Wednesday September 2, 2020

Neil Breen
Neil Breen on taking 4BC local again: "First, Foremost and Forever"

By Trent Thomas

• Breen is the definition of a Brisbane local

There has been a lot of moving chairs at Nine Radio since its creation last year due to Macquarie Media’s integration with Nine Entertainment Co. Maybe none more so than 4BC which has gone back to producing local Brisbane radio in its breakfast and drive slots.

Multi-award-winning journalist Neil Breen was the man chosen to turn 4BC breakfast local again after the retirement of Alan Jones who was broadcasting into 4BC from his studio at 2GB in Sydney.

Breen spoke with Mediaweek about his new role, replacing a radio icon, and starting a radio show in the midst of a pandemic in a state election year.

Jones, who had been producing his radio show for a dual Sydney and Brisbane audience since 2015, retired earlier this year and Breen said that it is difficult to follow such a legend in the hot seat.

“You are following the most successful broadcaster in Australian history, and he hosted a very unique show. It was the Alan Jones show which is news and information but it was news and information the ‘Alan Jones way’.”

The fact that Alan Jones produced such a unique show that was different from what Breen planned to produce meant that it took some time for his audience to adjust.

“Listening to Alan Jones was like putting on an old pair of Ugg boots in the middle of winter – it felt fantastic. Then all of a sudden there was this seismic change where you went from the comfortable demeanour of Alan and the familiarity with his audience to me doing a news and information show with sport, weather, traffic – the types of things that you would expect on a higher paced breakfast show.

“Alan took his audience along with him with his own style of pacing, and my style is going to have a bit more energy because of what we are trying to do with local news.”

This led to some negative reactions, but Breen said that he always respected the audiences right to an opinion good or bad.

“I received a torrent of emails saying ‘get this guy off! What has happened here?’, and I didn’t let it get to me after the first week or two as I understood Alan’s audience and had respect for his audience and respect for Alan. But then slowly over the coming weeks, the reaction began to change and people were saying that they were enjoying it.

“In the last three weeks, I have been overwhelmed by emails being very kind to me and they kind of drip feed in all day. I hadn’t had a ‘your useless, where is Alan?’ email for about two weeks and then all of a sudden I got a couple today!”

4BC going local

Breen is the definition of a Brisbane local being born in Royal Brisbane hospital going to school at Brisbane State High School and then the Queensland University of Technology. He did his cadetship at the Daily Sun afternoon newspaper before working at the Courier Mail. Breen moved to Sydney in 2003 to be sports editor of The Australian for a short spell and ended up being in Sydney for 17 years.  

Breen said that he always wanted to come back to Brisbane where all his family is located and 4BC was the perfect opportunity that he didn’t expect to come up, even if his bedtime has changed from 9 pm to 8:30 pm.

The other thing that excites him about the role is the opportunity to bring the show back to a local Brisbane radio show, with there not being much about Brisbane that he doesn’t know.

“First, foremost, and forever it has to be a show about Brisbane.

“4BC is a very big brand in Brisbane but it had been let go a bit as a Brisbane radio station, that is not to disparage Alan and Ray Hadley and everyone who did an unbelievable job servicing Brisbane, but now that it is a Brisbane local show again that old 4BC audience has gone something is happening here.”

Breen commented that Brisbane is very parochial, and like State of Origin they always want to get one over Sydney

“They don’t want to be seen as the small-town northern cousins; they want to have their own place in Australia as Queenslanders.”

COVID-19 

Breen said while privately Covid has been difficult due to his family staying in Sydney until the end of the school year (with border restrictions meaning he can’t visit them), professionally it has given him a lot of talking points.

“Professionally it was a gift from god because people are craving news and information about Covid – it is the biggest change in our lives probably since World War II. For us to launch a breakfast program in the middle of that gives us a natural program to go from.”

QLD State Election

Breen admits the timing of his show was beneficial with the Queensland state election on October 21 giving him a 12-week lead in.

“If you turn up three weeks before the state election and say what you think about the state election people will go who is this guy?”

Mandi Wicks
SBS appoints Mandi Wicks Director of News and Current Affairs 

SBS has appointed Mandi Wicks as director of news and current affairs. Wicks is currently SBS’s director of audio and language content and will take on the new role in late September 2020.  

