Roundup: Grand prix viewing numbers, The Block exit, Andrew O’Keefe


• Plus Ben Roberts-Smith, GetUp, ACMA, Facebook, Shane Warne biopic, Gillon McLachlan, NRL 360

Business of Media

Lawyers for Ben Roberts-Smith recalled and quizzed key Nine witness over concerns he lied

A key witness for Nine newspapers in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial has been recalled and quizzed over concerns he lied to the court, reports News Corp’s Matthew Benns and Perry Duffin.

The former SAS corporal known as Person 24 was recalled to the Federal Court on Thursday and questioned behind closed doors.

He was at the compound in Afghanistan known as Whiskey 108 where Nine alleges Roberts-Smith killed an unarmed Afghan.

Person 24 told the court Mr Roberts-Smith walked out of the compound holding a man in his hand and carrying him parallel to the ground.

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Former ABC stars seeking GetUp alliance

A cabal of former ABC political journalists and on-screen personalities with “star power and clout” will partner with far-left activist group GetUp to campaign against a move to privatise the national broadcaster – even though neither major political party has any plans to sell it off, reports News Corp’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth.

Last week, The Australian reported that the ABC Alumni, whose chairman is former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, had launched an online campaign to urge Australians to “support candidates who back a better-funded ABC”.

Among the candidates the group is seeking to support are independents Allegra Spender and ex-ABC foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel, who are running against Liberal MPs Dave Sharma and Tim Wilson in the electorates of Wentworth in NSW and Goldstein in Victoria, respectively.

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News Brands

Media regulator ACMA warns media about coverage of war in Ukraine

Television and radio broadcasters have been put on notice by the media regulator over coverage of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, warning that it is “paying close attention” to broadcasting complaints about reporting of the war, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The stern edict from the Australian Communications and Media Authority has raised the ire of some within the media industry who believe the regulator was “late to the party” in terms of contacting news outlets about any problematic war coverage, given the conflict started in February, while some broadcasters believe the more obvious issue for the regulator is the level of problematic information aired in relation to the federal election.

ACMA deputy chair and chief executive officer Creina Chapman wrote to the national broadcasters and broadcasting peak bodies late last month – including the ABC, SBS, commercial radio, subscription broadcasters and narrowcasting services – to inform them that the regulator was carefully monitoring any complaints they had received from members of the public about coverage of the war.

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Facebook’s political ad tracker suffers major malfunction

Social media giant Facebook’s efforts to show it can be a responsible player in Australia’s democracy has suffered a blow as the federal election campaign swings into action, reports SMH‘s Nick Bonyhady and Zoe Samios.

The ad library report from Facebook’s parent company Meta, which tracks political ads across Facebook and Instagram, has not displayed new data since Monday last week — the first official day of campaigning.

It leaves journalists, voters, transparency advocates and political groups unable to see how much money candidates, parties and campaign groups have spent on election ads in recent days and which states are receiving the most election content.

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The Block Australia 2022: influencer Elle Ferguson quits three days into filming

Reality show The Block has been filming for just a few days and already the highest profile contestants have walked from set, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.

Confidential can reveal fashion and beauty influencer Elle Ferguson and fiance, former GWS Giants AFL player Joel Patfull, have called time on the home reno show after just three days of filming.

It is understood the couple made the hard decision to quit after Patfull’s mother, Trish, fractured her neck in a nasty fall at home in Adelaide.

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Rumours of ‘enthusiastic’ price tag for Block farmlets

It might only be less than a week since filming finally started on The Block, but the massive production and renovation project has got rumours flying around the Macedon Shire, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

The show is this year set in Gisborne South and the teams of contestants have each been given the enormous task to create luxury mini-estates on a 10-acre block.

In recent days the green change telegraph has been running hot with ‘guesstimates’ on how much each property could fetch at auction in November with one source claiming the figure of $7m had been bandied about.

The Block executive producer Julian Cress moved yesterday to quell the flattering speculation about the properties that are still very much under construction.

