Roundup: Media Code, AAP troubles, NRL TV Deal, ABC crackdown + more

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• Google, Advertiser Sunday Mail Foundation, ABC complaints,  Peter FitzSimons & Stan Grant, The Australian makes editorial changes, Today show and 2021 Logies

Media Code

Senate committee finds media code should become law

The Morrison government will present its landmark news media bargaining code to parliament on Monday, following a three-year campaign to rein in the unregulated market practices of the big tech companies, reports News Corp’s James Madden and Geoff Chambers.

A Senate committee that ­reviewed the government’s mandatory media code has recommended the bill be passed, with Labor offering in-principle support. The bill in its current form would require the big tech companies, namely Google and Facebook, to compensate news media publishers for their content when it is displayed on their platforms.

The Weekend Australian ­understands the Morrison government will seek to push its legislation through the lower house on Monday. Debate on the bill could begin in the Senate as early as Tuesday, with the government hoping to have the code finally enshrined in law within a fortnight.

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Federal government concession sends tech giants scrambling

The two big US technology giants may not be required to pay media companies for articles that appear in their two most popular services – Google search and Facebook newsfeed – if they convince them to sign up to their news products, under a concession to the proposed laws being considered by the federal government, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios and Lisa Visentin.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg urged the tech giants to strike deals with news publishers outside of the media bargaining code in a series of high-level talks with Google and Facebook over the last two weeks. The government also said it was prepared to allow the tech giants not to pay media companies for news stories people read after searching on Google or scrolling through Facebook’s main newsfeed.

Searching on Google and scrolling through a personal Facebook newsfeed are two main ways people find news stories online. Potentially allowing the two technology giants to exempt these services from the bargaining code would represent a major concession from the government. Large media companies such as Guardian Australia, News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment Co (owner of this masthead) have lobbied to include Google search and Facebook’s newsfeed in any negotiations over how the tech companies should pay for the news that appears on their sites.

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Google’s Silva still in charge

Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Melanie Silva says she is working while on maternity leave to ensure the news media bargaining code works for the search behemoth, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

Silva gave birth to a son last month, the day after she gave evidence in the Senate hearing into the code during which she laid down the threat that Google would withdraw search if the code moved forward in its current format.

“While I’m currently on maternity leave, getting to a workable code is our number-one priority, so I’m still working on this,” she said in a statement.

“There’s also an incredible team who has been supporting this along the journey and Caroline Rainsford, our Google New Zealand country head, has stepped in as well until I return and Rhys Williams is running our ads business.”

Singapore-based Kate Beddoe, Google head of news, web & publishing product partnerships, APAC, is leading negotiations with news publishers.

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Business of Media

AAP flying into fresh financial turbulence

Regional media owner Antony Catalano says the embattled national newswire AAP is “doomed” and is reconsidering his contract, just weeks after the end of a non-compete period that prevented News Corp Australia from poaching AAP’s clients, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

The AAP newswire, which nearly collapsed last February because it was losing large amounts of money and lost the support of its shareholders, is trying to sign new deals with media companies and is asking the government for an annual payment to shore-up funding.

“It’s doomed because it was struggling financially when it was owned and backed by the major media players and it has no hope of survival without them,” Catalano said. “Consequently, we have to look at other options including News Corp, which is now out of its non-compete, and any other suitable alternative.”

News Corp launched its own newswire, which provides shared news articles for News Corp mastheads such as The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun. Some of AAP’s clients approached News Corp when the launch was announced but they were prevented from having discussions for six months because of a non-compete undertaking made during the sale of the newswire. News Corp has not pursued prospective clients such as Daily Mail Australia, Solstice Media, Seven or ACM since the non-compete was lifted.

A loss of any large contract to News Corp would be damaging for AAP, which is trying to secure long-term funding from the federal government. Industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential, also indicated AAP was trying to offer Nine some content, a sign that it is doing everything it can to survive.

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Angela Condous leaves a legacy of $20m at Advertiser Sunday Mail Foundation

In 1993, Rupert Murdoch and Peter Wylie began a search for a suitable candidate to act as patron of what was to become one of South Australia’s biggest charity fundraising bodies, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

The search didn’t last long. The first phone call made by Wylie – who was managing director of the state’s Advertiser Newspapers at the time – was to Angela Condous, who had just completed a six-year term as the lady mayoress of Adelaide.

More than a quarter of a century – and $20m – later, Condous has stepped down from her role as full-time patron of the Advertiser Sunday Mail Foundation, having presided over hundreds of charity events.

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News Brands

Senator David Van calls for independent review of ABC complaints

An independent complaints organisation should be set-up to handle complaints against the ABC amid growing concerns about the public broadcaster’s political bias, according to a Liberal senator, reports News Corp’s Lilly Vitorovich.

David Van, who sparred with ABC managing director David Anderson during Senate Estimates in November over ABC journalist Virginia Trioli’s incorrect claim that the Morrison government had cut the public broadcaster’s $1 billion-plus annual budget, wants ABC journalists to be held more accountable.

