Mediaweek Roundup: Warner Music, Alan Jones, Charlie Albone + more

AAP, SBS, George Pell, Hannah Gadsby, NRL, and A-League

Business of Media

Finder.com.au chief Fred Schebesta joins AAP suitors line-up

Finder.com.au founder Fred Schebesta is the latest suitor for the AAP newswire service in what could become an increasingly competitive bid for the 85-year-old company due to close in June, reports The Australian;s Leo Shanahan.

Schebesta sent a go-between to management on Tuesday to express his own interest in AAP newswire and potentially its other businesses which include media releases service MediaNet and sub-editing company PageMasters.

Schebesta was in early talks with AAP management and their consultancy TMT Partners yesterday but stressed any interest in the company was preliminary.

“Finder has a lot of journalists and we write a lot of great content. I saw that they have a lot of great journalists in their business, and they write a lot of great content,” Schebesta told The Australian. “I thought maybe there is a way to protect the industry.”

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SBS weighs up whether to pause wage increases requested by Government

SBS is considering whether to enforce a six month freeze on wage increases following a request from the Australian Public Service commissioner last month, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios and Fergus Hunter.

The public broadcaster received a letter asking it to defer general wage increases after a Morrison government decision, but sources said SBS had expressed reluctance to comply.

SBS staff received a 2 per cent pay rise earlier this year when a new enterprise agreement came into effect, but they are expected to receive another 2 per cent within the next 12 months.

Sources who spokes on the condition of anonymity said SBS is trying to work out ways to avoid the pause altogether. Alternative cost-cutting measures are being discussed as well as the potential for a reduction in this year’s pay increase.

SBS is trying to adapt its business model due to significant advertising revenue decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Warner Music launches IPO which could value business at US$13.3b

The Warner Music Group, the home of stars like Ed Sheeran, Cardi B and Led Zeppelin, announced on Tuesday that it would proceed with an initial public offering that would value the company at up to US$13.3 billion, reports The New York Times.

The listing, planned for Nasdaq, would be the latest sign of the dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the music business. Warner was bought for $3.3 billion in 2011 by Access Industries, the conglomerate controlled by the Russian-born billionaire Len Blavatnik, when the industry seemed to be on a terminal decline.

Since then, the music business has been reinvigorated by streaming services, leading investors to cash in. Last year, the Chinese company Tencent Holdings bought 10 percent of the Universal Music Group at a price that valued Universal at more than $33 billion.

The Warner I.P.O. would float 70 million shares, or 13.7 percent of its common stock, for between $23 and $26 a share — valuing the company’s equity from $11.7 billion to $13.3 billion.

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News Brands

Journalists, media face trials over suppression order of George Pell’s conviction

Journalists and media organisations could face more than a dozen separate trials over contempt charges for alleged reporting on Cardinal George Pell’s conviction, with the first trial tentatively scheduled for November, reports The Australian’s Tessa Akerman.

Cardinal Pell was convicted by a jury in the Victorian County Court in December 2018 of child sexual abuse charges while the subject of a suppression order.

Cardinal Pell was acquitted by the High Court earlier this year.

Barrister Lisa De Ferrari SC, acting for the DPP, told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that there were still various issues including the media organisations not giving notice of the evidence they intended to call until the close of the prosecution case or its witnesses.

Barrister Matt Collins QC, who is representing all 30 accused, said 19 individuals had been charged and 11 corporations with six corporate groups and it was likely multiple trials would be sought.

“At present it appears to us there are 13 separate controversies and on the face of it, it would to an injustice to have journalists for rival news organisations to face trial at the same time,” Dr Collins said.

All would be heard by a judge alone.

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Warner Music boss’ former lover to face murder, forgery charges in France

The Sydney family and friends of Australian pop music executive Peter Ikin, who died in mysterious circumstances in a Paris hotel more than 11 years ago, have welcomed news that his former lover will face trial in France on murder and forgery charges, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Hornery.

