Roundup: Inauguration Day, Media Code showdown, BBL Australia Day controversy + more

• Debt-free Netflix, The New Yorker, Basil Zempilas, Colin Fassnidge, Australian TV, and Ray Warren’s Future

Media Code

Facebook and Google crackdown ‘has legal backing’

Senior Morrison government ministers are confident that proposed laws that force Facebook and Google to pay publishers for their journalism do not breach the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement as claimed by the US government and American business, reports AFR’s John Kehoe and Miranda Ward.

The federal government has received legal and international trade advice on the matter, according to a senior source.

The legislation presses Google and Facebook to strike deals with publishers that would ensure news creators were paid fairly by the digital platforms for journalism, in line with a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

As reported by The Australian Financial Review, in a submission to a Senate committee in Canberra that is reviewing the proposed legislation, the influential US Chamber of Commerce warned the code “explicitly targets and discriminates against US companies”.

The USTR will have new leadership under President Joe Biden and will likely re-evaluate its position.

However, it is considered unlikely to change from the Trump administration’s position.

Tensions with the US on the regulation of its largest companies will be an early test for the Morrison government’s relations with the Biden administration, which has been financially supported by tech titans.

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‘Time is running out’: Nine, News lead push for Parliament to make tech giants pay

Leaders of the nation’s major media companies will argue proposed laws to force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for news content they have used for free to build their businesses are critical to the survival of Australian journalism, reports SMH‘s  Lisa Visentin.

Executives from Nine Entertainment and News Corp Australia are expected to mount similar arguments on Friday before the Senate economics committee, which is scrutinising the Morrison government’s proposed media bargaining code bill.

Nine’s chief digital and publishing officer, Chris Janz, who will give evidence to the Senate hearing as part of a panel featuring representatives from News Corp, Guardian Australia and Australian Associated Press, said time was “clearly running out” to regulate the digital platforms.

“Without an effective code, there simply won’t be the money to employ the journalists we have working in Australian media companies today,” Janz said.

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Tech giants face the music on news code

The “anti-democratic” practices and unchecked market power of tech giants Google and Facebook will come under intense scrutiny on Friday, with a Senate committee set to demand the digital ­behemoths explain their refusal to compensate media companies for the content they use, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

With the federal government’s news media bargaining code — which is designed to support a diverse and financially sustainable Australian news media sector — due to be voted on in the Senate next month, representatives from Google, Facebook and senior media executives will front the hearing in Canberra to make their final pitches to the panel of cross-party senators.

A host of media companies, ­including News Corp, Nine, and public broadcasters ABC and SBS, have made submissions to the committee ahead of the hearing, with the news outlets arguing that if they are not adequately remunerated for their content by the digital platforms, the Australian news media industry cannot be sustained.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who is a member of the six-person Senate standing committee conducting the hearing, told The Australian the tech giants would be asked to justify their conduct on a range of media issues.

“They have made a lot of big claims, and we will have to test them in detail,” he said.

Among those claims is that if the code becomes law, Google’s business in Australia would no longer be financially viable.

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Facebook asks Australia to let it make content deals with news outlets before being hit with media code

Facebook has asked the Australian government to consider giving digital platforms a six-month grace period to make deals with news outlets to pay for content before hitting companies with the “big stick” of the news media bargaining code, reports Guardian Australia‘s Josh Taylor.

Ahead of Facebook’s appearance on Friday before a Senate committee examining the federal government’s news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code bill, the social media giant told the committee the code remained “complex, unpredictable and unworkable”.

Facebook argued instead, companies subject to the code which would require them to negotiate payments with news media companies for their content, should be given time to make deals separately before the code takes effect.

The company compared the proposed change with the federal government’s “big stick” energy provider legislation.

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Business of Media

Viewers will need to cough up for a debt-free Netflix

Netflix’s hunger for external financing is legendary. The streaming giant has become one of the most valuable US tech companies in equity markets by leaning heavily on debt to finance its day-to-day operations. A massive 37 million rise in subscribers in 2020 means that it now believes it can rise from the sofa and stand on its own two feet, reports The FT‘s The Lex Column.

Netflix must also thank a dip in spending for turning free cash flow from minus $US3.3 billion in 2019 to positive $US1.9 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2020. As the pandemic shut down film and TV production, the company’s content spend fell from nearly $US14 billion in 2019 to slightly less than $US12 billion in 2020.

This number will tick up in 2021. Yet Netflix, which has $US16 billion of long-term debt and more than $US19 billion in “obligations” for content it wants to stream, is confident it has reached what chief financial office Spencer Neumann calls “a turning point in our story”.

It is already promising to put future surplus cash into a stock buyback program. Shares responded with a 12 per cent rise in after-hours trading. But this strategy will only work if Netflix keeps raising its subscription prices.

The prospect of Netflix weaning itself off debt is appealing. To achieve it, the company will have to keep testing the amounts that American viewers are willing to pay.

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News Brands

The New Yorker’s fact checkers walk off the job for a day

The New Yorker’s union employees did not go to work on Thursday, reports The New York TimesKatie Robertson.