“I believe an independent complaints body — separate to the ABC — would give a better perception of fairness than the ABC handling complaints themselves,” he told The Australian. The ­Liberal senator from Victoria says ABC journalists are always questioning how the police, Australian Defence Force or any public organisation can investigate themselves, and the same applies to them.

“I think there just needs to be a bit more examination of both editorial and journalistic standards,” Senator Van said, adding that he raised the issue with Anderson during a meeting in Melbourne on Friday. “There needs to be a better way to do complaint handling, that is both independent and perceived to be independent.”

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Laura Tingle’s tweet trolling Scott Morrison and an ABC crackdown

The reverberations of last October’s headline-making late-night foray by Laura Tingle on to Twitter, in which she personally trolled Scott Morrison for “government ideological bastardry”, are still being felt, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

On Friday afternoon, ABC managing director David Anderson sent out an all-staff email, and his point couldn’t be clearer: from now on, he will be enforcing social media rules against staff who bring the public broadcaster into “disrepute” with rogue Twitter posts.

Anderson’s email to all ABC staff on Friday pointedly noted: “Any breach of ABC policies, guidelines and procedures, including the ABC Code of Conduct and the Guidelines for Personal Use of Social Media … may lead to disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment.”

He also noted that one of the ABC’s existing rules about ­social media was: “Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.”

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 Peter FitzSimons pulls Stan Grant’s invitation

There’s good news for anyone who has ever wanted to go to the Australia Day/Invasion Day/Independence Day bash hosted by Peter FitzSimons and Lisa Wilkinson. A couple of spots on the guest list are up for grabs reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Stan Grant’s satire of the bash in his chapter of The Australian’s serialised summer novel — Oh Matilda: Who Bloody Killed Her? — has put Grant and his partner, fellow ABC presenter Tracey Holmes, without a golden ticket.

The Bandanna Man himself has publicly confirmed this on Sunday, revealing the tight guest list for their annual Sydney harbourside party will be revised next year.

“As to those people who have contacted me asking why they weren’t invited to the annual party, fear not. A couple of vacancies have recently opened up,” he wrote in column on Sunday.

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Political trio to lead nation’s best coverage

Simon Benson, has been ­appointed political editor of The Australian reports the outlet.

Political analyst, Dennis Shanahan, will take on a broader role as national editor, writing across federal and state politics and public policy. The Australian has also appointed former Canberra bureau chief Geoff Chambers as its chief political correspondent.

Editor-in-Chief Christopher Dore said the trio would lead the most insightful political coverage in the nation when access to trusted information was critical to readers’ lives.

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Television

Today show stands down producer Tom Nicol after rape charge

Today show staffer Tom Nicol has been benched “indefinitely”, as the baby-faced TV exec stands accused of sexually assaulting a young woman, believed to have been known to him, a fortnight ago, reports News Corp’s Amy Harris.

The former Today chief-of-staff faced court on Wednesday in the wake of sordid accusations, which he strongly denied, also involving a late-night drinking session and illicit drugs, according to police.

A Nine spokeswoman on Friday confirmed the 32-year-old, who is still listed on his LinkedIn page as Today’s supervising producer, has been stood down following his arrest.

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Logie Awards: TVs night of nights making a big comeback

The Logies, Australian television’s most enduring and celebrated awards, are on track to return this year after the COVID-19 crisis saw them cancelled in 2020, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Not only was the famous gala ceremony scuttled last year, the actual awards themselves were shelved meaning that 2019 Gold Logie winner Tom Gleeson is still Australia’s current gold statuette holder.

After the void of 2020, the institution that is the Logies is quietly getting back up to speed with planning underway on exactly what form the event will take this year.

In recent weeks TV networks have been busily submitting stars and show bios to be considered for inclusion in the voting shortlist for each of the Logie categories.

While no date for the awards has yet been confirmed, and it is still to be determined if there will be a gala celebrity studded event for the announcement of the winners, what is clear is that unlike last year the gongs will be handed out and the stars of the small screen will be celebrated.

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Sport

NRL eyes new TV partner

The NRL is about to enter talks with free-to-air networks to chase a new TV deal that may not involve Channel 9 but could deliver the game a $750 million windfall from the end of next season, reports News Corp’s Phil Rothfield.

Nine negotiated a cut-price broadcast deal midway through last season at the height of the COVID pandemic when there was concern about the viability of media companies and the future of all sporting rights around the world.

Nine’s deal is up at the end of next season and the NRL can’t just sit back and wait. They have locked in a seven-year agreement with Fox Sports but need certainty around a free-to-air arrangement for three weekly games, the grand final and the showpiece State of Origin series.

Nine is in a senior management transition stage with chief executive Hugh Marks standing down and the board still interviewing several candidates to replace him.

The network had a rich history in cricket broadcasting but pulled the pin two years ago. There are fears they could so the same with rugby league to save money.

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