Roundup: Facebook, Kevin Rudd’s royal commission, Super Rugby + more

stan sport

• Google, Super Rugby, Stan Sport, Twitter, Angelos Frangopoulos, Marvel, Q+A, Andrew O’Keefe, Victoria TV productions + more

Media Code

Behind Facebook’s unfriending of Australia

The move by Facebook to ban news was made in response to the government’s media bargaining code, which is designed to force it and Google to pay publishers for news content, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Facebook executives – in consultation with founder Mark Zuckerberg, vice- president of global partnerships, business and corporate development Marne Levine and head of global news partnerships Campbell Brown – were weighing up what to do for weeks.

Even Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, wasn’t sure if Facebook would follow through with the threat when he fronted up at a parliamentary inquiry in late January. In fact nobody was certain until the eleventh hour, when the Facebook’s most senior executives saw the final bill to be debated in parliament and decided to pull the trigger.

Under the direction of Zuckerberg, the company’s founder, major shareholder and most powerful figure, the company pushed through tweaks to its algorithm to restrict news content for Australians.

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Google’s $100m deals a media game changer

Guardian Australia is the latest publisher to sign a deal with Google as part of deals worth more than $100 million that could be game changers for news companies, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

The Australian deals are at much higher rates than what Google is offering overseas publishers, and if replicated globally could cost the search giant $5 billion on rough estimates.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks said Google’s deal with Nine, expected to be officially revealed at the company’s half-year results on Wednesday, would save jobs.

The deal with Nine, the publisher of The Australian Financial Review, is yet be detailed but has been reported at $30 million, or equal to 17 per cent of the group’s $176 million underlying profit in 2019-20.

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Facebook returns to the negotiating table one day after news ban

Facebook tried to restart talks with major news outlets Nine Entertainment Co and News Corp Australia about payment for use of their content after implementing a nationwide news ban, but is still refusing to remove key provisions that allow it to terminate the deals if the news media bargaining code becomes law, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios and Rob Harris.

The social media platform shocked local users on Thursday when it blocked news articles on its platform and accidentally wiped the pages of government departments, charities and health pages.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was directly involved in carrying out the news blocking exercise in a fierce stance against a proposed code that could become law by the end of the week, which would force it into commercial negotiations with news outlets or face large fines.

Multiple industry sources familiar with Facebook’s talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said just a day after the unprecedented move Facebook contacted News Corp and Nine (owner of this masthead) to re-engage about commercial deals. Both parties were in talks with Facebook almost two weeks ago but the conversations stopped before Facebook made an eleventh-hour decision to pull all Australian news content.

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Zuckerberg, Pichai, Dorsey scheduled for new grilling in US Congress

The chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter are set to testify in Washington next month as the US Congress gears up for a new round of scrutiny of giant technology companies, reports SMH‘s David McLaughlin and Billy House.

Two separate House committees announced plans on Friday (AEDT) to examine the power of the major tech platforms. The three executives will testify in March, while a House antitrust panel announced hearings to consider legislation that could curb the companies’ dominance.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai – CEO of Google parent company Alphabet – and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey will appear virtually at a March 25 hearing before a House Energy and Commerce joint subcommittee hearing on online misinformation and disinformation.

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News Brands

Kevin Rudd falls short in bid for royal commission into media diversity

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s campaign for a royal commission into media diversity has failed, with the federal government formally advising the Governor-General that the inquiry should not proceed, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

A petition calling for a royal commission was launched by Rudd in October, and by the time it was tabled in parliament three weeks later it had garnered 501,876 signatures, although it was later discovered that the e-document was littered with fake names.

On Monday, Governor-General David Hurley will receive a letter from Communications Minister Paul Fletcher advising him not to green-light the proposed inquiry.

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The Australian shaking up Britain’s TV news

In the eyes of his critics, Angelos Frangopoulos is less of a journalist and more of an importer. The man who built Sky News Australia and turned it into a right-wing megaphone is on a mission to do the same in the United Kingdom, they claim. And it doesn’t stop there: apparently the ultimate goal is the ‘Foxification’ of Britain’s broadcast media, reports SMH’s Bevan Shields.