Mandi will replace outgoing director of news and current affairs, Jim Carroll, who announced his retirement in March and will work with Mandi to ensure a smooth transition prior to his departure later this year.   

Wicks has an extensive experience working in news, editorial and management roles, including a decade at SBS. 

Wicks began her career as a journalist before moving into news management roles, working at the Macquarie Radio Network and Southern Cross Austereo. Prior to joining SBS, Wicks was General Manager of DMG Radio Australia (now Nova Entertainment) in Sydney, where she assisted in launching the Nova Network.  

SBS managing director James Taylor said: “Mandi is an exceptional leader and innovator, with an unimpeachable commitment to news, broadcasting and to serving Australian communities. Mandi demonstrates an unrelenting dedication to SBS’s purpose in everything she does. Mandi’s leadership of a diverse and complex team of over 300 staff – and their unrivalled connections with communities – is critical to SBS’s unique offering in the Australian media landscape. Her pursuit of excellence, trusted leadership and digital expertise will continue to be invaluable to SBS as we continue to strengthen our commitment to communities.”  

On her appointment, Wicks said: “It is a great privilege to lead the SBS News and Current Affairs team – a talented and dedicated team that delivers world-class and award-winning journalism, comprehensive and trusted coverage of local and international news and events, and distinctive stories that are inclusive of contemporary Australia. There is no other news provider that understands and reflects Australia like SBS, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to ensure we continue to play a crucial role in providing diverse perspectives from Australia and around the globe, in service of the SBS Charter.”  

On Jim Carroll’s retirement, James Taylor added: “I’d like to once again thank Jim Carroll for his role in cementing SBS as one of Australia’s most trusted media organisations during his time as Director of News and Current Affairs over the last seven years. This position has been amplified in recent months as Australians have turned to SBS for reliable and comprehensive coverage of COVID-19 news and developments, and I’m grateful for Jim’s commitment, staying on with us longer than planned to steer the team through this unprecedented period.”   

Cameron Hoy promoted to chief commercial officer in TEG restructure

TEG has announced a management restructure that sees Cameron Hoy (pictured) appointed to the new combined role of chief commercial officer and managing director of ticketing, taking on oversight of TEG Analytics, TEG Insights, TEG Digital and Commercial as well as all TEG’s Ticketing operations globally.

At the same time Ian Ball has joined TEG as chief operating officer. Ball will oversee the operations, technology, IT, communications and corporate affairs functions as well as leading TEG’s venues globally.

Ian Ball

TEG chief executive Geoff Jones congratulated Hoy and welcomed Ball to the TEG senior leadership team. “This is an evolutionary, fit-for-purpose restructure which is all about making sure we are streamlined for global growth in the longer term, as we battle the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Jones. “It aligns our businesses in the right way and brings in additional senior talent as we continue to evolve our integrated model.”

Jones added: “I am delighted to appoint my long-time colleague Cam Hoy to this critical role for TEG going forward. With his proven track record, Cam is the ideal executive to lead our increasingly global ticketing operations and aggregate our analytics, insights, digital and commercial businesses to maximum effect for TEG and our partners.”

Hoy was previously chief operating officer and head of ticketing for TEG over the past 12 years.

Ball has more than three decades’ leadership, M&A, digital and consulting experience in London, New York and Asia-Pacific. He has been working with the TEG leadership since February.

Ball was previously CEO and managing director of ASX-listed global professional services company Cardno, deputy CEO and markets leader of EY Oceania, managing partner at IBM Global Business Services A/NZ and a former operating partner at Silver Lake. He started his career at Bain & Co. and has advised dozens of companies on performance improvement, growth, M&A and digital technology strategy over a 35-year career.

Jones welcomed Ball to the TEG senior leadership team, saying: “Ian brings a wealth of global experience to our company, which will be invaluable as we look to extend our technology leadership and expand our integrated model globally.”

Media Industry responds to Facebook's threat to pull news content

On Wednesday Facebook published a response through managing director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand Will Easton about the code of conduct being pursued by the ACCC that would force it and Google to pay publishers for content, as well as provide data insights and advance warning of algorithm changes.

Below is the response:

Australia is drafting a new regulation that misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect. When crafting this new legislation, the commission overseeing the process ignored important facts, most critically the relationship between the news media and social media and which one benefits most from the other.

Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram. This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.

We share the Australian Government’s goal of supporting struggling news organisations, particularly local newspapers, and have engaged extensively with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that has led the effort. But its solution is counterproductive to that goal. The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers. Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers. 

The ACCC presumes that Facebook benefits most in its relationship with publishers, when in fact the reverse is true. News represents a fraction of what people see in their News Feed and is not a significant source of revenue for us. Still, we recognize that news provides a vitally important role in society and democracy, which is why we offer free tools and training to help media companies reach an audience many times larger than they have previously.  

News organisations in Australia and elsewhere choose to post news on Facebook for this precise reason, and they encourage readers to share news across social platforms to increase readership of their stories. This in turn allows them to sell more subscriptions and advertising. Over the first five months of 2020 we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers. 

We already invest millions of dollars in Australian news businesses and, during discussions over this legislation, we offered to invest millions more. We had also hoped to bring Facebook News to Australia, a feature on our platform exclusively for news, where we pay publishers for their content. Since it launched last year in the US, publishers we partner with have seen the benefit of additional traffic and new audiences. 

But these proposals were overlooked. Instead, we are left with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits. Unfortunately, no business can operate that way.

Facebook products and services in Australia that allow family and friends to connect will not be impacted by this decision. Our global commitment to quality news around the world will not change either. And we will continue to work with governments and regulators who rightly hold our feet to the fire. But successful regulation, like the best journalism, will be grounded in and built on facts. In this instance, it is not.

The media industry has also begun to respond to Facebook’s comments which have been collected below:

Nine Entertainment Co

A Nine spokesperson said: We find it a strange response as it is a demonstration of Facebook’s use of its monopoly power while failing to recognise the importance of reliable news content to balance the fake news that proliferates on their platform.

We are ready to engage and hope to come to a constructive outcome with Facebook which will work for both of us and importantly the Australian community.

Facebook’s threat today to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.

The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.

Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses. 

We note that according to the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report, 39% of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49% use Facebook for news about COVID-19.

As the ACCC and the Government work to finalise the draft legislation, we hope all parties will engage in constructive discussions.

Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair

What we’re seeing today is a global monopoly that will say and do anything to avoid making a fair payment for news content. Australian Facebook users are being held to ransom as a tactic to intimidate the Australian Government into backing down on this issue.

This type of bullying behaviour is exactly the reason that the ACCC concluded that the Mandatory Code was the only reasonable way to even up the bargaining power between Facebook, Google and Australian News Media Businesses.

Facebook is already awash with fake news and conspiracy theories. Removing trusted Australian news from their platform will only serve to allow misinformation to be further spread unchecked and unchallenged. Unfortunately Australian consumers will be the collateral damage in Facebook’s campaign to hold onto monopoly profits.

The draft Code does no more than set an appropriate framework to allow fair negotiations between Australian News Media Businesses and digital platforms that would recognise the value of news content to those platforms.

It is reactions like this that show how important it is that the Government moves forward with the Code and in particular that it includes the ACCC’s recommended non-discrimination provisions which are designed to protect Australians from these kind of punitive and oppressive responses from giant digital monopolies.

We urge the Government to move to introduce the laws into Parliament as quickly as possible.

This article will continue to be updated as the story develops.

Damien Leith
Damien Leith to join Wave FM breakfast team

Wave FM Wollongong has confirmed 2006 Australian Idol winner Damien Leith will be joining the stations breakfast team. Leith has been the co-host of the Power FM breakfast programme in Muswellbrook for the last two years.

Leith has won industry Awards such as Arias, Golden Guitar, MTV Australian Video Music Awards, Helpmann Awards and an ACRA for his local tributes to towns affected in last year’s drought in NSW.

Ryan Rathbone, the group content director for Grant Broadcasters said “We are delighted that Damien will be joining our highly successful breakfast team at Wave FM. We have absolutely top-quality talent across the group and it is always rewarding when, with the right training and support, we can offer these talented announcers’ bigger opportunities.”

Leith commented: “I love working at Power FM but the time is now right to move to Wave FM and join the team in Wollongong. I have worked with Jade and Straney on a number of projects and the chemistry was great!”

Damien will celebrate the move by launching his new song “Sha La La” on September 4 on Facebook Live across 20+ stations in the Grant Broadcasters Radio network.