Alexandre Despallieres, 52, settled a lawsuit with Ikin’s Sydney family in 2009 after he claimed he was the sole beneficiary of the former Warner Music boss’ $20 million estate.

However, a French judge ruled last week that Despallieres would face trial for first-degree murder and forgery. He has until the end of the week to appeal against the decision.

Despallieres, 20 years younger than Ikin, 62, had enjoyed the high life with his lover and his celebrity friends.

Ikin was well known across Sydney’s media and showbiz circles, having worked for years with Warner Music, and was considered a close friend of pop star Elton John and his former manager, London-based John Reid.

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Radio

Alan Jones retirement: Ben Fordham visits radio veteran’s home studio

Alan Jones began his final week behind the microphone of his ratings topping breakfast show by reminding listeners: “This time next week it will be the Ben Fordham show”, reports News Corp’s Matthew Benns.

Drive host Ben Fordham was in Jones’s home studio in the Southern Highlands on Monday morning to watch the master in action.

“I did work experience with you when I was 15 and I’m here again doing work experience at 40-bloody-three.” he said.

Fordham drove up and stayed the night in order to be up for the show that has seen Jones deliver a record 226 ratings wins.

After some gentle ribbing about his passion for bacon sandwiches and coffee Jones offered his replacement some sage advice: “Just be yourself. You’re not Alan Jones, you’re Ben Fordham. Be yourself.”

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Television

Charlie Albone on Selling Houses Australia as his final episode airs

Charlie Albone recalls his motivation to join the cast of Selling Houses Australia back in 2008, reports News Corp’s Cameron Adams.

“My ex-girlfriend said ‘You’ll never try TV and if you do it you’ll be really sh– at it’,” Albone recalls.

“They were her exact words. I was a 26-year-old landscaper who got into his TV because his ex said he’d be no good at it. That really spurred me on to have a go at it.”

This February when Albone announced he’d joined Better Homes and Gardens and was leaving Selling Houses Australia after 13 seasons, he got a reminder of just how passionate the viewers of the hit Foxtel show are.

“There were people calling me Yoko Ono,” Albone jokes.

When the offer from Channel 7 came in, while Albone was filming Selling Houses Australia last year, he initially thought he could juggle both shows, just as his co-stars Shaynna Blaze (who also judges on The Block) and Andrew Winter (who also co-hosts Love It Or List It) do.

Even when they finished their last house together, which is also the series final airing on Lifestyle this week, Blaze and Winter still thought Albone was planning to do double duty.

“They didn’t know I wasn’t coming back,” Albone admits.

“I didn’t want to let anyone down. But it became too hard on me and my family.”

[Read more]

Hannah Gadsby returns with stand-up show Douglas on Netflix

Hannah Gadsby’s second stand-up show Douglas (named after her dog), drops on Netflix this week, a routine she toured last year. She jokingly called it her second album, even though it’s more like her 12th album, reports news.com.au’s Wenlei Ma.

If you want more soul-eviscerating material, Gadsby says she’s fresh out of trauma.

Douglas is more low-key, a little more fizzy and “easier” to experience though Gadsby still engages in “gentle needling” of the patriarchy.

This is less confessional, more conventional.

She cleverly sets up the whole show in the first 14 minutes, detailing exactly what to expect, including a Louis C.K. joke she promises we’ll find hilarious (it is). And she also tells everyone she’s been diagnosed with autism.

The diagnosis is a through-line for her set though Douglas isn’t as focused and thematically cohesive as Nanette. Some of her fury has dissipated.

Among those that come in for her insightful jibes are Americans, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anti-vaxxers and golfers, the latter of whom are deemed to be the worst humans (Gadsby was a former golfer).

What’s curious is how much of her set Gadsby devotes to the haters, something she’s aware of but insists she’s microdosing on the hate to slowly build immunity. She tells her audience that she fully expects the anti-vaxxer brigade to come after her in a co-ordinated effort once Douglas hits streaming (and they will).

So she’s baiting them too – perhaps collecting material for future material?

