grimshaw, Tim Arvier, Australian Survivor, and Eddie McGuire & Neil Mitchell

Business of Media

Facebook pays $17m in tax in Australia on ad revenue of $674m

Facebook Australia was paid nearly $674 million by local advertisers using its platform in 2019, but it trimmed its income tax bill to a little under $17 million through a reselling arrangement that minimised its profits to $22.7 million, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Facebook’s accounts for 2019 show it booked local revenue of just $167.1 million, classifying it as revenue from contracts with customers. This was up from $125.5 million in 2018. Due to this recognition of revenue, Facebook incurred an income tax expense of $16.8 million in 2019, up from $11.8 million the previous year, leaving the social media giant with Australian profits of $22.7 million, down from $23.3 million in 2018.

However, Facebook does not record the lion’s share of its revenue made from the local economy. It operates under a reseller arrangement, similar to models used by other major US technology giants such as Google, Netflix and Spotify.

“The principal activity of the company includes acting as a non-exclusive reseller of advertising services to designated Australian customers. From, 2018, the activities of the company have expanded to provide contract research and development services for another related corporate,” Facebook Australia’s accounts state.

The accounts reveal Facebook Australia actually booked a gross amount of nearly $674 million from advertisers, but its reseller expense was $507.9 million, taking its advertiser reseller revenue to just $166.1 million.

[Read more]

Google says ads against news searches worth just $10m

Google Australia managing director Melanie Silva says calls for digital giants to pay the local media industry hundreds of millions of dollars for the use of content are based on “inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions”, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

Silva, in a blog post, said Google made just $10 million in revenue from clicks on ads against possible news-related search queries in Australia.

“The bulk of our revenue comes not from news queries, but from queries with commercial intent, as when someone searches for ‘running shoes’ and then clicks on an ad,” she wrote.

“As we work with the ACCC and government, as well as with media companies to build out new solutions to derive additional revenue, it’s important to base decisions on facts, not inaccurate numbers and unfounded assertions.”

[Read more]

Michael Gudinski wants more music on TV, launching triple vinyl set
[What’s next – the return of his wonderful weekly Daily Planet?]

Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski is pushing to get more Australian music on primetime television, following the impresario’s surprise success with Anzac Day’s Music From The Home Front special.

“Nine wasn’t expecting half of that, especially as I didn’t deliver the line-up to them until the Friday,” Gudinski told The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Bailey from his Toorak home, in the lead-up to the release of a vinyl triple album of performances from the show.

“Good on [Nine chief executive] Hugh Marks for taking a punt. It’s been a long time since we had shows with bands like The Panel and Rove – and God knows we all miss Countdown – so I just hope I’ve opened some doors in terms of getting live music back on primetime television in Australia.”

With the sponsors Mushroom secured for the special helping give the artists their first paid gig in weeks, Gudinski called Music From The Home Front “one of the top five things I’ve done in my career”.

The staff from his Frontier Touring who helped produce Music From The Home Front have been kept busy with The State Of Music, an online series supported by the Victorian government’s $2.35 million Victoria Together program for digital arts content while live venues are shut down.

Featuring the likes of Paul Kelly and Tim Minchin in short segments cut together, it’s a concept Gudinski is trying to get the TV networks interested in as well.

A triple-vinyl edition of Music From The Home Front, with all copies signed by Michael Gudinski, is set for release on June 19.

[Read more]

See also Cameron Adams: Gudinski reveals push for all-Aussie Grand Final entertainment

Government urged to act before more regional journalism jobs go

Regional media businesses are pushing Communications Minister Paul Fletcher to urgently change laws to allow mergers to save journalism jobs following the axing of hundreds of regional journalists by News Corp, reports The AFR’s Max Maon.

Sources told AFR Weekend a raft of regional media businesses, including WIN Corp, Prime Media, Southern Cross Austereo, Grant Broadcasters, ACE Radio, Capital Radio Network, Broadcast Operations and Australian Community Media have been talking to the government and urging the removal of ownership legislation which does not factor in the existence of the internet.