The more than 100 employees represented by The New Yorker Union, which includes fact checkers, web producers and some other editorial employees, decided on the daylong walkout after recent rounds of negotiations with management failed, said Natalie Meade, the union chair.

The issue is pay. Meade, who is a fact checker at the magazine, said the union wanted to raise the salary minimum to $65,000. In the recent negotiations, managers at The New Yorker did not hit that number, she said, instead offering wage increases that she called “insulting.”

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Inauguration Day

Prayer, pop and the ghosts of Presidencies past

With a lineup of A-list recording artists, the concert marking the inauguration of America’s 46th presidency felt a long way from four years ago when organisers struggled to find performers willing to endorse Donald Trump‘s ascension to political office with a performance, reports SMH‘s Michael Idato.

Accompanying a transition of power with musical fanfare is a long-held tradition in American politics, but Inauguration Day galas are largely invitation-only events, reserved for party donors, the who-used-to-be-who and the what’s left of high society and the political hoi polloi.

This year the COVID-19 pandemic forced the creation of a virtual event, Celebrating America, hosted by actor Tom Hanks and featuring musical performances from various remote locations by Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and others.

The real power of the event was not its star lineup but its accessibility to anyone with a television screen or internet connection. America threw a party and for the first time in two centuries invited all Americans – and the whole world – to share the same seat in the audience.

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From Trump to Biden, TV Captures a Dramatic Shift

For a moment, cable news found something to agree on, reports The New York TimesJohn Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum.

At half past noon on Wednesday, shortly after President Biden wrapped up an inaugural address calling for an era of reconciliation, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer declared that the “world witnessed democracy withstand one of its greatest tests.” Brian Williams of MSNBC said Mr. Biden “gave the kind of inaugural address our presidents used to give.”

On Fox News, home to right-wing stars like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham who relentlessly championed former President Donald J. Trump, anchors and pundits took turns lauding Mr. Biden’s message and the man who delivered it.

“I’ve been listening to these inaugural addresses since 1961,” said Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor. “I thought this was the best inaugural address I ever heard.”

It was an unusual — and perhaps fleeting — moment for a cable news landscape that had been rived by the years of Trump. The cultural divide over a polarizing president and the increasingly fractured notion of what is true and what is a lie seemed to play out daily on 24-hour news networks, where Americans flocked in record numbers for outrage or comfort.

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‘Democracy has prevailed’: front pages across world hail Joe Biden’s inauguration

Joe Biden’s declaration in his inauguration speech that democracy was the real winner of the presidential election has been used by many newspapers to mark his accession to the Oval Office. reports The Guardian Australia‘s Martin Farrer.

Along with several other titles, the Guardian employs a poster front page featuring a picture of the president making his speech on the steps of the Capitol alongside the headline: “Democracy has prevailed”.

The New York Times chooses the same message with the headline “‘Democracy has prevailed’: Biden vows to mend nation” above a full-width picture of Biden and his wife Jill embracing.

The normally typographically conservative Financial Times also goes with a huge picture of Biden and the same headline again: “democracy has prevailed”.

The Scotsman’s front page is one picture of Biden and it splashes a longer excerpt of the same part of the new president’s speech. “Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. In this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed”.

The Washington Post’s headline is “Biden: ‘Unity is the path’” above a photograph of the the 46th president taking the oath of office.

The Telegraph headline is another choice quote from Biden – “End this uncivil war”, while the Times goes with “Time for unity”.

The Mirror zeroes in on Biden’s opening lines with a “A day of history .. a day of hope”, and uses pictures of the president and his history-making female vice-president, Kamala Harris.

The Mail hails a “new dawn for America” with pictures of Trump departing Washington and Biden and his wife, Jill, celebrating his inauguration. “Don’s gone … let’s go Joe!”, says the main headline.

The i can’t resist a bit of rhyme either with its headline “Ready, steady, Joe!”

The Express uses Biden’s “uncivil war” quote in one of its subheads but goes with a British angle and what the new president’s relationship with Boris Johnson might be like for its main headline: “Big moment for US and Britain”.

Metro has opted to use Donald Trump’s words against him with the headline: “Now make American great again”.

In Europe, El Mundo in Spain carries a picture of Biden and the headline “Joe Biden: ‘Hay mucho que sanar en EEUU’”, which roughly translates as “We have much to heal”.

Bild, Europe’s biggest selling newspaper, has the headline “Comeback für Amerika”, while its more sober rival Suddeutsche Zeitung goes with “Zeitenwende in Amerika”, or “New era in America”.

The South China Morning Post carries the Bidens, Harris and husband Doug Emhoff waving, underneath the headline: “World wakes up to new American leader”.

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‘They Have Not Legitimately Won’: Pro-Trump Media Keeps the Disinformation Flowing

Forgoing any appeals for healing or reflection, right-wing media organizations that spread former President Donald J. Trump’s distortions about the 2020 election continued on Wednesday to push conspiracy theories about large-scale fraud, with some predicting more political conflict in the months ahead, reports The New York TimesJeremy W. Peters.

The coverage struck a discordant tone, with pro-Trump media and President Biden in a jarring split screen: There was the new president delivering an inaugural address of unity and hope, while his political opponents used their powerful media platforms to rally a resistance against him based on falsehoods and fabrications.

