Roundup: Bert Newton, Covid job loses, CarExpert, The Block, MAFS + more


• Rod Sims condemns Facebook, Southern Cross revenue loss, Louise Milligan, Seven, Newsprint, and Lisa Wilkinson

Business of Media

Sims condemns Facebook’s decision to not cut a deal with SBS

The chairman of the competition watchdog, Rod Sims, does not understand how Facebook can make a deal with the ABC to pay for its journalism but rule out a deal with fellow public broadcaster SBS, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

Facebook has shot down requests to negotiate content deals with multicultural broadcaster SBS and not-for-profit online publication The Conversation, drawing ire from Sims who described the move as a “very, very strange place to draw the line”.

Facebook, along with Google, was seeking to make enough commercial deals with Australian news outlets to avoid being designated under Australia’s media bargaining code which became law in February. The heated back-and-forth between publishers, tech players and government ultimately resulted in the social giant switching off news on its platform for seven days.

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Southern Cross takes multi-million dollar hit from affiliate switch

Radio and regional television company Southern Cross Media’s revenue has taken a hit after it lost shows such as The Block and the NRL from its programming schedule at the same time the Tokyo 2020 Olympics went to air, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Southern Cross told investors earlier this year it should be able to offset the loss of an affiliate deal with Nine Entertainment Co (the owner of this masthead) by giving less money away in a new agreement with its future affiliate partner, Network 10. But new data from the Standard Media Index (SMI), obtained by this masthead, indicates it has been unable to offset the decline, with about $17 million lost in the first three months of the new financial year.

The revenue fall has come despite growth in advertising revenue for Southern Cross’ regional competitors Prime Media Group and WIN Corporation. Southern Cross made $269,000 in the first three months of the new financial year in Northern NSW, compared to $11.8 million the previous year.

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COVID wipes out over 30,000 media, information and telco jobs

Australia’s media and telecommunications industry has lost more than 30,000 jobs since the coronavirus pandemic took hold to put further financial pressure on an already challenged sector, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

The local media industry was hit with widespread job losses between March and June last year due to sharp falls in advertising spend. New research by economist Jim Stanford, on behalf of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), shows that less than one-quarter of the jobs lost had come back by November 2020, with the remaining losses likely to be permanent.

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ABC board split over David Anderson’s decision to indemnify Louise Milligan in defamation case

ABC managing director David Anderson’s unilateral decision to fund reporter Louise Milligan’s legal costs in the defamation case brought against her by federal MP Andrew Laming was met with deep frustration at board level, report News Corp’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth.

Sources within the ABC have told The Australian the board was split over Anderson’s decision, although it did recognise he had acted within the boundaries of his directorial powers in moving to indemnify the Four Corners reporter.

At a Senate Estimates hearing last Tuesday, Anderson accepted ultimate responsibility for the controversial move, which — if fringe benefits tax is deemed payable on the legal costs — could leave taxpayers $400,000 out of pocket.

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CarExpert gears up as Seven West Media takes strategic stake

The Kerry Stokes-backed Seven West Media is making a major move into the booming market for automotive editorial content, taking a strategic stake in emerging start-up CarExpert in a capital raising that values the firm at $25m ahead of a planned listing on the Australian Securities Exchange, reports News Corp’s Damon Kitney.

CarExpert, the nation’s only privately owned major automotive publisher, was established by entrepreneurs Paul Maric, Alborz Fallah and Anthony Crawford two years ago after they sold their auto content business to Nine Entertainment for $62m in 2018.

Nine has since folded the CarAdvice asset into its Drive automotive classifieds business.

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Seven to mandate vaccinations for staff

Seven has updated its position around staff vaccinations, requiring all Seven Production employees to be fully vaxxed by January 10, reports TV Tonight.

“To provide the safest possible work environment for cast, crew and presenters, Seven Productions have made the decision to only engage those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, taking effect in January next year,” a spokesperson told the Herald Sun.

“Seven strongly encourages vaccination to protect our people, their colleagues and their families.”

