Roundup: Jackie O on her radio break, The Oz, Sarah Abo

Jackie O bachelorette

News and Fox merger, Denham Hitchcock, Reach to axe 200 roles, Ash Barty

Business of Media

Murdochs face first big test of $39b News and Fox merger

The Murdochs and shareholders are bracing to hear from independent committees set up to assess the blockbuster $US27 billion ($39.2 billion) proposal to reunite News Corp with US-entertainment company Fox via a merger, reports Nine Publishing’s Mark Di Stefano.

The two committees composed of independent board members from News Corp and Fox have been analysing the merits of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch’s plan to recombine the family’s sprawling media assets under one umbrella since October.

The proposal’s special committees may give the first indication about whether they will give the green light to the deal this month, said a person familiar with the matter. Other details such as a valuation for the combined company may come with the initial guidance from the committees, the person said.

The groups’ non-Murdoch affiliated directors are led by UK-based investor Masroor Siddiqui for News Corp and former BHP chairman Jac Nasser for Fox.

It is the first hurdle the Murdochs must clear if they are to push ahead with the merger, which would combine News Corp’s US, UK and Australian newspaper operations, digital real estate assets and book publisher Harper Collins with Fox’s US-based Fox News and Fox Sports brands.

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Denham Hitchcock resigns from Seven to start very different adventure

Australia’s great resignation of on-air TV talent is continuing into 2023, with Seven reporter Denham Hitchcock revealing he’s resigned from the network, reports News Corp’s Nick Bond.

But he hasn’t defected to a rival network – instead, Hitchock’s taking a break from his 28 years as a TV journalist because “the ocean is calling once more” and he intends to sail the around the Pacfic Ocean on his boat.

The 46-year-old declared that the new year meant a “new start” in a recent Instagram post.

“This is normally where people say they need to spend more time with their family, and that is certainly true, my girls are everything to me, but there’s other reasons,” he wrote, announcing his resignation from Seven. Hitchock and wife Mari share a young daughter, Kaia.

“In my 28 years as a TV journalist I’ve worked in 7 different newsrooms in three countries. Predominantly, doing stories about terrible things that happen to good people, and each of those stories left an impact. There’s only one lesson from them, time waits for no one, and dreams shouldn’t be left on the pillow,” he continued.

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News Brands

The Australian winds back its youth publication, The Oz

News Corp’s flagship local publication, The Australian, is scaling down its youth publisher The Oz after less than a year in operation, making it a social media-only play, reports Nine Publishing’s Nick Bonyhady.

It has not published any new stories on The Oz’s dedicated section of The Australian’s website in January but continued to put posts online via social media sites such as Instagram in what appears to be a model for its future.

The Oz brand will continue its strong presence on social media and its important role attracting new audiences to The Australian’s digital platform,” a spokesman for The Australian said. “We will retain The Oz’s innovative approach to digital journalism, social media and design.”

The move winds back The Australian’s hopes of capturing a new, younger audience via the youth outlet.

Reporters at The Oz, which launched in April last year and had produced original stories aimed at a younger audience than the primary Australian broadsheet, will be redeployed within the broader business.

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Mirror and Express publisher Reach to axe 200 roles in £30m cost-cutting drive

The publisher of the Mirror and the Express is to cut 200 roles in a £30m cost-cutting drive, after advertisers failed to spend heavily through the World Cup, Black Friday and Christmas season reports The Guardian’s Mark Sweney.

Reach, which also owns hundreds of regional titles including the Manchester Evening News, Birmingham Mail and Liverpool Echo, reported a slump of 20.2% in print advertising and 5.9% in digital ads in the traditionally strong fourth quarter.

The newspaper group said this was largely because of a significantly lower than anticipated benefit from traditionally stronger ad spending around Black Friday and Christmas, which has affected the whole sector. It added: “More broadly, we have also seen the continued impact of macroeconomic and consumer uncertainty, reflected in slowing market demand for advertising.”

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Jackie O spills on health struggles after extended radio break

Jackie “O” Henderson has opened up about stepping back from her high-profile radio show, admitting she was “burnt out”, reports News Corp’s Bronte Coy.

The presenter, 47, stunned listeners of the long-running Kyle and Jackie O Show late last year when she abruptly announced that she was taking an extended break for health reasons.

Ahead of her return to the airwaves alongside Kyle Sandilands next week, Jackie revealed on Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday that she’d made the dramatic decision to step back after “getting sick a lot” and being “thrown around by Covid”.

“You just worry you’re letting people down,” she confessed of her sudden break.

“Kyle was amazing about it, he was so supportive. He was messaging me all the time. We really respect each other at the end of the day, we know that sometimes a line might get crossed but I think overall we both kind of know where that line is.”

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How Sarah Abo landed one of the biggest hosting roles on Australian TV

This time last year, 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo was, for the first time, filling in as a guest host on the Today show. While nervous about the new challenge, knowing that three and a half hours of live TV five days a week from 5.30am wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, she remembers that, “from day one, it felt really comfortable”, reports Nine Publishing’s Debi Enker.

Because she likes working collaboratively and is an experienced media performer with a solid history at three networks, she credits that sense of ease to “an incredible team, so you never feel like you’re on your own”. And, she adds, “That’s also what I loved about 60 Minutes; that sense of collaboration, of everyone having the same goal.”

Abo, 37, recalls that her friends told her that they knew she was relaxed in the Today role when they heard the full-throated cascade that is “the Sarah laugh”. Darren Wick, director of news and current affairs at Nine, also recognised that the summer stand-in seemed at home on the set. “She was warm, engaging, curious and fun,” he says, “everything that Aussies want in breakfast television presenters. It’s a difficult and nuanced program to host, but it was obvious that Sarah had a natural flair for it.”

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Sports Media

Barty Inc: Why the retired tennis star has Federer and Jackman covered

Ash Barty’s popularity and commercial appeal knows no bounds, with the former world No.1 tennis ace remaining hot property for sponsors, reports Nine Publishing’s Scott Spits.

The roll call of companies attached to the Barty brand is wide and diverse, from sporting apparel and equipment manufacturers to a major Australian telecommunications provider.

There are no signs corporate Australia is tiring of the Barty party, even though their logos can no longer appear on her playing apparel for global exposure.

The 26-year-old remains No.1 in a measurement of the marketability of athletes in Australia – Barty, interestingly, ranks ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a tennis-dominated field, with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott in fourth spot.

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