Roundup: Carrie Bickmore, Sneesby on content laws, chatbot-generated stories

Carrie Bickmore

Ozy Media, Google tests, AFR, Tegan George, I’m a Celebrity

Business of Media

‘Squeezed on cost’: Nine boss says new content laws could push Stan out of market

The chief executive of Australia’s largest media company has warned he may have to take production offshore if the government introduces rules that will mandate global platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to spend a certain amount of money on local content, reports Nine Publishing’s Zoe Samios.

Nine chief executive Mike Sneesby said local players such as his television network and streaming company Stan might miss out on top-shelf Australian productions if the federal government proceeds with its plan to introduce laws that would require streaming platforms to spend a percentage of local revenue on commissioning local programs.

Sneesby said that while the new regulation was well intended – to distribute Australian content – it would drive up costs and lead to “dire” consequences.

“When the big players are forced to create content here and create it on a global scale … a lot of the best ideas will end up going to international players,” he said.

“You get squeezed on cost, and you get squeezed down the pecking order in the great Australian projects that you can get access to. The unintended consequence of that is squeezing out local players. Fast-forward 10 years, the global players will go ‘we’re glad that government forced us to do that because we actually ended up squeezing all the local players out.’”

Sneesby said it would also drive up the cost of local production, forcing Nine to spend more money offshore. “It’ll be likely that [Stan] will have to direct some of its spend offshore, which either means more licensing, or more things co-produced in international markets. You do actually push investment out and force local businesses to look for other ways of competing.”

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See Also: Nine Entertainment reports revenue lift, profit drop, Stan’s subs at 2.6m

Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson arrested on fraud charges

The founder of the startup Ozy Media was arrested on Thursday on fraud charges, more than a year after the troubled digital company shut down after losing millions of dollars, reports The Guardian.

Authorities say Carlos Watson misled investors and lenders to prop up the financially struggling company, conspired to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, and committed identity theft with his role in the impersonation of several media executives.

Police arrested Watson at a Manhattan hotel. Earlier this month, two of the company’s top executives pleaded guilty to fraud charges, including Ozy’s former chief operating officer, Samir Rao, who allegedly impersonated a YouTube executive during a pitch to a potential investor.

Between 2018 and 2021, Watson and his business partners attempted to defraud investors and lenders of “tens of millions of dollars through fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions” about the company’s debts and other key financial information, authorities say.

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Google tests blocking news content for some Canadians

Alphabet Inc’s Google is rolling out tests that block access to news content for some Canadian users, the company confirmed on Wednesday, in what it says is a test run of a potential response to the government’s online news bill, reports Reuters.

The “Online News Act,” or House of Commons bill C-18, introduced in April by Justin Trudeau‘s Liberal government, laid out rules to force platforms like Meta’s Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers for their content.

“We’re briefly testing potential product responses to Bill C-18 that impact a very small percentage of Canadian users. We run thousands of tests each year to assess any potential changes to Search,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The tech-giant confirmed that the time-limited tests, which impact a random sampling of less than 4% of the users in Canada, “limit the visibility of Canadian and international news to varying degrees.”

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News Brands

AFR announces new appointments

After four years, Ben Potter has decided to step down as companies editor and will return to a senior writing role after an extended break, reports Nine Publishing.

Potter is a former Washington correspondent, opinion editor and Melbourne bureau chief. He has previously reported on business and government relations, Victorian and US elections, the Federal Reserve, the energy transition, climate change and innovation policy and practice.

Vesna Poljak has been promoted to companies editor. Poljak joined The Australian Financial Review in 2007 and has been markets editor for the past five years. She has previously been deputy companies editor and financial services editor. Poljak has a wealth of great story ideas and is excited to showcase the team’s news breaking and story telling.

James Daggar-Nickson has been appointed editorial director for AFR Insights. Formerly the deputy companies editor Daggar-Nickson will be responsible for driving the editorial and commercial strategy of special reports, including growing the digital audience and supporting the growth of AFR Lists. He will work closely with Alana Piper, the head of Ventures, to scope, develop and pilot new business opportunities.

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Court documents highlight Tegan George’s complaints about 10 Network’s Canberra bureau

Network 10 political reporter Tegan George was subjected to a “sexually hostile, demeaning and oppressive” workplace and was treated less favourably than her male counterparts, court documents claim, report The Australian’s Sophie Elsworth and Liam Mendes.

In an updated statement of claim lodged in the Federal Court this week, it states that George was bullied and subjected to workplace gossip, her standing in the workplace was reduced, and she felt “embarrassed, isolated and unsupported”.

The matter, which is before Justice Judith Katzmann, was first taken to court last year, and in the latest documents George’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein, has alleged that George suffered hurt, humiliation and distress, loss of income and has been unable to advance her career because of the problems she suffered in her workplace.

The documents state that the network’s political editor, Peter van Onselen, also a contributing editor at The Australian, has continued to tweet about George despite knowing that she was in hospital for serious mental health issues.

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Science fiction magazines battle a flood of chatbot-generated stories

It could be a tale from science fiction itself: a machine that uses artificial intelligence to try to supplant authors working in the genre, turning out story after story without ever hitting writer’s block. And now, it seems, it’s happening in real life, reports The New York Times’ Michael Levenson.

The editors of three science fiction magazines — Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction — said this week that they had been flooded by submissions of works of fiction generated by A.I. chatbots.

“I knew it was coming on down the pike, just not at the rate it hit us,” said Sheree Renée Thomas, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which was founded in 1949.

The deluge has become so unmanageable that Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld, said that he had stopped accepting submissions until he could get a better handle on the problem.

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See Also: The nuts and bolts: What is ChatGPT and will it take our jobs?


Tense meetings after Carrie Bickmore goes rogue with big cash offer on-air

Carrie Bickmore has confessed she copped an off-air warning from her radio bosses after her antics on her national drive show almost ended up proving very costly yesterday, reports News Corp’s Nick Bond.

Bickmore and her co-host Tommy Little were playing their long-running listener contest ‘The Time Game’ on their Hit Network drive show Carrie and Tommy on Wednesday, when she decided to raise the stakes.

The on-air game – which has a listener try and guess when a stopwatch reaches exactly 5.00 seconds – has never actually been won in the three years that the duo have been inviting listeners to play.

The cash prize rose by $100 each time the game remained unbeaten, and by yesterday’s show, it had risen to a whopping $10,000. That’s when Bickmore decided to raise the stakes, adding another $20,000 to the prize money before listener Nick was invited to play.

“Because our show starts at three, I’m timesing it by three: Thirty grand on the line today,” Bickmore announced. “I just think it’s what people want.”
Little seemed stunned at this sudden leap in the prize money on offer, asking his co-host: “Have you been hitting the bottle early?” and noting that their boss was “shaking her head.”

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Star footy player Adam Cooney tipped to join I’m a Celebrity cast for new season in South Africa

Former Western Bulldogs and Essendon star Adam Cooney is tipped to be the Brownlow Medal winner entering the jungle on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here!, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

Cooney, who won footy’s most prestigious individual medal in 2008, has successfully turned his hand to media working on Channel Seven’s Friday night show Armchair Experts and on SEN radio.

The popular footballer is expected to be joined by a raft of big names as the show returns to South Africa for live filming, airing on Network 10 from April 2.

Other clues released last week included a chef, a TV host, a boxer and a comedian.

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