[Read more]

News Brands

Damian Eales: News Corp’s digital strategy lost in headline translation

It is easy to characterise, as some have, the impending closure of the print editions of many of News Corp Australia’s regional and community mastheads as a disaster for journalism in Australia, writes News Corp Australia’s COO Damian Eales in The Australian.

But doing so, to borrow an editorial term, buries the lead. It was a difficult decision, yes. But disastrous, by no means.

Certainly, it was difficult in the sense of the human cost. As with so much in the digital world, the stark reality is that fewer and different roles are required to produce the digital equivalent. Last week was therefore extraordinarily difficult for many of our people who are now without a job.

Ironically, those commentators that have been most critical of our strategy to sustain journalism in recent days are themselves largely digital media businesses, and beyond advocating that the First Estate ought to subsume the Fourth Estate, or insisting that journalism should be a philanthropic enterprise, they have no solution. In contrast, on July 1, we will have just under 100 regional and community titles through Australia that will be immediately profitable, wholly digital, and growth businesses.

They didn’t just bury the lead, they missed it altogether.

[Read more]

Mediaweek reported on the new digital strategy and talked to News Corp Australasia executive director Michael Miller about it.

Read our interview here.

Nine Network budget cuts slam shut 60 Minutes chequebook

The long and inglorious tradition of chequebook journalism in Australia appears at an end with Nine’s 60 Minutes dumping its talent budget amid the largest cutbacks in the flagship current affairs show’s history, reports The Australian’s Leo Shanahan.

The Australian understands that Nine management has made the call to cut the budget for paid talent for 60 Minutes as part of large funding cuts to the program, which include travel, cameramen and other key staff as network CEO Hugh Marks finds savings worth $100m from its free-to-air television programming.

The decision also follows a series of disastrous paid interviews and payments to families in recent years, culminating in Sunday evening’s interview with NRL star Josh Reynolds’s ex-partner, Arabella Del Busso.

[Read more]

Sunday Telegraph denies calling John Ibrahim’s son ‘a Mafia figure’

News Corp’s The Sunday Telegraph has denied it called the son of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim a “mobster” or “Mafia figure” but says it can prove he is involved in organised crime, as it fights a high-stakes defamation claim filed against it in the Federal Court, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michaela Whitbourn.

Daniel Taylor, also known as Daniel Ibrahim, is suing the newspaper over a 24-page spread on the Ibrahim clan published on June 23, 2019, under the headline “Inside the house of Ibrahim: Unauthorised”.

In documents filed in court, lawyers for Taylor say the “special report”, which branded Taylor the “wise guy son” of Ibrahim, defamed him by suggesting he is “a mobster”, a “member of the Mafia” and “a criminal involved in organised crime”.

The newspaper denies any of those meanings were conveyed. As a fall-back defence, it says it is “substantially true” to say Taylor is involved in organised crime.

[Read more]

Tracy Grimshaw: ‘I get very involved. It’s part of my nature’

Tracy Grimshaw turns 60 in June and has been in television for 39 years, the past 14 of them as host of Nine’s A Current Affair, reports The Sun-Herald’s Michael Koziol.

She was only a few months into that role when one of the biggest stories of her career unfolded: the Beaconsfield Mine collapse. Like so many of the country’s journalists, she flew to Tasmania to report from the scene. And she remembers it like it was yesterday. “I was fully engaged and fully immersed and I had no concept of the world outside of Beaconsfield for two weeks,” Grimshaw says.

But the story we’re currently immersed in dwarfs all of that. As Tracy says, “This is all encompassing.”

Television newsreaders tend to get a bad rap in popular culture. The stereotype perpetuated from Frontline or Anchorman to The Newsroom and Morning Wars tends to range from dim and vacuous to cynical and self-obsessed. It’s always the dogged newspaper reporter, shabbily dressed and married to the job, who exposes injustice and saves the day.

Some might suggest there’s a grain of truth in that but, of course, that’s not the reality. Tracy is a case in point. For one thing, when there’s a big story on, she throws herself into it – whatever the personal toll.

“I tend to go for full immersion, and I get very involved,” she says. “I don’t advocate that, by the way. I think it’s probably just my nature. I tend to be able to empathise fairly well and be able to put myself in people’s positions. Fully immersing yourself in a story if you happen to have that nature is kind of unavoidable.”

