Roundup: Ben Roberts-Smith emails, Prince Harry’s lawsuit, Sinead O’Connor

Ben Roberts-Smith

Facebook’s algorithm, Netflix reworks Microsoft pact, AI specialist jobs, ITV

Business of Media

Prince Harry’s lawsuit against publisher of British tabloid to go to trial

Prince Harry’s lawsuit accusing the publisher of The Sun tabloid of unlawfully snooping on him can go to trial, but not on claims of phone hacking, a London High Court judge ruled Thursday, reports AP’s Brian Melley.

The Duke of Sussex alleged the publisher of The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World had hacked his phone and used investigators and deception to unlawfully gather information on him dating back two decades.

News Group Newspapers (NGN), which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, argued that the suit should be thrown out because the claims were brought after the six-year limitation to do so expired.

Justice Timothy Fancourt said Harry was well enough aware of the phone hacking scandal to bring those claims sooner, but could proceed on allegations about other unlawful information gathering (UIG), such as the use of private investigators hired to dig up dirt on him.

“There is no evidence currently before me that the Duke knew before the (deadline to file a suit) that NGN had done anything other than hack his mobile phone (at the News of the World),” Fancourt wrote. “Knowing or being on notice of a worthwhile claim for voicemail interception does not of itself amount to knowledge or notice of a worthwhile claim for other forms of UIG.”

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Facebook’s algorithm is ‘influential’ but doesn’t necessarily change beliefs, researchers say

The algorithms powering Facebook and Instagram, which drive what billions of people see on the social networks, have been in the cross hairs of lawmakers, activists and regulators for years. Many have called for the algorithms to be abolished to stem the spread of viral misinformation and to prevent the inflammation of political divisions, report The New York Times’ Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel.

But four new studies published on Thursday — including one that examined the data of 208 million Americans who used Facebook in the 2020 presidential election — complicate that narrative.

In the papers, researchers from the University of Texas, New York University, Princeton and other institutions found that removing some key functions of the social platforms’ algorithms had “no measurable effects” on people’s political beliefs. In one experiment on Facebook’s algorithm, people’s knowledge of political news declined when their ability to reshare posts was removed, the researchers said.

At the same time, the consumption of political news on Facebook and Instagram was highly segregated by ideology, according to another study. More than 97 percent of the links to news stories rated as false by fact checkers on the apps during the 2020 election drew more conservative readers than liberal readers, the research found.

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See Also: Australian Federal Court fines two Meta subsidiaries $20 million over “misleading” ads

Netflix reworks Microsoft pact, lowers ad prices in bid for growth

Netflix is restructuring its advertising partnership with Microsoft a year into their deal and lowering ad prices in a bid to jump-start that fledgling corner of its business, report The Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Vranica, Jessica Toonkel, and Patience Haggin.

The streaming company launched a $6.99 a month ad-supported option for consumers last year. Microsoft won a competition to provide technology for the service and sell ads on Netflix’s behalf, in part because it offered to pay a “revenue guarantee,” pledging to deliver a large amount of money to Netflix.

With the new ad tier gaining traction slowly, Netflix has had preliminary discussions to sell ads through other partners, in addition to Microsoft, people familiar with the matter said. Netflix is reworking its pact with Microsoft to reduce the revenue guarantee. Those terms are still being settled.

Meanwhile, Netflix is offering advertisers better deals. Some advertisers agreed to pay roughly $39 to $45 per 1,000 viewers in recent ad deals, according to ad buyers. Netflix previously charged some brands around $45 to $55, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Combined, the reworked Microsoft pact and lower prices could draw to Netflix new advertisers who previously had been on the sidelines.

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Studios quietly go on hiring spree for AI specialist jobs amid picket line anxiety

While the writer and actor strikes are driven by multiple concerns (questions about compensation being a big one), there’s no question that the role of artificial intelligence in entertainment has emerged as a hot-button issue, reports The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Weprin.

