Roundup: Craig McLachlan joins SAS Australia, ABC’s Folau doco, David Attenborough

Craig McLachlan

Marketing spend, streaming apps, Peter van Onselen, ABC strike, Tegan George, The Project

Business of Media

Media industry braces as 33pc of top businesses slash marketing spend

The media, advertising and marketing industries are bracing for a downturn, with a new canvass of top executives at brands like Telstra, Toyota, Nestlé, IAG and Unilever finding one-third of marketers have had budgets cut, reports Nine Publishing’s Sam Buckingham-Jones.

An anonymous survey of the members of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), the peak organisation representing some of the country’s largest-spending companies, found two-thirds have held on to budgets amid a slowing economy, nine consecutive interest rate rises, and high inflation.

The results could hit the future fortunes of major media companies, as every dollar shaved from an advertising budget affects the likes of Google, Facebook, Nine, Seven and News Corp.

Seven flagged “mid to high single digit” falls in television advertising over the next six months, while Nine forecast a similar decline.

Standard Media Index (SMI), which measures how much advertising agencies spend on media, recorded a 10 per cent drop year-on-year in January to $542.6 million.

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The streaming apps on your TV could soon be set by law

Australian broadcasters will be “invisible” to viewers without urgent changes that force TV manufacturers to pre-install free-to-air apps like 7plus, 9Now and 10Play and rank them ahead of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, reports Nine Publishing’s Sam Buckingham-Jones.

Greg Hywood, the chairman of industry lobby group Free TV, which represents the country’s commercial broadcasters, has called on the government to create strict laws that prioritise local players ahead of global streaming companies.

Foxtel, meanwhile, has described Free TV’s approach as a “free ride on Aussie consumers”.

The federal government wants to enforce a new “prominence” framework that shapes the way TV services appear on connected, or internet enabled, TVs.

Currently, operators can auction screen space and pre-install certain apps to whichever companies pay the most. Some TV providers offer remote controls that come with dedicated Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ buttons.

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PVO: ‘The newsroom is fun but a classroom is my true beat’

Peter van Onselen happily describes himself as an “accidental journalist”, reports The Australian’s James Madden.

But after 14 years on television, first as a commentator for Sky News Australia, then as 10’s political editor – and with an 18-month stint as co-host of The Project thrown in as well – the 47-year-old is returning to his first love: academia.

PVO, as he is widely known, last week resigned as 10’s political editor after four years in charge of the network’s Canberra bureau.

While he isn’t completely stepping away from the media – he retains his weekly column in The Weekend Australian – van Onselen says his time as a daily news journalist has “run its course”.

“I’m glad that I had a go at TV journalism. I never thought I’d do it. At first I was the ‘academic’ on Sky who was more of a commentator than a journalist, but then suddenly I got the opportunity at Ten,” he told The Australian.

“Trying to say something meaningful in 90 seconds of a television news story has been sometimes frustrating but often fun.” Van Onselen insists there’s no mystery reason behind his decision to quit 10.

Put simply, he’s tired of commuting between his Sydney home and 10’s Canberra office for a minimum 20 weeks each year. His wife Ainslie is chief executive officer of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand – a job that demands a considerable amount of travel – and with the couple’s two daughters nearing the end of their high schooling, van Onselen wants to spend less time on the road for work.

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See Also: Peter van Onselen leaves The Project and 10

News Brands

ABC boss David Anderson seeks peace as strike looms

The ABC’s managing director David Anderson will make a last-ditch bid to resolve the long-running pay dispute between the media organisation’s management and its staff, who are this week planning to strike for the first time in 17 years, report The Australian’s Sophie Elsworth and James Madden.

On Monday, Anderson will meet with representatives from Australia’s largest journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, in an 11th hour attempt to ward off Tuesday’s industrial action, which could see several hundred employees of the national broadcaster walk off the job for 40 minutes.

The proposed strike has been times to coincide with the monthly meeting of the Reserve Bank board, and the subsequent 2.30pm announcement of whether there will be any change to the official cash rate – a breaking news story that will be of interest to millions of Australian homeowners.

ABC journalists are requesting annual pay rises of 6 per cent each year over three years and other improved working conditions, including reforms to how staff progress through pay bands, an audit of the racial and gender pay gap and a review of employee workloads.