The new Breakfast show of Jade, Straney with Damien Leith will be on air from Monday September 14.

TV Demand: Umbrella Academy #1 as DC originals arrive in Aus

By Trent Thomas

In another quiet week on the TV Demand charts, The Umbrella Academy has maintained the top spot in Australia and New Zealand. The show has been riding a wave of momentum since the release of its second season on July 31.

In the Australian Digital Originals charts, DC Universe originals have been performing well for the last few years and a surge could be expected with DC’s Stargirl coming to Foxtel last week and Doom Patrol season two also arriving this week. This follows six of the top 10 on the Digital Original charts in Australia being shows based on comic book characters as Australia has established itself as a strong market for that content.

Doom Patrol

Also arriving in Australia this month is an array of Netflix originals including science fiction drama TV series Away starring Hilary Swank (September 4). Plus Nextflix original films including The Devil All The Time (September 16) and Love, Guaranteed (September 3).

On Stan The Comey Rule, a two-part mini-series surrounding the 2016 American presidential election will arrive this month.

See More:
Stan in September: all-time favourites and new releases arrive this month
Netflix in September: new originals arriving this spring

Mediaweek podcast sarah wilson
New Mediaweek Podcast

• The return of Sarah Wilson: New book and Live Nation tour

Sarah Wilson is a former journalist and TV presenter, author and activist. This week she releases her new book, This One Wild and Precious Life, and tickets go on sale for her 2021 Live Nation tour, The Wild and Precious Tour.

Previously an editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, host of MasterChef Australia and founder of the largest wellness website in Australia, IQuitSugar.com, this is one podcast you don’t want to miss as she returns to the virtual Mediaweek podcast studio with James Manning.

Listen to the podcast here.

TV Ratings Tuesday September 1: Week 36, 2020

By Trent Thomas

• Plate of Origin continues slide with shows third episode registering 419,000 viewers
• The Block wins 7:30 pm slot despite being under 700,000 viewers for the first time this season
• The Masked Singer reveal is top non-news segment with 797,000

Seven News 1,26,000/942,000
Nine News 971,000/946,000
A Current Affair 732,000
ABC News 721,000
7.30 565,000
The Project 335,000/532,000
10 News 366,000/248,000
Sunrise 259,000
Today 231,000
News Breakfast 140,000
SBS World News 183,000
The Drum 197,000
Nine News Late Edition 128,000
The Latest 146,000

Seven: Seven was second last night in both primary share (16.8%) and network share (28.0%) as their tent pole 7:30 pm programming Plate of Origin continues to trend in the wrong direction. 

Plate of Origin ratings:
Sunday: 667,000
Monday: 510,000
Tuesday: 419,000

The best performers for Seven last night were The Chase Australia (566,000) and Home and Away (552,000).

Nine: The Block has continued its decline in its weekday ratings with 692,000 tuning in which is down on last Tuesdays 762,000, although the show continues to regularly win the 7:30 pm time slot. Nine won the night in both primary (18.1%) share and network (27.3%) share.

10: The Masked Singer‘s reveal continues to be the highest rating non-news segment for the night with 797,000. The shows 7:30 pm performance continues to stay close with The Block as the show had 681,000 which was down on the 717,000 it had last Tuesday. 10 had a 12.5% primary share and 18.4% network share last night.

ABC: ABC had a 13.2% primary share and 17.0% network share as Anh’s Brush with Fame featuring Jack Thompson had 682,000 viewers up on last weeks episode featuring Sophie Delezio which had 603,000. Another strong performer for ABC was Further Back in Time for Dinner which had 582,000.

SBS: The best performer for SBS was Great Asian Railway Journeys with 256,000 viewers helping the public broadcaster to a 5.8% primary share and 9.4% network share. Stage 4 of the Tour De France had 106,000.