Frangopoulos left the News Corp-owned Sky News Australia in 2018 and is now chief executive officer of GB News – a job which makes him a central player in the biggest upheaval in British broadcasting for more than three decades.

The new 24-hour news and opinion channel is due to launch later this year with a mission to snatch disillusioned BBC viewers and marginalised Brits fed up with ‘woke’ culture and London-centric thinking. Frangopoulos and the station’s chairman, veteran journalist Andrew Neil, effectively spy a huge gap in the market for the equivalent of Scott Morrison’s ‘quiet Australians’.

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Political ads, fake news targeted in newly formed misinformation code

Tech platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter could issue regular warnings to users about the trustworthiness of news articles and advertisements under a newly formed code designed to reduce the spread of misinformation and harmful content on the internet, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Political advertisements that misrepresent or deceive the public could also be prohibited and tools to help users know if they’ve been targeted by a political party are also expected to be introduced by the platforms in order to meet a series of commitments laid out in a voluntary misinformation and disinformation code of practice.

Such a move could reduce the prominence of false information in the lead up to this year’s federal election and avoid the spread of claims such as the 2019 Labor death tax. It would add to efforts by the tech platforms to manage misleading claims during the 2020 US election.

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Reporter pressed in secret hearing prompts renewed calls for shield laws

A secret court case before Queensland’s Court of Appeal that could affirm the right of the corruption watchdog to compel journalists to reveal confidential sources has prompted renewed calls for the Palaszczuk government to establish shield laws to protect journalists and whistleblowers, News Corp’s Charlie Peel.

The Brisbane television journalist fighting the Crime and Corruption Commission’s attempts to force him to reveal the identity of a police source came before the court in Brisbane on Friday, where reporters wishing to cover the landmark case were made to wait outside the courtroom for a majority of the hearing.

If the journalist, dubbed Witness F, fails in his appeal bid, he could be forced back before the CCC star chamber and threatened with a $26,690 fine or five years in prison if he refuses to answer questions.

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Financial Review expands subscriber strategy to media monitors

The Australian Financial Review will no longer allow the customers of media clippings services such as iSentia, Streem and Meltwater to read articles in full unless users are subscribers of the masthead.

A Financial Review spokesman said the purpose of the change, which started on February 18, was to “ensure the value of the newspaper’s unique journalism is fully recognised”.

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Marvel movies set to be filmed in Sydney for the ‘foreseeable future’

News Corp can reveal that the Harbour City has been earmarked as a hub for the next five years of Marvel blockbusters, reports Amy Harris.

Sources at the pointy end of mega studio Disney say Marvel head Kevin Feige is set to relocate Down Under permanently as the blockbuster factory prepares to base its filmmaking operations out of Sydney for the ‘foreseeable future’.

That would see the next batch of Marvel films all shot at Moore Park’s studios, including Guardians Of The Galaxy 3 (starring Chris Pratt), Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2 (led by Brie Larson) and the Dr Strange sequel starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Disney looks at local productions as it adds Star

Disney is considering investing in locally produced content as it expands its streaming offering in Australia, adding the Star channel to its platform on Tuesday, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

The Burbank-based company is looking to shake off the perception that its streaming platform is aimed at just families, and Star will add series such as Scandal, Alias, The X-Files and Homeland to the service.

The Star brand, which Disney acquired through its $US71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in March 2019, operates as Disney’s general entertainment content brand outside the US.

Star is launching with three original content series: private detective series from David E Kelly Big Sky, from the creators of Rick and Morty is animated sitcom Solar Opposites and from Marvel is Helstrom.

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‘Lockdown Dan’ Andrews losing TV’s big bucks for Melbourne

Daniel Andrews’s hair-trigger approach to locking down Victoria at the slightest provocation may be winning him the Newspoll vote — but on the downside, it’s losing him some big-name TV shows, writes News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff

Diary has learnt that some of the country’s most prominent productions, most notably Ten’s high-rating The Masked Singer and Nine’s Australian Ninja Warrior — worth millions of dollars and hundreds of production jobs to the Victorian economy — have quietly abandoned Melbourne. And we’ve established that a growing part of the networks’ thinking in ditching Melbourne is that they’re worried about unforeseen financial blowouts, because of the potential for more rolling lockdowns in Victoria.

