Roundup: NRL TV deal, MAFS, Squid Game, Louise Milligan + more

married at first sight

• Ben Roberts-Smith, Neil Mitchell, The Block, and Western Australia’s Telethon 2021

Business of Media

Auditor-General finds ‘no policy or precedent’ for ABC to pay Louise Milligan’s legal costs

The Auditor-General has found the ABC did not have documented advice or policies to support its decision to pay star reporter Louise Milligan’s $200,000 in legal costs after she was sued by federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming over a series of tweets where she incorrectly accused Laming of “upskirting”, reports SMH‘s Lisa Visentin.

In a formal response to an investigation request instigated by Liberal senator Eric Abetz, Auditor-General Grant Hehir concluded he was unable “to form a view on the appropriateness” of the ABC’s decision to pay $79,000 damages plus legal costs to Laming to settle the case.

Hehir said the ABC had advised him its decision to pay Milligan’s personal legal costs “was a business decision of the ABC, and the ABC was under no express legal obligation to meet these costs”. Milligan was represented by external legal firm Bird & Bird.

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‘Odd’: TV journalist and ufologist’s secretive report about Ben Roberts-Smith

Ben Roberts-Smith’s billionaire backers enlisted a star TV journalist and UFO researcher to run a secretive counter investigation into war crime allegations, a court has been told, reports News Corp‘s Perry Duffin.

But the report, which is so closely guarded even the elite soldier has not seen it, may not see the light of day, as his lawyers try to keep it from getting out.

Australia’s most decorated living soldier is suing Nine and its journalists, claiming they falsely accused him of killing six unarmed prisoners in Afghanistan. Nine says its reports are correct and Roberts-Smith is a war criminal.

The long-running defamation trial is in limbo after the coronavirus outbreak in Sydney cut crucial SAS witnesses out of the courtroom.

But details of a “curious” investigation, launched by billionaires and headed by top journalist Ross Coulthart, emerged in an administrative hearing this week.

Justice Wendy Abraham on Monday was told Roberts-Smith’s bosses at Seven Network approached the veteran journalist Coulthart in mid-2018.

Seven director Bruce McWilliam asked Coulthart to dig into rumours that Roberts-Smith had committed atrocities during his deployments, the court was told.

Seven wanted Coulthart to investigate, the court was told, exactly what Nine journalists Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie planned to publish about Roberts-Smith.

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Catherine Andrews bans Neil Mitchell on Twitter in ongoing feud

Radio host Neil Mitchell is still in the dark about his increasing political feud with Premier Daniel Andrews and now his wife Catherine, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

Andrews hasn’t appeared on the 3AW broadcaster’s program for four years, with Andrews blocking Mitchell and his producer Heidi Murphy on Twitter.

“I’ve been banned by him, he won’t talk to me,’’ Mitchell said.

“I’ve had various politicians from both sides over the years who have banned me from interviews going back to Bob Hawke, Julie Bishop for a while, Julia Gillard, Scott Morrison banned me briefly before he was Prime Minister. But I’ve never had a partner block me on Twitter before.”

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Squid Game delivers Netflix a $1.2b windfall

Netflix estimates that its latest megahit, Squid Game will create almost $USUS900 million ($US1.2 billion) in value for the company, according to figures seen by Bloomberg, underscoring the windfall that one megahit can generate in the streaming era, reports SMH’s Lucas Shaw.

Netflix differs from movie studios and TV networks in that doesn’t generate sales based on specific titles, instead using its catalogue and a steady drumbeat of new releases to entice customers every week. But the company does have a wealth of data concerning what its customers watch, which the company uses to determine the value derived from individual programs.

Squid Game stands out both for its popularity, and its relatively low cost. The South Korean show, about indebted people in a deadly contest for a cash prize, generated $US891.1 million in impact value, a metric the company uses to assess the performance from individual shows. The show cost just $US21.4 million to produce – about $US2.4 million an episode. Those figures are just for the first season, and stem from a document that details Netflix’s performance metrics for the show.

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Controversial MAFS couple Melissa and Bryce welcome twin boys

Married At First Sight’s Melissa Rawson and Bryce Ruthven have welcomed their twin boys 10 weeks early, reports News Corp’s Jackie Epstein.

The controversial couple were shocked but overjoyed at becoming parents on Saturday.

“We had planned to spend the weekend building the nursery and setting things up for the twins, but that all changed early Saturday morning,’’ Ruthven said in a statement to New Idea.

“Even though the boys have arrived early, they’re doing really well and are getting the best care possible.

“The staff at Frankston Hospital were amazing with Liss making her feel comfortable and we can’t thank them enough for all their efforts.

“The boys are going to spend a few weeks in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), they’re responding well to treatment and are squeezing our fingers which is the best feeling in the world.”

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Block Open for Inspection is off again

For the second year running The Block will be forced to abandon plans for its annual Open for Inspection event due to local restrictions, reports TV Tonight.

Nine sources confirm the usual Block Open for Inspection won’t take place this year. However, the Auction is pressing ahead, albeit with some changes.

Earlier this year executive producer Julian Cress told TV Tonight, “We want to try and put on a Community Day to friends, neighbours, community groups that were associated with this season. We did some really nice charity work across the series with some local groups. We want to invite them along to see how it all turned out.”

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$62m as Telethon breaks new record

Western Australia’s Telethon 2021 has smashed a fundraising record with a whopping $62,115,467 raised for sick children -blitzing 2020’s record of $46.3 million, reports TV Tonight.

The event included Birds of Tokyo, cast and crew from the Wizard of Oz, Perth rock star End of Fashion
Indigenous artist Gina Williams, The Ten Tenors, soprano superstar and The Voice winner Bella Taylor Smith from the Sunrise studio.

Premier Mark McGowan donated $10 million on behalf of the State Government.

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Sport Media

The uneasy relationship between the NRL and Nine as broadcast deal looms

The Herald and The Age reported the news on Sunday evening, and on Monday morning all three major Sydney newspapers ran stories, albeit with different figures, sparking speculation a deal could be just days away, reports SMH‘s Andrew Webster.

Not so fast, said well-placed sources at both the NRL and Nine when contacted by this column: no deal was imminent, and if it was forthcoming, it wouldn’t be this week.

The reason is the considerable gap between what the NRL wants Nine to pay (believed to be $120 million per year) and what Nine is prepared to pay (about $100 million to $105 million per year).

NRL powerbrokers were also cranky about reports that Seven had turned its back on negotiations, insisting discussions were “ongoing”.

Just how serious Seven, which has the rights to AFL and cricket, and Ten, which is looking to turbo-charge its new streaming service Paramount+, has been about rugby league remains unclear.

But if you push aside the subterfuge and posturing, it’s obvious the NRL wants to do a deal with Nine — and Nine, which has held the rights since 1992, wants to do a deal with the NRL.

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