As of last week, ABC management is offering a 10.5 per cent pay rise over three years – a deal that has been flatly refused by journalists and the MEAA.

If no deal is reached this week, the union has flagged the likelihood of longer strikes in coming weeks.

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10 denies bullying claims by political journalist Tegan George

Network 10 has refuted a raft of bullying allegations made by its political reporter Tegan George, according to fresh documents lodged in the Federal Court, reports The Australian’s Sophie Elsworth.

The media outlet submitted its defence to the court last week in response to George’s amended statement of claim, after she alleged she was subjected to a “sexually hostile, demeaning and oppressive” workplace.

In the documents, filed last week, 10 refuted the implied meanings of text message exchanges by the network’s then political editor Peter van Onselen and former journalist Amber Austin-Wright about the structure of its Canberra bureau.

George has previously said texts sent by van Onselen implied George and Austin-Wright “were less capable than previous reporters in the Canberra bureau of working autonomously”, and they needed to be “rostered together so that they could work together each day and help each other”. 10 denied these claims in its defence.

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Channel Seven gives Craig McLachlan his surprising big TV comeback on SAS Australia

Channel Seven has given controversial former actor Craig McLachlan a platform for an attempted comeback, reports

McLachlan has been revealed to be part of the cast of TV competition SAS Australia.

The reality TV contestant, according to The Daily Telegraph, flew out of Sydney this week to train with ex-special forces in the Middle East. It will be his first TV gig in five years.

The article mentioned McLachlan had abdominal surgery last year and has had to pass a fitness test to qualify for the show.

While McLachlan himself wasn’t quoted, his partner Vanessa Scammell said it was a “race against the clock” to ensure his fitness was up to scratch.

The former soap opera star has been embroiled in scandal for five years after he was accused of indecent assault by his Rocky Horror Show co-star Christie Whelan Browne.

He has repeatedly denied the allegations. Charges were filed by Victoria Police and McLachlan was later cleared in 2020.

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Pulled Folau documentary to reappear

The ABC is bringing back a documentary on Israel Folau that mysteriously disappeared at the end of last year, Diary has learnt, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

Conspiracy theories were flying around at the end of last year when the two-part documentary – which is said to take a “balanced” approach to Folau’s controversial comments that gay people would go to hell unless they repent – was yanked from the ABC’s schedule with just four days’ notice last November. This led to suggestions that the show had been “killed” and wasn’t coming back.

The ABC was already running on-air promos for the documentary – entitled Folau – before it disappeared, which only fuelled the conspiracy theories.

But Diary is told the show is now well and truly back in roster – scheduled to appear in the ABC line-up “before the middle of the year”.

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Project complaints reach ACMA

Media watchdog the Australian Communications & Media Authority has received a flurry of complaints following a joke by Reuben Kaye last week on The Project, reports TV Tonight.

“The ACMA has received 203 inquiries about an episode of The Project broadcast on Tuesday 28 February 2023 featuring the comedian Reuben Kaye,” the ACMA said in a statement.

However under the broadcasting co-regulatory system, complainants are directed to the broadcaster in the first instance.

“If a complainant does not receive a response from the broadcaster within 60 days, or is not satisfied with the response they do receive, they may refer their complaint to the ACMA for consideration,” said ACMA.

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New David Attenborough series about UK likely to be his last on location

During his decades-long career the authoritative yet reassuring face of Sir David Attenborough has appeared on screen from everywhere from Papua New Guinea to Chernobyl and Kenya, reports The Guardian’s Miranda Bryant.

Next week, when the 96-year-old returns to front a new series on home ground, it will be not only his first landmark series on British natural history, but it is likely, the Observer understands, to be viewers’ final time seeing him in a series filmed on location.

The five-part BBC One series, Wild Isles, will signal a landmark moment for natural history documentary making in Britain and Ireland when it begins next Sunday. From orca hunting seal off the Shetlands to Attenborough himself in a London park, for the first time the British Isles is being given the blue-chip treatment of its globally focused predecessors Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet.

It will also mark his first time in front of the camera on location since Green Planet, which was filmed four years ago. Although his family and insiders say he is not retiring, he is understood to have stopped travelling internationally. A spokesperson for Attenborough said he had plenty of things in the pipeline and he was definitely not stepping down.

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