Photo: Sunday Life

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9News correspondent Tim Arvier detained by police in Minnesota

Tim Arvier, 9News US correspondent, has been detained by police at gunpoint while reporting on the riots, reports 9News.com.au’s Sarah Swain.

Arvier is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the riots began last week over the death of a black man, George Floyd, while he was in police custody.

He tweeted: “Just been detained and searched by #Minneapolis Police. They cuffed my cameraman and our security but were respectful and have now let us go.”

Arvier said he and his crew, including a cameraman and security guard, heard gunfire nearby, as they approached a police blockade by car.

The city is in lockdown – but journalists and crews are exempt from the curfew and are allowed to travel across the city.

The trio yelled out they were press as they approached the roadblock.

[Read more]

Radio

Inside Eddie McGuire and Neil Mitchell’s long running feuds

With a shake of the hand 10 years ago, Melbourne’s bitter radio war between Eddie McGuire and Neil Mitchell came to a peaceful end – until this week when Mitchell labelled “Everywhere Eddie” a “world class hypocrite”. So will these old foes ever bury the hatchet? asks News Corp’s Alice Coster.

Neil doubled down on “untouchable Eddie” for being a “world class hypocrite” this week after he called out the Geelong Football Club. He said the Cats should have been more transparent about details surrounding the stabbing of star recruit Jack Steven.

Eddie returned fire, calling Neil an “over puffed windbag” on a “highway for clickbait”.

He likes the description. Eddie called Mitchell a “self-appointed self-important windbag” in 2010.

Mitchell told Page 13 he has been feuding with Eddie on-and-off for years.

His main gripe is that Eddie has a conflict of interest in his role as Collingwood president and radio host.

“From my point of view it is an intolerable conflict,” said Mitchell.

Eddie has his own view in this battle of the super egos.

“This caper is a contact sport, so he can’t complain if he cops a whack occasionally.

“I’m just a bit disappointed when people who should know better want to be part of the click bait generation.

“Reporting on that rather than the truth of a position is where many are leaving themselves open for criticism. Good journalism, vigorous debate and advancing the cause is what life is all about.”

[Read more]

Television

Guidelines float quarantine ‘bubbles’ to restart film and TV

Cast and crew on Australian film and television productions may be asked to enter quarantine “bubbles” before filming intimate scenes or fights and will be encouraged to self-isolate for two weeks after such shoots, under COVID-Safe guidelines released by an industry taskforce on Friday, reports The Age’s Karl Quinn.

The 42-page Australian Screen Production Industry COVID-Safe Guidelines document brings together mandatory government health advice regarding social distancing and hygiene and industry-specific recommendations, which are not mandatory or enforceable but are designed to enable production to ramp up with minimal risk to cast and crew.

Among the recommendations that are likely to be widely adopted are the increased use of plastic and bags to wrap sterilised garments and props, the preparation of individual pre-packaged meals rather than self-serve buffets for catering, make-up artists dedicated to a single performer, and zoned production areas with minimal crossover.

Visitors to set will be all but eliminated.

[Read more]

Surfer takes legal action against Australian Survivor producers

Big wave surfer Ross Clarke-Jones is taking legal action against the producers of Australian Survivor claiming he suffered a debilitating injury during filming of the hit reality show, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Clarke-Jones, who is named as Howard Ross Clarke-Jones in court documents, is suing Endemol Shine Australia, the production company that produces Australian Survivor for Channel 10.

He is claiming damages, loss of past and future earnings, and medical expenses after injuring his ankle during a rope challenge.

Clarke-Jones was paid $25,000 to take part in the series, called Australian Survivor: Champions v Contenders, which was shot in Fiji between April 29 and June 23 last year. At stake was a $500,000 first prize.

Clarke-Jones and the other contestants in late May last year took part in a challenge where they had to swing on a rope from one raised wooden platform to another.

Clarke-Jones was the third contestant to swing on the rope, which broke while he was in mid-air. He crashed to the ground, injuring his ankle, and had to leave the show.

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria, it is claimed Clarke-Jones, who lives on Phillip Island, suffered loss of earnings, as well as depression and anxiety, as a result of the injury to ligaments in his ankle.