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Fallen TV icon Andrew O’Keefe’s life behind bars on remand revealed

Fallen Aussie TV icon Andrew O’Keefe has become an entitled, demanding, “prima donna” of the Silverwater prison yard according to a stunning assessment from prison staff who are growing tired of his antics, reports News Corp’s Zac McLean and Janet Fife-Yeomans.

The former host of Deal or No Deal and The Chase has been on remand at the Western Sydney jail since he allegedly grabbed a former sex worker by the throat in January.

But prison sources told The Daily Telegraph he has not come to terms with his new existence in a 2m-by-3m cell and prison-issued green tracksuit.

“He’s demanding. Constantly asking for this and for that … he’s a real prima donna,” the source said. “He’s self-entitled.

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Unauthorised Shane Warne biopic to highlight his women

Shane Warne will likely be rolling in his grave following news an unauthorised biopic about the sensational and scandalous life of the late spin king is now in full swing, reports News Corp’s Annette Sharp.

Six weeks after Warne’s untimely death at age 52, Nine/Stan is in pre-production for a miniseries based on the cricketer’s life which is being fast-tracked in the hope of capitalising on international interest in Warne’s hastily examined death.

(Thai authorities reported the retired cricketer died of natural causes while local media have speculated he had a heart attack).

The news has piqued the attention of Nine’s main rival Seven which spruiked its own Warne biopic in 2016 before aborting the project a year later after scripts fell short of expectations – a telling statement from the media company that greenlit the woeful Olivia Newton John miniseries and the low-rating Paul Hogan biopic that same year.

Sources at Seven last week confirmed the network’s lawyers are keeping a close eye on Nine’s new project in the event Nine recycles material Seven commissioned five years ago for its abandoned venture with production company Screentime, now Banijay.

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Sport Media

AFL open to alternatives as McLachlan targets one last agreement

The AFL sent out expressions of interest to potential bidders for its broadcast rights weeks before the resignation of long-standing chief executive Gillon McLachlan, in a clear sign of its ambitions to secure a lucrative new agreement before the end of the year, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Industry sources familiar with the correspondence, who spoke anonymously, said letters were sent to the major commercial television networks and streaming companies about two weeks ago. The request to submit interest in the rights came after the AFL was made aware there were other parties who wanted to seriously contend with longstanding partners Seven West Media and Foxtel for the ability to broadcast the code.

An AFL spokesperson said the governing body did not comment on broadcast talks or negotiations.

McLachlan announced plans to retire from his position as CEO after eight years last week, but said he wanted to secure a new deal before his departure. It will be the third agreement struck since McLachlan took the helm, including a renegotiation which took place during 2020 when games were suspended because of COVID-19. The last long-term deal was worth $2.5 billion over six years between Telstra, Foxtel and Seven.

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Foxtel and Kayo viewing numbers soar to record highs for F1 Australian Grand Prix

Foxtel’s broadcast of Melbourne’s grand prix this month surpassed viewing numbers on the event’s free-to-air broadcaster for the first time in the history of the race, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Figures showed an average audience of 611,000 viewers tuned into Foxtel’s airing of the event across its platforms, including streaming service Kayo – an increase of 66 per cent compared to the 2019 Melbourne grand prix – while the average free-to-air audience on Channel 10 was 567,000 viewers, down 20 per cent.

During the Melbourne grand prix event, Foxtel and Kayo also reached a tipping point of more than 1.2 million subscribers concurrently watching sport at the same time, across Fox Sports, ESPN, beIN and Sky Racing.

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Who cares if Braith Anasta talks about Cameron Munster on NRL 360?

The problem with rugby league is you need to assume everyone is telling you a lie — even those you trust the most — because most of the time they are, writes SMH‘s Andrew Webster.

The problem for Braith Anasta is he’s an exception to this rule: brutally honest, straight down the line, a man of integrity. He’s never been any different, stretching back to his days as a player.

It’s a problem because Anasta is juggling the dual roles of NRL 360 co-host and manager of Cameron Munster, the Melbourne, Queensland and Australian five-eighth.

Call it tension, call it animosity, call it whatever you like, but the relationship between the Storm and Anasta – and, by extension, Munster – is becoming an issue.

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