For some outlets, like One America News, it was as if Biden weren’t president at all. The network, a favourite of Trump’s because of its sycophantic coverage, didn’t show its viewers Biden’s swearing in or his inaugural address.

Rush Limbaugh, broadcasting his weekday radio show a few miles from the Palm Beach retreat where Trump is spending the first days of his post-presidency, told his millions of listeners on Wednesday that the inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did not make them the rightful winners of the election.

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Who is Jen Psaki, Biden’s White House secretary

It was a far cry from the days of combative press conferences, verbal assaults, personal slights, ‘alternative facts’ and cries of ‘fake news’, reports News Corp’s Debbie Schipp.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s first press conference for president Joe Biden was greeted by much of the White House press corps and social media as a welcome return to normalcy, professionalism: a return to grown-up and regular press briefings.

She vowed to bring “truth” back to the briefing room.

Asked whether she saw her role as providing reporters with the truth or representing the president’s interests, Ms Psaki replied: “I know the importance of this podium.”

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Basil Zempilas suspected he was being groomed to replace Kochie on Sunrise

Basil Zempilas was under the assumption that he was being groomed to take over from David “Kochie” Koch on Sunrise, he’s revealed, reports’s Andrew Bucklow.

Zempilas, who is currently a radio host and the Lord Mayor of Perth, hosted Weekend Sunrise for two years before he quit in 2019 to spend more time with his family.

Speaking on Perth’s Triple M Breakfast Show with Basil, Xav & Jenna this morning, Zempilas said he was never promised Kochie’s gig on Sunrise but was under the impression Channel 7 had big plans for him.

“Look, I suppose if you’re living in Perth and they ring you up out of the blue and say, ‘Can you fly to Sydney every weekend and host Weekend Sunrise and we’ll see how it goes’ … I guess there was a sense of expectation that if they didn’t have a role for me, they wouldn’t be flying a bloke from Perth every weekend,” Zempilas said.

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Colin Fassnidge discusses Pete Evans in deleted I’m A Celebrity footage

Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge has cooked up a beef with his former MKR colleague Pete Evans, saying the always “out there’’ Evans was now “off the leash’’, reports News Corp’s Jonathon Moran.

After always being careful with his words about Evans, Fassnidge is now at pains to distance himself from the anti-vaxxer and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist.

“He is off the leash now,” Fassnidge said.

“There are jokes and there are jokes and there is clever and there is clever. You have overstepped the boundary on that one, there are some things you just don’t do.”

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Australian TV needs a dose of Nordic courage

I spent the day in tears. I’d come to the final episode in the Danish drama Follow The Money (Bedrag) and though I’d suspected the ending, it totally broke me. Fear not, I won’t be revealing anything that will give away twists or endings. The compelling characters and the series’ intrepid examination of greed and financial crime set a new standard in TV storytelling. Such expertly crafted drama has provided much for Australian screenwriters, producers and actors to aspire to, writes SMH‘s Cat Woods.

ABC and SBS have been at the forefront of showcasing original and brave drama, but funding battles threaten to stifle creative courage. Meanwhile, commercial TV prefers to create vanilla dramas like Offspring, McLeod’s Daughters and Neighbours.

Australia seems to prefer its TV dramas to be about hospitals, regional police forces and suburban neighbourhoods full of heteronormative families and scandals like a doctor shagging his secretary. And yet, Borgen spawned a following that carried it through three seasons and earned it a global audience. If you’d told most Australians they should watch a TV show about a Danish prime minister struggling to balance her political career and family obligations while being drawn into power battles between scheming ministers, journalists and lobbyists, how many people would be sold?

What unites many Nordic noir series is their unflinching depiction of political and police corruption, the essential role of journalism in exposing crime or wrongdoing, and flawed central characters who are redeemed by integrity of character.

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‘Fearful of retirement’: Warren to make call on future in coming weeks

Ray Warren, the voice of rugby league, will decide in the next few weeks whether he has called his last game, reports SMH‘s Christian Nicolussi.

There has been intense interest in Warren’s future since he officially resigned from Channel Nine, the owners of this masthead, at the end of 2017.

He continued to call games on a casual basis and has an arrangement in place with Nine that prevents him ever calling for a rival network.

Nine are yet to formalise their official league line-up for the 2021 NRL season, and Warren knows he will need to give an answer in the coming weeks. For the first time, he stopped short of declaring he is a certainty to be heard in 2021.

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Melbourne BBL teams to defy CA and stick with ‘Australia Day’

Cricket is divided over the controversial move to scrap the term Australia Day from its promotion of Big Bash League matches on January 26, with the competition’s two Melbourne teams to defy the move and another state chief saying staff would not be referring to the day any differently, reports Chris Barrett and Christian Nicolussi.

Cricket Australia was lashed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday for dropping the words Australia Day from its marketing campaign for three BBL games on January 26, choosing to refer to simply the date instead.

It was a recommendation made by CA’s First Nations Advisory Committee, which is co-chaired by board member and former international Mel Jones.

Teams are free to not follow the recommendation and there is anything but universal support within the game for the stance.

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