Roundup: Media reform green paper, Sports TV rights, Fox Bet, Ray Strange + more

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• HT&E, ABC, SCA, Google, Roberts-Smith v Nine, Christian O’Connell, Kyle Sandilands, The Weakest Link, and State of Origin doco

Business of Media

News Corp closes in on FOX Bet launch deal with gambling guru Tripp

News Corp Australia is in advanced talks with a consortium linked to bookmaker Matthew Tripp to launch a new wagering outfit that would reshape both the local industry and the battle unfolding for Tabcorp’s betting division, report The Sydney Morning Herald’s Patrick Hatch and Zoe Samios.

Industry sources, who spoke anonymously because the discussions are confidential, said News Corp is also in talks with Lachlan Murdoch’s Fox Corp to secure licensing rights to use the FOX Bet brand for the new business.

The launch is expected to occur under the Murdoch empire’s local arm, News Corp, marking its first major play in the local wagering industry.

News Corp ran an expression of interest among Australia’s established bookmakers last year to find a local partner to launch FOX Bet but sources said its preferred option is now to launch as a standalone outfit with equity partners tied to local online gambling pioneer Tripp, the former boss of Sportsbet and founder of BetEasy.

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Soprano sale offers plenty of options for HT&E

Here, There & Everywhere’s (HT&E) boss Ciaran Davis says the company is in no hurry to spend the windfall it will pocket from the sale of its stake in tech group Soprano, which could give it a war chest equivalent to half its market capitalisation of $485 million, reports the SMH‘s Colin Kruger.

“We’re not ruling out anything at the moment,” said Davis, adding that future consolidation of the Australian media market should offer up opportunities for HT&E to exploit.

“We’ve got a board and a management team that understands consolidation, particularly out of home,” he said with reference to the outdoor advertising market. “And we’re in a good position to take advantage of that, but we’re not in any rush”.

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Southern Cross could bleed millions on affiliate deal switch

Radio and regional television company Southern Cross Media could lose almost $30 million in advertising dollars annually after failing to secure a new multi-year deal to broadcast Nine Network programs outside of capital cities, reports the SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

Analysis of data from the Standard Media Index (SMI), obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, shows the amount of money Southern Cross could lose from advertisers from the east coast of Australia when an affiliate deal with Nine Entertainment Co ends in July. Nine, the owner of this masthead, signed a seven-year affiliate deal with Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corp in March, leaving Southern Cross to strike an agreement with Network Ten.

Southern Cross has told investors it should be able to offset the loss of its Nine deal by giving less money away in a new agreement with its future affiliate partner.

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‘Woefully inadequate’: ABC cops stick for slack social media policy

Liberal Senator and former 7.30 journalist Sarah Henderson says the behaviour of some ABC employees on social media is undermining the public broadcaster’s independence and posting political opinions on Twitter should be a sackable offence for ABC reporters, reports SMH‘s Lisa Visentin.

Senator Henderson said professional standards had declined considerably since her almost decade-long career at the ABC in the 1990s, and branded the broadcaster’s social media policy “woefully inadequate”.

“The sort of conduct permitted by current ABC management would have been a sackable offence 25 years ago,” Senator Henderson told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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How Google boss Sundar Pichai learned to live with Australia’s media laws

For most of January, Google was locked in an almighty stand-off with the Australian government that captured the attention of the media and technology worlds. The $US1.6 trillion ($2 trillion) internet giant was fighting hard against new laws designed to force it to pay publishers for news content, reports the SMH‘s Zoe Samios and John McDuling.

It launched a national advertising campaign against the legislation, warned users it would ruin their experience online and even threatened publicly to turn off its ubiquitous search engine in the country.

Now, barely five months on, the search giant is singing a different tune. And in his first public comments on the matter, the company’s global chief executive Sundar Pichai has even expressed a degree of support for the government’s contentious media bargaining laws.

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News Brands

News Corp photographer Ray Strange, who shot Hawke cigar pic, dies in Sydney

Veteran News Corp photographer Ray Strange, who captured some of the country’s most iconic political moments as he travelled the world, has died in Sydney, reports News Corp’s Janet Fife-Yeomans.

Political journalist Malcolm Farr, who worked with Strange in the Canberra press gallery for over 20 years, said his photographs didn’t need words, they told the story in themselves.

He said when a bank of photographers lined up to take a photo, Strange had the eye and the authority to step forward and set up the shot as he cut through the ego of serving and former prime ministers who all respected his news sense.

Born in New Zealand, Strange, 72, only recently moved from his beloved Canberra after farewelling colleagues at a gathering on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. He died in a Sydney care home after suffering a stroke in January.

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Quentin Bryce declines request to testify in Roberts-Smith v Nine case

Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce – who pinned the Victoria Cross to Ben Roberts-Smith’s chest – will decline to ­appear as a character witness at the alleged war criminal’s defamation hearing against Nine newspapers, reports The Australian’s Ben Packham.

The Weekend Australian has reported Roberts-Smith paid an unannounced visit to Dame Quentin at her Brisbane home on Wednesday morning, seeking to apologise for failing to contact her before his legal team announced she would appear in court to vouch for his reputation.

The 78-year-old, whose husband recently died, was surprised by the visit, which was described by those close to her as uninvited and “inappropriate”.