[Read more]

Sports Media

Seven, Foxtel withhold AFL payment but new contract nears

The financial impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt by the AFL, with host broadcasters the Seven Network and Fox Sports withholding payment on their second instalment of the season, reports The Age’s Jon Pierik.

Seven and the pay television provider were due to deliver their second of four payments of the year by May 31 but the absence of matches has meant this will not go ahead. However, sources close to all parties said the payment could be made up in full – or in part – as part of a new broadcast rights contract, which may be signed as early as next week.

Seven and Foxtel had made their initial payments, despite this including only the Bushfire Appeal game and round one of the home-and-away season.

The AFL earns an average of $417 million a year in TV rights as part of its six-year, $2.5 billion deal, with Seven, Foxtel and Telstra, which underpins the entire competition.

[Read more]

Nine boss Hugh Marks lifts lid on NRL negotiations

Nine CEO Hugh Marks stands by claims he would have walked away from rugby league had Nine’s vision not aligned with the NRL’s. He also stands by the fact he would have battled it out in a courtroom if it had come to it, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Chammas.

In a series of meetings, ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys managed to provide a blueprint Nine was willing to invest in. It included a major reduction of costs at head office, a guarantee the clubs would be empowered to grow their own brands and a willingness to change an on-field product that had become stale in the eyes of many.

“I think it’s the best television sport, by far, if it is conducted in the right way,” Marks said.

Foxtel has extended its partnership until the end of 2027, but Nine is in no such rush.

“You have got remember we are still in a crisis,” Marks said.

“I don’t know what the free-to-air business looks like in six months’ time let alone two-and-a-half years’ time. I think its just wise at this point to pause and work out what the business is like post-COVID.

“To do a long-term extension now, I just don’t think anybody has the information to be able to work out on what basis you’re going to make that decision.”

[Read more]

Roy Masters: Why a stripped-back NRL TV deal left everyone happy

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has hailed the revised TV agreement between the NRL and its broadcasters as “a very good deal, under the circumstances”, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters.

For him, the word “circumstances” does not refer to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sport but a longer-term sickness – the unsustainable cost of sports broadcasting rights in a world where free-to-air and pay-TV are under huge pressure from streaming behemoths such as Netflix and Amazon.

However, the ARLC chief will not specify what Channel Nine, the publisher of this masthead, and Foxtel are paying in the revised agreement, citing “commercial-in-confidence”.

Nor will he compare the new deal with the 2018-22 deal, under which both broadcasters paid $1.8 billion, together with Telstra’s $20m.

He rejects as “wrong” the reported figure of $1.7bn for a revised eight-year 2020-27 contract, and said Foxtel had been awarded a five-year renewal for an undisclosed amount.

This long-term renewal, together with Foxtel securing the rights to HBO movies, means Rupert Murdoch’s pay-TV network has an assured future, particularly if it also secures AFL.

Nine has also done well, paying a considerably reduced fee for 2020-22. Chief executive Hugh Marks has extracted discounts of $27.5m for both 2021 and 2022, with an even greater unknown deduction for this year’s shortened season.

Nine appears to be the biggest winner. The network has won a significant discount on its 2020 payment, without committing to future years, as Foxtel has done.

[Read more]

Seven set to sell TV rights to postponed Tokyo Olympic Games

Strong rumours have begun bubbling out of Martin Place that Channel 7 is seriously considering selling its rights to the postponed Tokyo Olympics now slated for August 2021, reports News Corp’s Amy Harris.

Insiders at its parent company Seven West Media say that the COVID-19 crisis coupled with a crashing share price has forced the almost-unthinkable move to dump the rights in an unprecedented fire sale.

Seven paid $170 million for a three-Games rights package back in 2014, starting with Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the Pyeongchang winter Games in 2018 and ending with Tokyo.

And in a stunning twist it seems Channel 10, with the backing of its US parent company ViacomCBS, is considered the most likely contender to snap up the rights in what would be the network’s first broadcast of a summer Games since Seoul in 1988.

A rep for 10’s Chief Content Officer Beverley McGarvey also declined to weigh in on the speculation.

“Network 10 will decline to comment on this one,” a spokeswoman said.

[Read more]

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