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Andrew O’Keefe’s battle with sex addiction

Sex addiction and a compulsive need for intimacy are two of the issues television personality Andrew O’Keefe is now battling to come to terms with in the psychiatric ward of a Sydney hospital, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

The recently axed Seven Network star has been battling a sex addiction for decades, a source told The Sunday Telegraph.

O’Keefe’s lawyer requested the 49-year-old be considered for a section 32 application giving the magistrate power to dismiss the assault charge on the grounds of mental health and order O’Keefe into treatment outside the criminal justice system.

If the provision is not granted, the former chair of domestic violence charity White Ribbon will plead guilty to the charge, his lawyer told the court. The matter has been adjourned until April.

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Fewer viewers but ABC is ‘really happy’ with Thursday night Q+A

The ABC is standing by its decision to shift Q+A from Monday to Thursday nights, despite early signs the program’s new timeslot may not be resonating with viewers, reports SMH‘s Broede Carmody and Michael Lallo.

This week’s episode of Q+A was watched by an average 280,000 metropolitan viewers, a drop of nearly a third when compared to the 411,000 people who watched the Monday, February 17, 2020 episode. Multiple ABC sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity say the decline in ratings has quickly become a talking point among staff at the broadcaster’s Ultimo headquarters.

Despite the drop in ratings, an ABC spokeswoman said the broadcaster is “really happy with how Q+A is going”.

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Where Will Rush Limbaugh’s 15 Million Listeners Go Now?

The answer, most likely, is nobody, reports the New York Times Michael M. Grynbaum.

That is not because Limbaugh, who died on Wednesday at 70, was uniquely talented among conservative broadcasters, although his popularity and influence on American politics surely rank him in the highest tier.

Limbaugh almost single-handedly created a right-wing mass-media universe — with its kneejerk hatred of Democrats, mocking nicknames and own-the-libs glee — that allowed him to imprint his grievances and goals on the national debate. About 15 million people a week tuned in for his daily three-hour program.

But Limbaugh’s monopoly on outrage was fractured by a thousand rivals.

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Super Rugby blackout for pubs and clubs after Tabcorp tears up deal with Stan Sport

The majority of Super Rugby matches will not be aired in pubs and clubs around Australia after a deal between Stan Sport and Sky Channel was pulled on the eve of the first game of the season, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Chammas and Adam Pengilly.

Sources with knowledge of negotiations told the Herald the deal was scuppered at the 11th hour after a Tabcorp senior executive learnt Sky Channel had reached an agreement without the consent of its parent company, Tabcorp.

A Tabcorp spokesperson said there had been an agreement in place with Stan Sport but that it was subject to internal approval and the company had decided not to proceed. Free-to-air matches on Nine will still be available at pubs and clubs.

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Stan Sport eye smart televisions as solution to rugby’s pub blackout

Super Rugby could be beamed into pubs and clubs via smart televisions if Stan Sport is unable to resolve its deal with Sky Channel, which last week fell over on the eve of the competition’s opening round, reports SMH‘s Sam Phillips.

While Rugby Australia remain hopeful a deal will be done as soon as possible, sources with knowledge of the Tabcorp deal have told the Herald a resolution is unlikely.

Tabcorp officials were initially concerned Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys – who is also the chairman of the ARL Commission – had not been consulted prior to the deal being done, and continue to see little upside to having rugby competing with racing for screens in pubs.

Sources with knowledge of Stan’s strategy told the Herald streaming direct to smart devices – including televisions – was a viable option.

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Stan Sport hot for the A-League – but only if it stays in summer

The A-League’s mooted switch to winter could be off the cards with a potential new broadcast rights bidder, Stan Sport, indicating it would only be interested in a summer competition, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Vince Rugari.

Industry sources have confirmed that Stan – whose first foray into live sport began on Friday night with the launch of the new Super Rugby AU season – has held exploratory discussions over the rights to the A-League and W-League, which are set to hit the market in the coming weeks.

The A-League’s current deal with Foxtel, a reduced one-year contract worth $28 million that was negotiated post-pandemic, is due to expire at the end of July.

Stan’s interest is predicated on the A-League and W-League continuing to be played in the summer months, as opposed to winter, which would be in direct competition with the three other football codes – two of which Nine now holds the rights to.

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