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A review in The Hollywood Report calls Douglas “a consistently hilarious crowd-pleaser”:

If Nanette demonstrated Gadsby’s mastery of tone and command of the audience, Douglas is an even richer showcase for the comic’s technical prowess. Gadsby robs herself of the element of surprise by exhaustively listing at the beginning of the special everything she’ll talk about, then manages to startle us anyway with her crackerjack comic timing and cascade of clever callbacks.

There’s probably no matching Nanette in its intensity or revelations – “If it’s more trauma [you expect], I’m fresh out,” Gadsby half-jokes. But she’s clearly determined to satisfy with this lighter, broader hour, partly by managing expectations, partly by outlining in great detail her many dissatisfactions with the Ninja Turtles. In lieu of the self-deprecation she publicly eschewed in Nanette is a more overt swagger about her comedic talents. It’s wholly justified.”

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Sports Media

After softening-up period, stand by for big hits in TV rights stoush

Hard man Peter V’landys has softened up the rugby league “family”, using the media to warn of an inevitable decline in the code’s income, ahead of the imminent announcement of a reduced, long-term, pay TV deal with News Corporation’s Foxtel, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters.

The mechanics of the reported 2020-27 deal are the reverse of the current contract, which then NRL CEO Dave Smith secretly negotiated with Channel Nine’s David Gyngell, leaving Foxtel furious it had been sidelined.

Legal sources say the current TV contracts do not obligate the NRL to take a cut. When the former NRL CEO, Todd Greenberg, went to Nine boss Hugh Marks and pointed out the 2018-22 contract did not even require the NRL to takes less in this Covid-19 interrupted season, it was the end of his rugby league career.

It would be almost heretical to suggest V’landys, following his brilliant strategy in bringing NRL to our TV screens on Thursday night, could one day be shown the door.

[Read more]

A-League 2020 restart: 36 days of non-stop football to finish season

The A-League season would be finished in a blizzard of 36 days of almost continuous football, under a resumption plan put forward to clubs and TV broadcasters, reports News Corp’s Tom Smithies.

The remaining rounds and finals series would begin on July 18 with the grand final slated for August 22, as part of the schedule which requires the agreement of Fox Sports and the conclusion of a pay deal with players to cover the extra three months needed to finish the season.

The games would all be played in a single hub, based in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, with players based locally for the duration – playing 32 games in 36 days, including the 27 outstanding league games plus five finals.

But perhaps the biggest issue will be the lack of clarity over what next season’s competition finances will look like. All sports are in the process of renegotiating broadcast deals in the wake of the damage caused by the coronavirus to the economy, and sponsorship income has dried up.

FFA will have to renegotiate the remaining three years on its broadcast deal with Fox Sports, reducing the current value of $57m a year, and then agree a revamped salary cap with the A-League players dependent on how significant that reduction proves to be.

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Cancel all plans: AFL fans have to watch TV every Thursday night

Thursday night blockbusters are set to be a weekly occurrence this year, AFL fixture boss Travis Auld has revealed, reports AFL.com.au’s Marc McGowan.

There were only nine Thursday matches in the original Toyota AFL Premiership Season Fixture, which was turfed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Auld said on Tuesday morning that there could be a spike in that timeslot with fans unable to attend games.

“I think there is an opportunity this year,” Auld told SEN radio.

“We haven’t historically had Thursday nights each week, just because we’re mindful of families being able to get to games.

“We had eight or nine in the original fixture this year – working around school holidays and weather and the like – (but) given, unfortunately, at the moment that’s not a constraint, then there is the opportunity to roll Thursdays through.

Thursday night matches typically rate well on TV, with four of the 17 games last year that topped the million audience mark being held in that timeslot.”

The others were on Friday night and the Anzac Day and Anzac Day Eve games.

Auld said the AFL would turn its attention to contemplating South Australian and Western Australian hubs after the revamped fixture up to round five was released on Monday.

Shortened quarters will remain throughout season 2020, while all finals could be held at night if the current crowd situation doesn’t change.

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