Roundup: AFR & Samantha Maiden, Nine cyberattack, Q+A, Football AU TV rights + more

Samantha Maiden

• Louise Milligan, George Pell, Ben Roberts-Smith, Godzilla vs Kong, SAG Awards, Facebook, and anti-siphoning laws

Business of Media

Nine Entertainment’s cyber attack woes continue to disrupt the media giant

Nine Entertainment has conceded it is still battling technical problems more than one week after the company suffered a sophisticated cyberattack, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

In a note to all staff on Monday afternoon, Nine confirmed there remained a long road ahead until its television and print arms could resume as normal.

Many employees have been ordered to continue working remotely where possible until the company’s technology teams are able to get their main systems completely back online.

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Facebook’s Australian news ban proves ‘an own goal’

Facebook’s decision to restrict news content to its Australian users in February badly damaged the company’s local reputation, reports News Corp’s James Madden

According to a survey conducted by Essential Research on behalf of Reset Australia — a not-for-profit organisation that works to counter digital threats to democracy — 50 per cent of Australians now have a lower opinion of Facebook following the social media giant’s controversial move to ban all local news content from its platform for a week earlier this year.

A further 42 per cent of those surveyed said their opinion of Facebook was unaffected by the ban, while 8 per cent said they had a higher opinion of the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company as a result of the news blackout.

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News Brands

Christian Porter: ABC reporter Louise Milligan accused of deleting social media posts

The ABC’s star reporter Louise Milligan has been accused of deleting social media posts that could affect the outcome of Christian Porter’s defamation proceedings against the public broadcaster over an online article she filed revealing a senior cabinet minister was facing historic rape allegations, reports News Corp’s Steve Jackson.

The former attorney-general’s legal team has formally outlined a number of complaints about the journalist’s conduct leading up to and following the publication of the story on February 26; and also raised concerns her use of “encrypted messaging apps that have the capacity to automatically delete communications after a set period of time” might impinge on their ability to recover key conversations relating to the story’s production.

The allegations were contained in a letter sent to the ABC’s Head of Disputes & Litigation Team, Grant McAvaney, by reputational risk lawyer Rebekah Giles on March 23 following a federal court order that Porter provide the broadcaster with “further particulars of identification, republication and/or aggravated damages” relating to his defamation action.

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Add another national broadcaster to reflect other views, says George Pell

Australia should consider a ­second national broadcaster to present an alternative outlook to the ABC, Cardinal George Pell believes, reports News Corp’s Tess Livingstone

Writing in The Weekend Australian from Rome, Cardinal Pell said: “Very sensibly Italy has at least a couple of government-sponsored television stations to reflect the different points of view, which is an option that should be considered by any national conservative government in Australia, where the ABC is dominated by a Gramscian hegemony, hostile to social conservatives, most Christians and often to Western civilisation. The Italian media is divided and disputatious but not monochrome.”

Asked if his view was shaped by the ABC’s coverage of the child abuse charges against him that eventually were overturned 7-nil by the High Court and the ABC’s coverage of a rape allegation against Christian Porter, the cardinal said his was a broad observation but those matters were part of it. “Everybody has a right to due process,’’ he said. “I think they were so convinced that their position was correct that they cut corners on due process and it is always dangerous.”

Asked whether he regretted not following the same path as Porter, who is suing ABC journalist Louise Milligan and the corporation for defamation, Cardinal Pell said: “I don’t regret it too deeply.” Would he still consider doing so? “No comment.”

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Major twist in Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case

Four villagers who allege they saw or heard Australian soldiers kick an unarmed farmer off a cliff in Afghanistan before the man was shot dead will be able to testify from overseas in the defamation trial brought by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith against The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, reports News Corp’s Kieran Gair.

Roberts-Smith is suing news outlets for defamation over a series of reports that he claims falsely painted him as a murderous war criminal during his time as a Special Air Service soldier in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012. He strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

The newspapers allege Roberts-Smith was directly involved in the death of farmer Ali Jan, an Afghan man who was allegedly kicked off a cliff while handcuffed and then shot dead in Darwan in September 2012.

In a judgment on Thursday, Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko said three of the civilians had provided “detailed” evidence about the events that proceeded Jan’s death on 11 September, 2012.

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Australian Financial Review bears bruises of ‘hit job’ on Samantha Maiden

Much has been said, and tweeted, about the now infamous article by Aaron Patrick in The Australian Financial Review last week. Despite the headline suggesting the story was about “campaign journalism”, it was almost singularly focused on award-winning News Corp political journo Samantha Maiden, writes News Corp’s James Madden.

For those who perhaps did not make it to page 32 of the AFR last Wednesday — or chose not to visit the AFR website due to fear of catching some kind of cyber bug — here’s a 95-word Dummies summary of the 1800-word ­feature.

Samantha Maiden is brilliant at her job. She’s led the media pack in applying the blowtorch to the Morrison government which has badly fumbled its response to the emerging reports of abuse of women. Morrison’s office is annoyed with her relentless pursuit of the story, which may explain the PM’s misguided attempt to attack News Corp with a false allegation of staff harassment which apparently involved Maiden. Heaps of people think Maiden is awesome; plenty of people don’t like her at all. Oh, and she once gave her high school principal a bit of lip.

None of that is untrue, but nor is it particularly fresh — especially the scoop that Maiden was once a headstrong teenager.

But what really put Patrick’s ­article in the crosshairs was the reference to a coterie of female journalists — “a new female media leadership”, as he called them — and their recent “angry coverage that often strayed into unapologetic activism”.

By lunchtime on Wednesday, #IStandWithSam was trending on Twitter, and Patrick and the AFR were groaning under the weight of a spectacular journo pile-on.