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Gold 104’s Christian O’Connell reveals true motivation behind move to Australia

Christian O’Connell has revealed crippling anxiety attacks led him to quit his top-rating UK radio show and move to Australia seeking stimulation for his soul, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

O’Connell has long been coy about the true motivation for his surprise move Down Under in 2018 to join GOLD FM, but in his memoir No One Listens To Your Dad’s Show, the breakfast radio ratings magnet has opened up about his secret mental health crisis that resulted in him moving hemispheres.

“I was 44 when my life fell apart,” O’Connell said.

“The panic and anxiety attacks were so severe I could not do the radio show and yet I had it all, I had the number one show, I had everything I had ever wanted.

“It was serious. I was having to call in sick. (I was) unable to work and terrified I was going a bit mad.”

No One Listens To Your Dad’s Show is published by Allen & Unwin and is released this week.

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Kyle Sandilands on complainers, censors and acting your age

Kyle Sandilands featured on the cover of News Corp’s Stellar magazine on Sunday. Here he answers one of the questions posed by journalist Joe Hildebrand:

I don’t set out to offend anyone ever, but it’s just my truth or humour, or if I see an opportunity I’ll throw it in there for the lolz. And I think people who listen to the show religiously, which is a lot of people, that’s just what they like. And every now and then a fringe listener will hear something or read something and be outraged.

It’s weird because I’ve never complained, ever. Even if I was at a restaurant and there was sh*t in the food, I still wouldn’t complain. I’m just not a complainer. I’m not a dobber and I’m not a complainer. Although I am a bit of a whinger…

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Spectrum cuts would endanger free-to-air TV, Greg Hywood warns

Reducing the amount of radio frequency spectrum available to free-to-air television broadcasters would endanger the industry, the chairman of Free TV has warned, reports News Corp’s James Madden.

Greg Hywood, who heads the industry’s peak representative body, said the television landscape is “far different” to what it was just a few years ago, and the federal government needed to consider the shifting circumstances of the nation’s free-to-air broadcasters when undertaking policy reform.

Hywood, a former Fairfax Media CEO, was speaking ahead of the public release this week of Free TV’s submission in response to the federal government’s media reform green paper.

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Netflix and local TV industry united on no content quotas for streaming apps

Netflix is urging the government to abandon a proposal to introduce content quotas for international streaming services, warning it would raise the costs of creating programs and put further pressure on an already under-resourced production sector, reports the SMH’s Zoe Samios.

The streaming giant, which says it invested more than $110 million in local drama and children’s programs last financial year, also claimed there was no need for a requirement that forced it to invest a percentage of its revenue in creating local programs.

The data was provided by Netflix in response to a federal government green paper that is proposing a raft of changes aimed at creating a more sustainable commercial television industry.

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Magda Szubanski’s tweet on Jenny Morrison causes tension at Nine

We normally hear about ABC personalities getting into trouble through partisan tweets. But in recent weeks, the top-rating commercial network Nine has been forced to deal with the fallout of one of its biggest stars wading into politics, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Now Diary has confirmed from Nine insiders that The Weakest Link host Magda Szubanski’s controversial tweet last month about the Prime Minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, did indeed cause a stir at the network’s highest executive levels.

As one Nine insider has put it: “The one thing you don’t want before a show launch is a scandal involving comments singling out one side of politics. No one wants to offend half of the potential audience.”

The first episode of The Weakest Link reboot last week attracted a lukewarm 423,000 viewers in five cities at 9pm — when it was beaten by the ABC’s Love on the Spectrum. That led to obvious questions about whether Szubanski’s social media activity had lowered Nine’s final number.

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Too many players, not enough sport: ‘seminal’ moment for streaming war

Nine’s Stan Sports and Foxtel’s Kayo Sports have been going head to head in the local sports streaming war and last week a new player entered the ring: ViacomCBS’ Network 10 and Paramount+, reports AFR‘s Miranda Ward.

Ten and the yet-to-launch streaming service Paramount+ signed a $200 million deal with Australian Professional Leagues to broadcast A-League and W-League soccer, with the amount of cash splashed sending some jaws in the media industry dropping.

The new player in an already crowded sports field sends the streaming war towards a battle which could see millions spent for rights.

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TV networks want key sporting moments to remain free

Australia’s major free-to-air television companies are calling on the Morrison government to extend anti-siphoning regulations to online platforms to ensure Australians do not have to pay to view sport, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

In response to the government’s Media Reform green paper, which included reforms to overhaul the broadcast licensing system and impose Australian content quotas on the likes of Netflix and other global streaming services, the free-to-air television lobby group is urging the government to ensure Nine, Seven and Ten will have first pick of certain sporting events, such as the NRL and AFL, to broadcast before rival subscription offerings.

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Origin doco scrapped at 11th hour as rebellious players flex power

The player revolt against Peter V’landys and the NRL administration has cost the players around $140,000 after the production of a behind-the-scenes State of Origin documentary was cancelled at the 11th hour, reports the SMH‘s Michael Chammas.

The NRL has been working for two years to try and get the documentary off the ground, and it seemed as though the planets were aligning for it to happen this year.

That changed last Friday, when the NRL received an email from the Queensland Rugby League, NSW Rugby League and RLPA to inform them that the players wouldn’t provide the access required to make the film a reality.

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