Week 36 TV: Tuesday
TUESDAY METRO
ABC Seven Nine 10 SBS
ABC 13.2% 7 16.8% 9 18.1% 10  12.5% SBS One 5.8%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.2% 7TWO 3.1% GO! 3.2% 10 Bold 3.5% VICELAND 1.7%
ABC ME 0.4% 7mate 6.0% GEM 2.4% 10 Peach 2.3% Food Net 0.9%
ABC NEWS 1.2% 7flix 2.1% 9Life 2.5%     NITV 0.1%
        9Rush 1.1%     SBS World Movies 0.9%
TOTAL 17.0%   28.0%   27.3%   18.4%   9.4%

 

TUESDAY REGIONAL
ABC Seven Affiliates Nine Affiliates 10 Affiliates SBS
ABC 12.0% 7 16.6% 9 16.3% WIN 12.2% SBS One 4.7%
ABC KIDS/ ABC COMEDY 2.9% 7TWO 3.9% GO! 4.0% WIN Bold 3.9% VICELAND 1.7%
ABC ME 0.4% 7mate 6.4% GEM 4.0% WIN Peach 2.3% Food Net 0.3%
ABC NEWS 1.1% 7flix (Excl. Tas/WA) 1.6% 9Life 2.7% Sky News  on WIN 2.5% NITV 0.1%
                SBS Movies 0.8%
TOTAL 16.4%   28.6%   27.1%   21.0%   7.7%

 

TUESDAY METRO ALL TV
FTA STV
86.3% 13.7%
Tuesday FTA
  1. Seven News Seven 1,026,000
  2. Nine News Nine 971,000
  3. Nine News 6:30 Nine 946,000
  4. Seven News At 6.30 Seven 942,000
  5. The Masked Singer Australia Reveal 10 797,000
  6. A Current Affair Nine 732,000
  7. ABC News ABC 721,000
  8. The Block Nine 692,000
  9. Anh’s Brush With Fame ABC 682,000
  10. The Masked Singer Australia 10 681,000
  11. Further Back In Time For Dinner ABC 582,000
  12. The Chase Australia Seven 566,000
  13. 7.30 ABC 565,000
  14. Home And Away Seven 552,000
  15. The Project 7pm 10 532,000
  16. Hot Seat Nine 503,000
  17. Halifax: Retribution Nine 479,000
  18. Plate Of Origin Seven 419,000
  19. 10 News First 10 366,000
  20. The Chase Australia 5pm Seven 344,000
Demo Top 5

16 – 39

  1. The Masked Singer Australia Reveal 10 205,000
  2. The Masked Singer Australia 10 192,000
  3. The Block Nine 174,000
  4. The Project 7pm 10 148,000
  5. Nine News 6:30 Nine 122,000

 

18 – 49

  1. The Masked Singer Australia Reveal 10 377,000
  2. The Masked Singer Australia 10 337,000
  3. The Block Nine 297,000
  4. The Project 7pm 10 271,000
  5. Nine News 6:30 Nine 242,000

 

25 – 54

  1. The Masked Singer Australia Reveal 10 422,000
  2. The Masked Singer Australia 10 368,000
  3. The Block Nine 340,000
  4. Nine News 6:30 Nine 304,000
  5. Nine News Nine 294,000
Tuesday Multichannel
  1. Seven’s AFL: Tuesday Night Football 7mate 200,000
  2. Bluey AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 172,000
  3. NCIS (R) 10 Bold 171,000
  4. Aussie Salvage Squad PM 7mate 163,000
  5. Peppa Pig AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 137,000
  6. Peter Rabbit PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 136,000
  7. Highway Patrol PM 7mate 134,000
  8. Peppa Pig PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 132,000
  9. Octonauts PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 128,000
  10. Bluey ABCKIDS/COMEDY 128,000
  11. Noddy Toyland Detective PM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 126,000
  12. The Hunt For Red October 9GO! 125,000
  13. Highway Patrol Ep.2 PM 7mate 121,000
  14. CSI: Miami (R) 10 Bold 121,000
  15. Neighbours 10 Peach 119,000
  16. Fireman Sam AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 113,000
  17. Floogals AM ABCKIDS/COMEDY 113,000
  18. School Of Roars ABCKIDS/COMEDY 112,000
  19. Rusty Rivets ABCKIDS/COMEDY 110,000
  20. Love Monster ABCKIDS/COMEDY 109,000
Tuesday STV
  1. Live: AFL West Coast V Essendon FOX FOOTY 231,000
  2. Live: AFL Hawthorn V Adelaide FOX FOOTY 192,000
  3. Paul Murray Live Sky News Live 78,000
  4. Alan Jones Sky News Live 69,000
  5. The Bolt Report Sky News Live 59,000
  6. Wentworth FOX SHOWCASE 56,000
  7. PML Later Sky News Live 49,000
  8. Credlin Sky News Live 49,000
  9. Live: AFL Post Game FOX FOOTY 45,000
  10. Live: NRL 360 FOX LEAGUE 38,000
  11. Live: AFL Tonight FOX FOOTY 34,000
  12. The Kenny Report Sky News Live 33,000
  13. The Big Bang Theory FOX Funny 30,000
  14. Live: The Back Page FOX SPORTS 503 29,000
  15. Escape To The Country Lifestyle Channel 29,000
  16. Below Deck Mediterranean FOX Arena 29,000
  17. Escape To The Chateau: DIV Lifestyle Channel 29,000
  18. The Big Bang Theory FOX Funny 27,000
  19. General: Chewing The Fat FOX FOOTY 27,000
  20. Abby Hatcher Nick Jr. 26,000

