Roundup: Gaven Morris, Ben Fordham, New Magazine Giant, Squid Game + more

• Plus: Scott Morrison, Series Mania Melbourne Industry Day, and Mark Stevens

Business of Media

‘Pay the price’: Tech giants could face legal responsibility for trolls

Tech giants could be held legally responsible for the content published on their platforms after Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his deputy Barnaby Joyce launched extraordinary attacks on social media companies, SMH‘s Lisa Visentin.

Facebook is already under fire globally after an American whistleblower leaked documents accusing the company of knowingly harming users, with Assistant Minister for Mental Health David Coleman declaring “social media platforms can’t be trusted to act in the best interests of children”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated support for defamation reform that could hold platforms legally liable for the comments of anonymous users.

“Social media has become a coward’s palace, where people can just go on there, not say who they are, destroy people’s lives and say the most foul and offensive things to people, and do so with impunity. Now that’s not a free country where that happens,” Morrison said on Thursday.

“That issue, and the technology that enables it, and the lack of accountability that sits around it, is just not on. You can expect us to be leaning even further into this.”

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Barry Diller’s Dotdash agrees to buy Meredith, a magazine giant

A digital-age magazine giant was born on Wednesday with the announcement that Dotdash, a publishing unit of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, had reached an agreement to acquire Meredith, the publisher of People, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and roughly 40 other titles and digital brands, reports The New York Times’ Marc Tracy.

The purchase price is roughly $2.7 billion, or $42.18 per share, the companies said in a joint announcement. If the deal goes through, the new company will be called Dotdash Meredith, and it will be led by the Dotdash chief executive, Neil Vogel, the companies said.

Joey Levin, IAC’s chief executive, said in a statement that the combination of the two companies would “offer uniquely engaged audiences to advertisers and partners.” Tom Harty, the chief executive of Meredith, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to join forces to accelerate Meredith’s digital future.”

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News Brands

ABC news boss Gaven Morris resigns from public broadcaster

When ABC staff were told via email at lunchtime on Thursday that the public broadcaster’s news boss, Gaven Morris, was quitting, few were surprised, reports News Corp’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth.

For well over a year, Morris – who has held the prestigious post of the ABC’s director of news, analysis and investigations since October 2015 – has been confiding to friends and colleagues that he’s had enough of the job, and was eyeing an escape.

“I reckon he deserves a medal for lasting six years – it’s one of the toughest editorial jobs in the world, what with the conflicting agendas of some staff and political stakeholders,” one well-placed source told The Australian. “It’s a nightmare. He’s done a good job, considering.”

His farewell note to staff carried a weary tone. “It’s without doubt a challenging job, but also fulfilling and worthwhile. I’ve given it my all,” he wrote.

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‘No issues with the reporting’: Outgoing ABC news boss unrepentant over controversial stories

Outgoing ABC news boss Gaven Morris says scrutiny of the public broadcaster’s Luna Park Ghost Train fire series and its reporting on allegations against former Attorney-General Christian Porter did not influence his decision to walk away from the job, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Morris informed staff on Thursday that he would step down once his current contract expires in several months after six years at the helm. In an exclusive interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald he said he refused to be a “prisoner” to the opinions of powerful people in his time leading the ABC’s news division, but conceded the role was one of the most taxing in Australian media. He said it was the right time to hand over to someone new.

“The editorial issues that have come up in recent times don’t go anywhere near being some of the more difficult things I’ve had to deal with,” Morris told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “The ones that are related to news, I think we’ve come out looking really good – I had no issues with any of the reporting we did around Christian Porter, I still defend the Ghost Train fire documentary.

“We’ve never changed either of those stories, nor apologised for them. I’ve simply decided that having done six years, having been through three contracts, having rolled out two strategies, and having worked with three managing directors it’s probably time to try something different.”

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Ben Fordham thanks critics after radio win

Ben Fordham has thanked his critics for giving him the drive to push through at a time he could have “spat the dummy”, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.

Fordham triumphed in the latest GFK radio ratings survey results with a whopping 18.8 per cent leading share of the all-important breakfast market.

“When we went down in the ratings, I didn’t get angry or jealous or spit the dummy, I used it as an opportunity of self reflection and figured it would be good for us in the long run,” Fordham told The Daily Telegraph.
“Success doesn’t come easy for anyone and, like I tell my kids, falling over isn’t a problem, the only thing that counts is getting back up.”

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Series Mania: Industry Day 2021

Speakers for the Series Mania Melbourne Industry Day have now been confirmed, reports TV Tonight.

The four-day television event held by Film Victoria and ACMI takes place online next week and is free for all participants.

Speaking at the Screen Industry Day on October 14 are local & international screen industry practitioners including Tony Ayres (Clickbait, Fires), Craig Mazin (Chernobyl), Sierra Teller Ornelas (Rutherford Falls), Prentice Penny (Insecure), Lucy Prebble (Succession), and Joanna Werner (The Newsreader).

Other names to feature are Debbie Lee, Sally Riley, Belinda Chayko, Miranda Tapsell, Benjamin Law, Josh Maplestone, Ben Chessel and Series Mania creative director Francois-Pier Pelinard Lambert.

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Netflix to edit ‘Squid Game’ phone number after woman inundated with calls

A South Korean woman who was deluged with thousands of prank calls and text messages after her phone number was highlighted as a key plot point in Netflix’s hit show Squid Game may soon get some relief, reports AFR‘s Sangmi Cha.

Netflix and local production company Siren Pictures said on Wednesday they would edit scenes to remove the phone number, which appears on a mysterious invitation card given to potential players of a series of deadly children’s games.

The nine-part thriller depicting cash-strapped contestants playing to the death in a bid to win 45.6 billion won ($53 million) became an international hit when it premiered on the streaming service last month.

Local broadcaster SBS aired an interview last month with the owner of the phone number, who they identified as Kim Gil-young, a woman who runs a business in the south-eastern county of Seongju.

[Read More]

Sport Media

Football reporter Mark Stevens leaves Victorian Liberal Party for return to journalism

Former Channel Seven chief football reporter Mark Stevens will return to journalism, dumping a stint in politics after just three months, reports News Corp’s Shannon Deery.

Stevens left Channel Seven in June after almost a decade as a chief football reporter to take up a role as media manager with the Victorian Liberal Party.

He joined the network after 14 years at the Herald Sun and it was hoped his extensive media experience would bolster the team ahead of the 2022 state election.

But that was before former leader Michael O’Brien was toppled, sparking a party-wide staff shake-up.

As part of the restructure, O’Brien’s new chief of staff Mitch Grayson, who appointed Stevens, was replaced by Mitch Caitlin.

Grayson subsequently left the party.

Former Queensland government media director Lee Anderson is running the Liberals’ communications team.

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