In a fiery speech in Times Square on July 25, actor Bryan Cranston epitomized the concerns of actors, telling the crowd of hundreds: “We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger [Disney CEO Bob Iger]: I know, sir, that you look at things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots.”

The actors fear that studios will take their likenesses or voices, and reuse them over and over for little or no pay, and with little in the way of notice. The writers fear that studios will use large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT to write or rewrite scripts, harming their livelihoods. The producers, aka the AMPTP, argue that AI use should be “a balanced approach based on careful use, not prohibition.”

While the future of AI in Hollywood is unclear, there is no question that the major studios and streaming services are intrigued by the technology. Job listings at almost every major entertainment company show that there is a veritable AI hiring spree going on as companies seek to understand how the technology can change their businesses.

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News Brands

Seven Network executive sent 8600 emails to Ben Roberts-Smith’s lawyers

Seven Network commercial director Bruce McWilliam exchanged more than 8600 emails with Ben Roberts-Smith’s lawyers during the former soldier’s disastrous defamation case, amounting to 86 emails for every day of the trial for the “prolific communicator”, a court has heard, reports The Australian’s Stephen Rice.

The television network and its majority owner, billionaire Kerry Stokes, are fighting a bid by Nine newspapers to make them pay the $30m costs of the failed defamation action.

On Thursday, counsel for the newspapers Nicholas Owens SC told the Federal Court that the sheer volume of McWilliam’s communications with Roberts-Smith’s lawyers was relevant to the role played by the Seven Network in commencing and conducting the defamation case.

Stokes has been ordered to hand over documents that could reveal details of his agreement to bankroll the Victoria Cross recipient’s defamation case, after Justice Anthony Besanko last month ruled several allegations of war crimes against Roberts-Smith by the newspapers were substantially true.

The newspapers are seeking to show that Seven and Stokes’ private company, Australian Capital Equity, exerted some control over the management of the defamation case.

Lawyers acting for the companies are seeking to narrow or strike out subpoenas issued by Nine on the grounds that they are “a fishing expedition”.

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ITV warns it is in ‘worst ad recession since financial crisis’

ITV has warned it is in the midst of the worst advertising downturn since the 2008 financial crisis, reports The Guardian’s Joe Middleton.

The broadcaster, which is behind hit UK shows including Love Island and I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, said earnings more than halved in the first six months of the year as it came up against a “very tough” advertising market and as it invested in its ITVX online streaming service.

“This is the worst advertising recession since the global financial crisis,” said the ITV chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall.

Earnings fell 52% to £152m and total advertising revenues fell 11% to £811m in the first half of the year compared with the same period a year earlier.

However, McCall said while advertisers were cautious against the current backdrop of high inflation and high interest rates, ITV had not had any difficulty in attracting sponsors for its programmes.

She said: “We’re already talking to advertisers about the Christmas campaign and I think that shows there is no change in the way they view what they’re going to do over Christmas, all conversations about advertising are positive and quite constructive, they haven’t got their head in their hands.”

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Kathy McCabe: The Sinead O’Connor I knew

Sinead O’Connor captured our hearts with the tracks of her tears in the iconic Nothing Compare 2 U video, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.

And now they are broken as we mourn the loss of her singular voice and a supreme, otherworldly talent which was never given the respect she rightfully deserved.

O’Connor cared deeply about the world and the pain of its people even as she suffered so horribly from her own physical and mental trauma.

When we last spoke in 2020, O’Connor contemplated what it was about her voice and her songs which was provoking audible sobs from her audience which rang out in venues as her pure, soaring voice filled the room.

“I love especially when you hear the men crying,” she said.

“There’s a song that I have called Thank You For Hearing Me and that comes toward the end of the set. Up until that point, it’s the women that are crying.

“But when we get to that song, the men start crying. You can hear them. And that I find very moving. I’m always very pleased at the end of the shows when the men tell me they were crying as well, because you know you’ve done your job right.

“And it’s a very happy song, so they’re not crying from sadness. There’s something else that gets released. I think that I’m a catalyst for blocked emotions.”

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