Shares all people, 6pm-midnight, Overnight (Live and AsLive), Audience numbers FTA metro, Sub TV national
Source: OzTAM and Regional TAM 2018. The Data may not be reproduced, published or communicated (electronically or in hard copy) without the prior written consent of OzTAM

Media News Roundup

Business of Media

ABC in fresh pay dispute as union lodges Fair Work action

A disagreement over ABC redundancy entitlements – which could disadvantage women employees the most, according to staff and unions – has prompted the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance to lodge a dispute with the Fair Work Commission, reports SMH‘s Michael Lallo.

More than a dozen ABC employees, who are not authorised to speak publicly, claim the dispute concerns an attempt by management to limit severance payouts for staff who have previously worked part-time.

The ABC’s current enterprise agreement states that retrenched workers are entitled to the equivalent of four weeks’ salary for each of their first five years of completed service, then three weeks’ salary for each subsequent year – capped at a maximum of 24 years.

Sources say that management is insisting upon pro-rata reductions for any part-time service within this 24-year period.

“Women are much more likely to reduce their full-time employment to part-time when they have children,” said one staff member. “But many women also return to full-time work once their kids get older. To argue that these employees should be paid less for a few years of part-time service is absurd.”

An ABC spokesman said the method of calculating severance pay for workers who have completed periods of part-time employment has been in place for more than two decades, and is consistent with the method used by SBS and other public service entities.

[Read More]

News Brands

Cheng Lei China custody motives unclear

Australia’s diplomatic network does not know whether internal Chinese politics, the toxic bilateral relationship or perhaps a freethinking Facebook post led to Australian journalist Cheng Lei’s detention in Beijing more than a fortnight ago, reports News Corp’s Will Glasgow.

That has left the Morrison government highly concerned but unable to accurately assess whether the detention of the popular China Global Television Network anchor indicates a raised threat for other Australians in mainland China.

“We genuinely don’t know if this is coercion, or punishment, or something else. We don’t know,” a diplomatic source told The ­Australian.

Cheng — whose two young children are with her parents in Melbourne — has joined a burgeoning list of tensions between Australia and its biggest trading partner that has led to an unprecedented deterioration in the bilateral relationship.

Adding to the fallout of the extraordinary arrest, Cheng’s former partner is Nick Coyle, the long serving chief executive of the China-Australian Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, which represents the Australian business community in China’s capital.

At a regular press conference in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Tuesday evening said “China is a country of rule of law.

“If you want more info, I can ask competent authorities. I have nothing to offer here.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne had earlier cautioned against interpreting Cheng’s detention as being caught up in the fractious bilateral ­relationship.

“I would not describe it in that way. It is speculative at best to ­engage in that sort of premise,” she said.

[Read More]

VC hero Ben Roberts-Smith ‘told of war crime witness’

The Australian Federal Police has told Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith it has “eyewitness accounts” implicating him in ­alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, a court has heard, reports News Corp’s Ben Packham

The Federal Court, which is hearing a defamation suit brought by Roberts-Smith against The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, heard the AFP told the Special Air Services veteran he was a suspect in war crimes that led to the death of ­Afghan villager Ali Jan in September 2012.

Counsel for the newspapers Sandy Dawson SC said the letter to Roberts-Smith through his lawyer also confirmed the AFP had commenced its investigation into Roberts-Smith following a referral from former chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin.

