Roundup: Google’s news deals, JobKeeper, Tony Maiden, Viagogo + more

seven prime James Warburton

• New AFR appointments, Australian Press Council’s ruling on arson article, Midnight Oil surprise pre-tour gig

Business of Media

Google closing in on news content deals with ABC, Nine, Guardian

Google has stepped back from a threat to shut down its search engine locally and is on the brink of striking commercial deals with some of Australia’s largest news organisations after months of hard fought negotiations over planned media bargaining laws, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios and Lisa Visentin.

The ABC, Nine Entertainment Co, and Guardian Australia are in eleventh-hour negotiations with the $1.8 trillion tech giant for use of their content on various Google services. Industry sources briefed on the talks indicated the deals could be reached within 48 hours. However, while the talks are in advanced stages, there is no guarantee the agreements will be completed.

Google threatened to turn off its search engine in Australia in January in response to the laws. The search giant’s progress on agreements with publishers will shift focus to Facebook, which is yet to strike any deals for its own news product and has threatened to pull journalism from its platform if the laws aren’t revised.

Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media became the first of the major media companies to ink an agreement with Google on Monday.

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Seven CEO James Warburton rules out returning $33.4m of JobKeeper subsidies

Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton has ruled out returning $33.4m of federal government JobKeeper subsidies, despite the Kerry Stokes-controlled media group returning to profit, reports’ News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.

Warburton says the business qualified for the $130bn JobKeeper scheme last year, which helped the free-to-air television network and newspaper publisher ride out the coronavirus crisis.

“I think from our perspective we qualified for JobKeeper in accordance with the program, and it did its job,” Warburton said.

“We would have had to retrench or sack 120 or 150 people. Staff took a 20 per cent pay cut, which contributed to liquidity in the business through the time and we employ hundreds and hundreds of people in terms of production.

“So for us, it helps us emerge as a stronger, larger taxpayer, let alone what we’ve paid in tax over the last sort of nine to 10 years. So that’s exactly what the program was intended for, and that’s been the use.”

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News Brands

AFR appoints Washington correspondent, Education editor

The Australian Financial Review’s economics correspondent Matthew Cranston, has been appointed as the masthead’s Washington correspondent, and Julie Hare has commenced as the education editor. 

Cranston joined the Financial Review in 2007 as a financial markets’ reporter before becoming a property reporter and property editor. He moved to Canberra in 2019 to become economics correspondent.

As Washington correspondent he succeeds Jacob Greber, who has returned to Canberra to become a senior correspondent.

For seven years Hare was the higher education editor of The Australian and before that editor-in-chief at APN Educational Media and editor of Campus Review. More recently, Hare has worked at the University of Canberra, KPMG and as a freelance journalist.

She is an honorary fellow with the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.

As education editor she succeeds Robert Bolton, who is leaving to pursue PhD studies.

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Tony Maiden: a modest man of great talent

Tony Maiden, a former editor of The Australian Financial Review, and a straight-shooting journalist from the old school who loved his craft and had a rare way with words, died on Sunday night after a three-month battle with cancer. He was 76, reports AFR‘s Andrew Clark.

“He was honest, straight-forward, trustworthy and made a very good friend. I couldn’t criticise Tony about anything,” said Trevor Kennedy, his one-time boss at the Financial Review, and a former chief executive of Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings.

“He was a great bloke,” according to Max Suich, a former Fairfax chief editorial executive, and Maiden’s editor at the now defunct National Times.

These are warm words from members of a craft known for grudging comments about colleagues. But the shock waves at Tony Maiden’s passing that spread among leading figures in Australia’s media community on Monday attest to a deep respect for a journalist who found his flowering at the Financial Review as an enterprising reporter, brilliant and sensitive wordsmith, and an effective production man and news manager.

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The Australian’s arson report was accurate, says Australian Press Council

The Australian Press Council has found The Australian’s reporting on people arrested over lighting fires published at the time of the 2019-20 bushfires was accurate and not misleading, reports News Corp’s Graham Lloyd.

In a ruling published on Tuesday, the Press Council said the newspaper had taken reasonable steps when reporting information from various authorities and there had been no breach of the council’s general principles.

There was widespread criticism of a report headed “Firebugs fuelling crisis as arson arrest toll hits 183” on January 7 and an online report the following day.

The print story appeared as a small item on an inside page accompanying a major report on the bushfires.

In response to complaints, the Press Council asked The Australian to comment on whether the articles complied with the council’s standards of practice regarding fairness, accuracy and balance.

The article reported that more than 180 alleged arson cases had been recorded since the start of the bushfire season, with 29 fires deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven region of NSW in just three months. It said “police arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and ­Tasmania”.

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‘Heavy with emotion’: Midnight Oil announce surprise pre-tour gig

It’s the gig every Midnight Oil fan eagerly anticipates – the “intimate” pre-tour warm-up show, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.

Ahead of kicking off their Makarrata Live tour next week, the Oils will exercise their musical muscle with a one-off concert at the iconic Enmore Theatre on February 25.

The warm-up gig will feature special First Nations guests who collaborated on the No. 1 record The Makarrata Project including Troy Cassar-Daley, Dan Sultan, Alice Skye, Leah Flanagan, and Tasman Keith.

It will also mark the public debut of bassist Adam Ventoura, the older brother of actor Zoe Ventoura, who steps into the role after the sudden death of much-loved band member Bones Hillman last year.

Ventoura landed on the Oils’ radar when he was guesting at a recording session at guitarist and keyboardist Jim Moginie’s northern beaches studio, and has previously toured with Cold Chisel’s Ian Moss.

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Australian music stars warn fans of buying Viagogo tickets

Peter Garrett, Jimmy Barnes, and Guy Sebastian have warned fans against being tricked by Google search results into buying tickets to their Australian concerts from reseller platform Viagogo, reports News Corp’s Kathy McCabe.

The website is back targeting Australian events just months after it was ordered to pay a $7 million fine when the Federal Court found last year it broke four consumer laws, including previously misleading consumers “it was the ‘official’ seller of tickets to particular events when it was not.”

Viagogo lodged an appeal against the fine in November and has again ramped up its online presence in Australia, just as the devastated live entertainment industry is slowly getting back to business with national tours by Midnight Oil, Guy Sebastian, Tina Arena, Delta Goodrem, and the Red Hot Summer Festival headlined by Jimmy Barnes.

Despite tickets still being available via artist websites and official ticketing agencies, Viagogo has returned as the top result by paying Google for higher placement ads.

Barnes regularly warns his fans via his popular regular performances online to be wary of buying from unauthorised “secondary ticket marketplaces”.

“Thankfully ticket resellers can’t get away with some of the tricks they used to pull but in my opinion, lots of people are still getting scammed,” he said.

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