Roundup: Amazon and MGM, Senate report, 10’s new Bachelorette + more

• Plus AT&T-Discovery deal, Christian Porter’s barrister, The Australian, News Showcase, Marie Claire, Eurovision, Byron Baes, Brad McEwan

Business of Media

AT&T-Discovery deal, named ‘Columbus,’ started with a text

The media industry’s biggest M&A deal in years started with a text message about golf, reports AFR‘s Scott Moritz and Liana Baker.

Discovery chief executive officer David Zaslav shot the note to AT&T CEO John Stankey during a weekend in February, bemoaning the fact that Covid-19 would keep them from meeting up at an annual golf tournament in Pebble Beach, California.

That sparked a two-hour conversation that laid the groundwork for a tie-up between the two companies – and the end of AT&T’s costly foray into the entertainment world.

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Amazon in talks to buy MGM movie studio for $US9 billion

Amazon has entered talks to buy MGM, the last big independent Hollywood movie studio, in a deal that would help beef up the content portfolio of the online retailer’s Prime Video service, as the industry’s consolidation is accelerating in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic-induced changes in consumer behavior, reports Dow JonesPierre Briancon.

MGM’s film library includes the James Bond, Rocky, Pink Panther and The Hobbit franchises. The studio has already postponed four times the theatre release of its latest Bond blockbuster, No Time to Die, due to the pandemic.

The news, first reported by The Information, comes one day after telecom AT&T and factual-television company Discovery announced they would merge their media interests.

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Australia needs to strengthen press freedom laws and promote transparency, inquiry finds

Laws to protect public interest journalism should be beefed up and a culture of transparency promoted, a senate committee report on press freedom has recommended, reports Guardian Australia‘s Amanda Meade.

Media companies told the inquiry that press freedom and the protection of whistleblowers is essential to democracy and must be balanced with national security issues.

Tabled in parliament on Wednesday, the report has 17 recommendations, including improving the freedom of information laws which often produce documents so redacted they are useless and amending the criminal code to reverse the onus on journalists to prove their stories are in the public interest.

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Journalists face jail threat and culture of secrecy as Senate report suggests overhaul

Australia’s media face laws that threaten journalists who report leaked classified information with jail and a culture of secrecy in the Commonwealth government, a Senate committee examining press freedom has found, reports SMH‘s Nick Bonyhady.

In a report released on Wednesday, the committee’s Labor-Greens majority said the public sector was developing a “culture of secrecy” manifest in freedom of information requests delayed for so long or redacted so heavily they became useless.

It said Australia’s whistleblowing laws weren’t working properly and secrecy laws were so broad they were “susceptible to overuse, misuse or even abuse”.

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News Brands

Google launches News Showcase in India as 30 publishers paid for content

Google on Tuesday announced the launch of its global product called News Showcase in India. Launched in October 2020, News Showcase is a global vehicle to pay news publishers for their content online. It also allows partnering publishers to curate content and provide limited access to paywalled stories for users, reports Mint.

The tech giant has sealed agreements with 30 Indian publishers to offer access to some of their content on News Showcase, including HT Digital Streams Ltd, The Hindu Group, Indian Express Group, ABP LIVE, India TV, NDTV, Zee News, Amar Ujala, Deccan Herald, Punjab Kesari, The Telegraph India, IANS (Indo Asian News Service), and ANI.

News Showcase is currently live across multiple countries, including UK, Germany and Australia with over 700 news publications.

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Christian Porter: losing barrister would be ’big deal’ in ABC case

It would be a “very big deal” for Christian Porter to be deprived of his high-profile defamation barrister in his case against the ABC, a court has heard, reports News Corp’s Nicola Berkovic.

Jo Dyer, director of the Adelaide Writers Week, is seeking orders in the Federal Court to stop barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC from representing the former Attorney-General in his defamation action against the ABC.

Chrysanthou, who has previously represented actor Geoffrey Rush and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, has been accused of having access to confidential information related to Porter’s case against the ABC provided to her by Dyer in a “lawyer-client relationship”.

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NSW govt flying blind on Oz coverage

Media advisers throughout the NSW government were left scrambling on Tuesday evening after being told they would, as of the next morning, lose access to News Corp’s premier publication, as currently delivered through media monitor Meltwater, reports AFR‘s Myriam Robin.

As The Australian noted on its own website’s fine print early on Wednesday, Meltwater Australia “no longer holds a licence to copy or communicate content from The Australian in its media monitoring service”. Which means all its clients, and not just those in politics, can no longer access articles about them carried in Rupert Murdoch’s favourite newspaper.

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Marie Claire owner reports record profits on back of Covid reading boom

Future, the owner of magazines from Marie Claire to Metal Hammer and sites such as TechRadar and GoCompare, has reported record revenues and profits in its first half as the company continues to cash in on the pandemic-fuelled reading and online shopping boom, reports The Guardian’s Mark Sweney.

Future reported a 21% increase in group revenues to £272m and more than doubled pre-tax profits to £57m in the six months to the end of March, well ahead of analyst forecasts, prompting the company to say that its full-year results will be “materially ahead” of expectations.

Future’s share price surged more than 6% on the upgrade, close to levels not seen since the first dotcom boom two decades ago, giving the London-listed group a market value of more than £3bn.

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Band member tests positive, Iceland withdraws from live Eurovision

In a blow to a Eurovision favourite, a member of the Iceland band Daði og Gagnamagnið has tested positive to Covid-19, reports TV Tonight.

In close collaboration with the EBU and the host broadcaster, Daði og Gagnamagnið have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from performing in this year’s live Eurovision Song Contest shows, as they only want to perform together as a group.

Their song will remain in the competition with organisers to broadcast their rehearsal performance, recorded on the stage on May 13.

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10 picks first bisexual Bachelorette

Channel 10 has named the next Bachelorette and not only will she be the first openly bisexual star of the show, she’ll also be the first Indigenous suitress, reports News Corp’s Andrew Bucklow and Bella Fowler.

26-year-old youth worker Brooke Blurton, who was a contestant on The Bachelor in 2018 and later appeared on Bachelor In Paradise, will grace our screens as Australia’s next Bachelorette.

Casting for the show is now open and given Brooke is bisexual, both men and women are being invited to apply.

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Netflix accused of using paid actors on reality TV show Byron Baes

Filming for Netflix’s upcoming reality TV show Byron Baes is said to be underway and insiders claim the controversial new series will include paid actors, reports News Corp’s Mibengé Nsenduluka.

Confidential hears that several participants have notable acting experience while others have allegedly had acting lessons in the lead up to filming.

“This is a fake show that is not based on reality, it’s all contrived” one insider claimed.

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Former TV sports presenter Brad McEwan has opened up about his family’s suicide pain

Former TV presenter Brad McEwan has opened up about his family’s pain of losing his brother and father to suicide, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

McEwan, who presented sport on Network 10 for 20 years, has spoken publicly for the first time with the help of mental health support organisation Beyond Blue and its new podcast Not Alone.

“It’s not something that comes up in most conversations, but when you’re reminded of how difficult that period was, I was sad and found myself getting emotional,’’ McEwan told the Herald Sun.

“The whole family was as I never go into the depths of the days and the hours of losing (my brother) Craig and Dad (Bob).

“Having been a Beyond Blue ambassador for a decade or so, I just felt like I needed to.”

Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14

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