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AFR hit job on Samantha Maiden backfires spectacularly

When the Australian Financial Review and senior reporter Aaron Patrick set their sights on Samantha Maiden for what is known in journalism as a “hit job”, one could have been excused for expecting it would do the seasoned reporter some damage. Dig up her work history, delve into her childhood, fling around words like “challenging”, “spiky” and “difficult” and the reporter who revealed allegations that Brittany Higgins had been raped in Parliament House might be cowed, writes Guardian Australia‘s Amanda Meade.

What the editor-in-chief, Michael Stutchbury, and Patrick didn’t foresee was that what many believed amounted to the bullying of a top female journalist, who has led the coverage of harassment and sexual violence against women in politics, would backfire so spectacularly.

The only people damaged by Wednesday’s article, “PM caught in crusade of women journos”, are the men who wrote and published it.

As the artist Jon Kudelka said: “Did the AFR seriously just run a comically transparent hit job on Samantha Maiden for being a journalist while female?”

In an unusual show of solidarity, journalists from across the media rallied in support of Maiden, the political editor of who honed her steely reporting skills in the rough house of News Corp: at The Australian, The Sunday Telegraph and Sky News Australia.

Journos from Nine Entertainment (publisher of the AFR and its sister papers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald), News Corp, the ABC, Guardian Australia, Crikey and the Saturday Paper all spoke up.

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See Also: Financial Review responds to criticism


‘Godzilla vs Kong’ roars at the box office with $64m take in five days

Movie-goers sent a message to Hollywood over the weekend: We’re ready to return to theatres – and we’ll buy tickets even if the same film is instantly available in our living rooms – but we want to leave our grim world for a silly fantasy one, reports The New York Times’s Brooks Barnes.

Godzilla vs Kong, a throwback monster movie in which a lizard with atomic breath battles a computer-generated ape on top of an aircraft carrier (before everyone decamps to the hollow centre of Earth), took in an estimated $US48.5 million ($63.5 million) at 3064 North American cinemas between Wednesday and Sunday. It was the largest turnout (by far) for a movie since the pandemic began.

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SAG Awards: ‘Trial of the Chicago 7,’ ‘The Crown,’ ‘Schitt’s Creek’ among winners

The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Crown and Schitt’s Creek were among the big winners at the 2021 SAG Awards, which aired Sunday as as a one-hour, pre-taped virtual ceremony on TBS and TNT, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Hilary Lewis, Pamela McClintock, and Kimberly Nordyke.

Filmmaker Aaron Sorkin‘s The Trial of the Chicago 7 got a major boost on the road to the Oscars upon winning the SAG Award for best ensemble, the guild’s top honor that’s equivalent to a best picture prize. Last year, the top SAG winner — Parasite — went on to win the Academy Award for best picture in a surprise upset. The win also gives Netflix its first-ever victory in the best ensemble category, where it also had two other films nominated: Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey‘s Black Bottom

Michael Keaton, as part of the cast of Trial of the Chicago 7, set a record by becoming the first person to win three SAG awards for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, following his awards as part of the winning ensemble in 2014’s Birdman and 2015’s Spotlight.

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ABC’s flagship political panel show Q+A is in trouble as ratings plummet

The ABC’s struggling political chat-fest, Q+A, could be moved to a different timeslot within weeks, following disastrous ratings in the past month that has seen its viewership fall to the lowest point in the program’s 14-season history, reports New Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The latest episode of the news and current affairs program on March 25 drew just 237,000, albeit a slight improvement on the previous week’s audience figure of 231,000. That’s less than half the number of viewers the show was drawing in March last year.

The program has been a strong performer for the ABC since its inception in May 2008, regularly winning its Monday night timeslot with former ABC journalist Tony Jones as the regular host.

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‘Analog legislation in a digital world’: Are strict sports rights laws fit for the streaming era?

When Communications Minister Paul Fletcher quietly extended ‘anti-siphoning’ rules that govern the way sports broadcast rights are sold in Australia last month, few media executives were surprised, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Almost everyone in the industry wants the rules amended, but there are significant disagreements over how, and Fletcher has a lot on his plate at the moment. With the government still battling to rein in Google and Facebook and concerns about global streaming services investing in local dramatic productions, it’s clear he didn’t want or need another distraction.

Still, there is widespread belief that two year extension of the rules giving traditional TV networks first dibs on rights to air certain sporting events merely delays another big media policy fight. “This is one of the biggest issues in the sports landscape,” says Hunter Fujak, author of Code Wars and lecturer in sport management at Deakin University. “These anti-siphoning laws were written at a time where we couldn’t have seen how digital media would evolve.”

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Football Australia set to sell Socceroos, Matildas TV rights independently of A-League

Football Australia is set to cash in on the growing popularity of Sam Kerr and the World Cup-bound Matildas, along with the Socceroos and junior teams, after re-gaining the broadcast rights to all national teams, reports SMH‘s Dominic Bossi.

In a major boost for the cash-strapped organisation, and ahead of the Matildas’ first game in over a year on the weekend against Germany, Football Australia has regained ownership of all its match content outside of specific tournament-owned broadcast deals such as Olympic games and World Cups, and will take it to the market next week.

That includes the broadcast rights to all Socceroos and Matildas internationals, friendlies, Asian Cup qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers that it can now on-sell to broadcasters. The rights to the core of those games were previously held by Fox Sports.

The rights to all Australian internationals will be sold independently to the A-League, giving the FA its first test in learning the true value of its national teams in the broadcast market. Previously, Socceroos games were bundled with the rights to the A-League as one package held by Fox Sports while all rights qualifiers were owned by the Asian Football Confederation. The opportunity to sell all national team content gives FA a significant chance to increase its bottom line after suffering a cash-flow crisis last year relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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