Roundup: Google’s Project Bernanke, Malcolm Turnbull, Facebook + more

• Plus regional newsrooms, Ben Roberts-Smith, ABC’s coverage of Prince Philip’s death, The future of The Wall Street Journal, Shareena Clanton bullied online

Business of Media

Google’s secret ‘Project Bernanke’ revealed in Texas antitrust case

Google for years operated a secret program that used data from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors, according to court documents filed in a Texas antitrust lawsuit, reports The Wall Street Journal‘s Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey.

The program, known as “Project Bernanke,” wasn’t disclosed to publishers who sold ads through Google’s ad-buying systems. It generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the company annually, the documents show. In its lawsuit, Texas alleges that the project gave Google, a unit of Alphabet, an unfair competitive advantage over rivals.

The documents filed this week were part of Google’s initial response to the Texas-led antitrust lawsuit, which was filed in December and accused the search giant of running a digital-ad monopoly that harmed both ad-industry competitors and publishers. This week’s filing, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, wasn’t properly redacted when uploaded to the court’s public docket. A federal judge let Google refile it under seal.

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ACCC eyes US ad tech fight with Google

Google has secretly used information from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own systems an advantage over competitors, according to new filings in a US court, reports News Corp’s David Swan.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said it was “following” the proceedings.

The ACCC’s spokeswoman said the regulator was considering a wide range of conduct and was aware of the accusations.

The latest filing in the US comes amid an ongoing ACCC inquiry into problems with Australia’s advertising technology market.

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Regional newsrooms under threat as media companies say they are making no money

Regional news services are under threat from declining advertising revenue and some media bosses say they make “no money out of local news”, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Speaking at the Senate inquiry into media diversity, Prime Media chief executive Ian Audsley said the company had gone from being a $360m business to a $160m entity in the past five years.

“None of us makes money out of local news,” Audsley told the inquiry.

“We lose a substantial amount of money on local news. We do it as a public service, we don’t make from it.

“We have not made money from it, certainly in Prime’s case, for two decades.”

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Media Code

‘We are not bullies,’ says Facebook

US tech giant Facebook denies claims it intended to bully the Australian government and intimidate parliament when it ­removed news from its platform, with local executives defending the company’s tactics in their first public appearance since the passage of the world-first news media bargaining code, reports News Corp’s David Swan.

Fronting a Senate inquiry into media diversity, Facebook head of public policy for Australia and New Zealand Mia Garlick blamed the parliamentary process for forcing the tech giant’s hand when it decided to block all Australian news earlier this year.

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News Brands

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has slammed Nine Entertainment Co for “baseless” allegations

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith said allegations by Nine that he committed war crimes were “baseless” and his ­employer was standing by him, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The 42-year-old is Seven’s general manager in Queensland and will stay in the position ­despite a report aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday night and published in Nine newspapers of his involvement in alleged war crimes.

The stories included damning evidence hidden on USB sticks inside a child’s lunch box and buried in the backyard of Roberts-Smith’s Sunshine Coast hinterland home away from police and military investigations.

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‘It’s a crime’: Vera fans decry ABC’s coverage of Prince Philip’s death

Hundreds of disgruntled ABC viewers voiced their anger at the coverage of Prince Philip’s death and said it interrupted their viewing of a long-running British crime drama, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

By Monday afternoon the public broadcaster had received 435 complaints online about on-air tributes to the 99-year-old that they described as a “relatively low” number. The special coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death on Friday night meant the ABC had to interrupt the scheduled viewing of a repeat of British crime drama, Vera.

“The ABC has received a relatively low 435 complaints about its overall coverage, more than three-quarters of which relate to the interruption of Vera,” the ABC said. “Other complaints were about other matters such as the duration of our coverage.”

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‘Utterly unaccountable’: Turnbull labels News Corp the most powerful political actor in Australia

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp poses a real threat to Australian democracy, claiming it has surpassed the Coalition or Labor as the most powerful political force in the country, reports SMH‘s Lisa Visentin.

Turnbull, who has blamed News Corp as a key player in his removal as prime minister in 2018, was unsparing in his criticism of the Murdoch empire in his evidence to a Senate inquiry into media diversity on Monday.

Giving evidence by video link, Turnbull said the Murdoch media business had evolved into a powerful political force that, unlike political parties, was unaccountable to the Australian public.

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Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is a rarity in 21st-century media: a newspaper that makes money. A lot of money. But at a time when the U.S. population is growing more racially diverse, older white men still make up the largest chunk of its readership, with retirees a close second, reports The New York TimesEdmund Lee.

“The No. 1 reason we lose subscribers is they die,” goes a joke shared by some Journal editors.

Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007. They say The Journal, often Mr. Murdoch’s first read of the day, must move away from subjects of interest to established business leaders and widen its scope if it wants to succeed in the years to come. The Journal of the future, they say, must pay more attention to social media trends and cover racial disparities in health care, for example, as aggressively as it pursues corporate mergers.

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Shareena Clanton calls out ‘vile’ online bullying while urging others to speak up

Shareena Clanton has called out the backlash and disgusting online bullying she’s received since coming forward with bombshell claims of racism on Neighbours, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

Clanton’s allegations last week included that she was exposed to the “n-word” twice, and saw a white actor openly calling another actor of colour a “lil monkey” while on set of the long-running soap. Her claims were backed up by former Neighbours actor Meyne Wyatt who also said homophobia was rampant on set.

Clanton posted on Instagram that the abuse she’s been copping is unacceptable.

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