Dawson said the letter referred to the incident in which the newspapers allege “Mr Roberts-Smith kicked Mr Ali Jan off a cliff while his hands were tied and then participated in a joint criminal enterprise which brought about his death”.

He said the AFP told Roberts-Smith it had obtained “contemporaneous ADF reporting and associated documentation” in relation to the allegations.

“The AFP has conducted inquiries in Afghanistan and obtained statements from a number of current and former ADF personnel,” the barrister said.

While Roberts-Smith claimed Ali Jan was a “spotter” for the Taliban, “the information in the possession of the AFP, which includes eyewitness accounts to the contrary, implicates Roberts-Smith in the conduct which is alleged, namely the two war crimes”, Dawson said.

Roberts-Smith is suing the newspapers over reports that alleged he committed war crimes while serving as a soldier in Afghanistan. He vehemently denies the allegations, which he says are defamatory.

[Read More]

Television

Farmer Wants A Wife: Unlucky in love country boys line up to find the one

Channel 7 have announced the next batch of Aussie farmers hoping to find love on the next series of Farmer Wants A Wife, reports News Corp’s Karlie Rutherford.

Farmer Matt is a 26-year-old from Orbost, Victoria, who describes himself as “an easygoing farmer who loves a bit of banter, am very sociable and a good communicator.”

Matt adds he’s “wise beyond his years with a solid work ethic and incredibly driven”. He’s looking for a woman who is “a good communicator and is willing to give farm life a go”. And if you’re family orientated and have a great personality, even better.

Meanwhile, in NSW, 24-year-old sheep and crop Farmer Sam from Canowindra is also looking for an adventurous lady. Sam describes himself as a “fun, loving person with a heart of gold and a great sense of humour”. And his ideal partner would be “fun, loving, caring, intelligent lady with a great sense of humour and who loves the great outdoors and is family orientated”.

It’s understood producers were inundated with requests from single farmers after the show returned to screens after a four year hiatus. The show is also the most successful of the reality dating shows, with a marriage success rate higher than that of the general population. From this year’s season, two of the Farmers, Alex and Neil, are still with the woman they met on the show.

[Read More]

Sport

Foxtel wants ‘tier one’ sport only as cricket signs lucrative Vodafone sponsorship

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany has warned the subscription-television service will only chase “tier one” sports in the future, and predicted streaming service Kayo would help double Foxtel’s average sports audience by next year, reports News Corp’s John Stensholt.

He said he was “fearless” of losing sports that were asking too much for broadcast rights, a shot across the bows of rugby union and soccer, and while cricket was a tier one sport “it is going to have a tough season ahead and we will work through it with them”.

Improved data analysis had also helped Foxtel decide which sports were worth paying big money for and those that were not, Delany told the Asian media APOS Virtual Series on Tuesday afternoon.

“If a sport is asking too much money and we can‘t make it work, and someone else can, well good luck to them,” he said. “We can see quite clearly the sports that are working, and those sports know who they are.”

Cricket Australia will on Wednesday announce a lucrative three-year sponsorship deal with telco Vodafone worth at least $6m per annum, a sign of the commercial strength of the sport, even though a battle with its domestic broadcasters looms.

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Channel 7, Foxtel call for reduced cricket broadcast deal

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany says cricket is in for a tough summer and while the organisation is willing to work with Cricket Australia, it is clear the co-operation will come at a cost, reports News Corp’s Peter Lalor and Ben Horne.

CA is reeling following a savage attack from Seven West Media boss James Warburton, who has threatened to walk away from the network’s contract if it does not get a rights discount.

Sources close to Fox Cricket confirmed yesterday it would also be seeking a reduction in what it pays for cricket broadcast rights.

And in a clear indication that the dispute is escalating, Foxtel delivered a legal letter to Cricket Australia on Monday and Seven has hired a high-profile contract lawyer to fight its corner.

Both broadcasters believe a summer that includes the possibility of a Boxing Day Test at Adelaide – not the MCG – a Big Bash League without access to the biggest local stars and other likely changes is not what they signed up for.

Fox and Seven contribute about $200m a year as part of a record $1.18b contract signed in 2018.

Both share the frustration of dealing with a body they believe was moving with too much haste under former chief executive Kevin Roberts and is indecisive since his departure.

[Read More]

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