The change differs from a statement in mid-October in which CEO James Warburton told Mediaweek, the network had not mandated vaccinations.

But a recent internal survey found 75% of staff supported mandatory vaccination and 93% intended to or already had been vaccinated.

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News Brands

Newsprint price pressure sparks concern for local news publishers

The fate of Australia’s regional publishers could be in the hands of one of the world’s biggest suppliers of paper after it announced plans to increase its costs by more than 30 per cent, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Norwegian-owned paper company Norske Skog has informed some of Australia’s newspaper publishers and print suppliers that it will increase its rates by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent due to rising electricity prices and high costs of freight shipping that have created supply problems.

Industry sources who spoke anonymously because the discussions are confidential said Norske Skog had also told smaller publishers it would place limits on how much paper News Corporation could use. News Corp is the biggest newspaper publisher in the country and owns titles including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. News Corp declined to comment.

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TV heavyweights want Gold Logie named in Bert’s honour

Eddie McGuire and Molly Meldrum have called for TV’s Gold Logie to be renamed in honour of much-loved pioneer and icon Bert Newton, report News Corp’s Jackie Epstein and Nui Te Koha.

See also: Bert Newton remembered: Australia celebrates life of an entertainer

McGuire said Newton, who died aged 83 on Saturday night, deserved to be recognised through Australian TV’s highest individual accolade.

“Two people who drove the Logies were Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton,” McGuire said.

“There’s the Graham Kennedy Award for Best New Talent and the overall excellence award should be named after someone who personifies that and it’s Bert Newton.”

McGuire and music guru Meldrum say Newton’s enormous contribution should be acknowledged.

“Bert Newton was the Logies,” Meldrum said. “He held that show together … the Logies should definitely honour Bert in that way, by naming the Gold Logie after him.”

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Lisa Wilkinson hits back at Nine’s campaign of ‘untruths’ over pay claim

Four years after being shockingly dumped by Nine — and at the end of a two-week “pile-on” over her coming autobiography — Lisa Wilkinson has hit back at a campaign of “untruths” she says were designed to discredit her, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The former Today star has told The Sunday Telegraph claims made by her former boss, Nine chief executive Hugh Marks, that she had “demanded $2.3 million” to re-sign to the breakfast team were incorrect, “disparaging” and “hurtful”.

She said the account was pushed by Marks to justify cutting Wilkinson loose from the network after a successful decade as Today’s longest-serving female anchor.

Marks made the comment to The Daily Telegraph in October 2017, after long months of difficult contract negotiations between Nine and Wilkinson, represented in talks by her manager Nick Fordham, reached an impasse and collapsed two months before Wilkinson’s contract with Nine was due to expire.

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Nine keen to keep The Block party rolling

Nine Entertainment Co is in talks with the creators of one of its best performing reality programs, The Block, to extend their existing agreement and secure the program’s future on the free-to-air television network, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

The Block is in its 17th season and is Nine’s most profitable prime-time television program because of the range of commercial deals it can strike with advertising sponsors that appear during the show. It is the longest-running reality program on Nine and is one of few television programs that continues to attract large audiences.

Industry sources familiar with the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Nine had agreed on terms to extend its contract with the program’s makers Julian Cress and David Barbour by about three years. Should a contract be formalised, that would bring the program to its 20th season. Cress declined to comment. Nine, the owner of this masthead, declined to comment.

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MAFS cleared by ACMA after viewer complaints about Bryce and Melissa

Reality TV show Married At First Sight has been cleared by the broadcasting watchdog of any wrongdoing despite receiving a record number of complaints, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority released its findings on Friday into three episodes of the show that aired in March after 54 complaints were received.

Viewers were enraged over the relationship between Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson, plus the antics of bride Bec Zemek and grooms Sam Carraro, James Susler and Cameron Dunne.

The ACMA said a significant amount of the complaints referenced abusive interchanges between participants through gaslighting, social, verbal and mental abuse.

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