Roundup: Cheng Lei formally arrested, Ben Fordham gaff, Australian Ninja Warrior + more

Ben Fordham

• Nine to pay costs in Aston defamation case, Scott Morrison grilled by John Laws, The Project, and Netball Australia’s Foxtel deal

Business of Media

Nine forced to pay costs in Aston defamation case

Nine Entertainment is looking at a bill of more than $2.5 million after Elaine Stead was awarded the vast majority of her costs in her defamation case against Australian Financial Review columnist Joe Aston, reports News Corp.

Justice Michael Lee, in a brief hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday, awarded Dr Stead “indemnity costs” in the matter, from the date of April 22 last year, when Dr Stead offered to settle for a $190,000 payout.

Fairfax will be forced to pay Dr Stead $280,000 in ordinary and aggravated damages, $16,500 in interest, plus her costs from April 22. Her lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou, said last week that Dr Stead’s total costs ran to more than $1.1 million.

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News Brands

Australian journalist Cheng Lei formally arrested in Beijing

Australian journalist Cheng Lei has been formally arrested by Chinese authorities after six months of detention on suspicion of sharing state secrets overseas, reports News Corp’s Will Glasgow.

The former CGTN television network anchor has been denied access to her lawyer since being taken from her Beijing apartment on August 13, sources familiar with the matter said.

The formal arrest was made less than two months after Haze Fan — a Beijing-based journalist at Bloomberg and close friend of Cheng — was detained on suspicion of endangering national security. “We are absolutely convinced of her innocence,” said Cheng’s family in a statement.

One of the most prominent Australians in China, Cheng is widely known among the Australian business, political and diplomatic communities.

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Angelos Frangopoulos promises independence for GB News in face of ad boycott

GB News presenter and chairman Andrew Neil set out his anti “woke” vision for GB News on the same day that the channel faced an attempted advertising boycott prompted by campaign group Stop Funding Hate, reports Press Gazette.

Hundreds of tweets have been sent to banks, mobile phone companies and other brands using the hashtag #DontFundGBNews. GB News is a news channel launching next month that is being led by CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, a former CEO of Australia’s Sky News Channel.

Although GB News has yet to broadcast a second of coverage, Stop Funding Hate used articles from the Evening Standard and Guardian, speculating that the channel will be right-wing in the mould of Fox News, to justify its campaign.

Chairman of GB News and presenter of the channel Neil described the “woke warriors” behind the advertising boycott as “hilarious”.

In a letter to The Guardian (that was not published), CEO Frangopoulos has said GB News is “committed to impartial journalism” and looking for a “range of voices and perspectives”.

“GB News will be staunchly independent. That is our point. Our investors know this, our journalists will know it and so will our viewers. We aim to serve British communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream television media, especially outside London.

“We are proud to be adding plurality to UK media by investing in journalism that will be as diverse and broad-minded as the British people themselves.

“We are absolutely committed to our mission to report news in the most accurate and balanced way we can.”

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Ben Fordham’s awkward radio moment costs him $1k

2GB radio host Ben Fordham was forced to pay a listener $1,000 after an awkward blunder, reports News Corp’s Mibengé Nsenduluka.

While hosting the station’s 2GB For Me competition, Fordham accidentally declared a caller named Kathy the winner of $1,000 despite her not answering the phone correctly.

The competition requires listeners to answer the phone within 15 seconds and say “2GB For Me” to win $100 followed by a code word to win $1,000, however Kathy skipped the first requirement and stated the code word “winner”.

“Hang on a moment… Did you say 2GB for me?” Fordham asked Kathy after already announcing that she had won the cash.

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Scott Morrison grilled by veteran radio host John Laws over rogue MP Craig Kelly’s COVID comments

Scott Morrison has been taken to task by veteran radio presenter John Laws over rogue Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s coronavirus comments, reports News Corp’s Frank Chung.

Speaking to Laws on his 2SM program on Monday, the Prime Minister was accused of “avoiding the question” about Kelly in a testy back-and-forth.

“It’s always good to hear what you’ve got to say – you’re the boss, and Australians care about what you say, they don’t care too much about what Craig Kelly says,” Laws said at the start of the interview. “What your thoughts on Craig Kelly?”

Morrison replied, “Well, we dealt with that last week. I think that got enough oxygen last week.”

Laws hit back, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It didn’t get oxygen here.”

Morrison said he didn’t know about Laws’ program but it did “in many other places, so I think we should stick with that”.

Laws said, “In other words, you’re avoiding the question, Prime Minister. That’s very unlike you.”

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Waleed Aly’s Heritier Lumumba interview removed after racism backlash

Channel 10 has removed a video of Waleed Aly’s controversial 2017 interview with former AFL star Heritier Lumumba on The Project in the wake of backlash, reports News Corp’s Mibengé Nsenduluka.

The clip mysteriously disappeared from the broadcaster’s online platforms last week after Aly was accused of hypocrisy after openly doubting Lumumba’s claims of racism during a TV interview.

The Gold Logie winner continues to face backlash amid calls for him to apologise to Lumumba following the release of a bombshell investigation, which recently found Collingwood guilty of “systemic racism”.

At the time, Aly and his co-host, Peter Helliar, who are both AFL fans, questioned Lumumba’s claim that he was called a “chimp” by fellow Collingwood players from 2005-2014.

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Australian Ninja Warrior 2021 heads to Homebush

TV Tonight can confirm Australian Ninja Warrior will film its 5th season in Homebush, NSW.

Filming will get underway in coming weeks.

Ben Fordham & Rebecca Madden return as hosts.

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Netballers keep firm hold of ball

Last week it was revealed that Foxtel and its chief commercial officer Amanda Laing had scored the broadcast and digital rights to the national Super Netball competition for the next five years, a steal from incumbent broadcaster Nine, writes News Corp’s Melissa Yeo and Christine Lacy.

The move was an intercept Nine wasn’t going to take lightly, sparking a “stoush” of sorts as described by Nine’s own Sydney Morning Herald.

Margin Call hears it was the make-up of Nine’s proposal, including Nine’s insistence on taking a stake in the sport was instrumental in NA deciding to sign with a new broadcaster.

Nine’s mooted proposal was perhaps mistimed as it came on the heels of Netball Australia’s own study into the future of the sport, led by none other than the netball legend Liz Ellis and released in mid-December called out future potential private equity investment as a key focus for the commission in the years ahead.

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