Roundup: Prime Media sale, Sharri Markson, The Project + more

Seven West Media

• Plus: The ABC, Andrew Probyn, Broad Radio, and Michael Vaughan

Business of Media

Behind the two-year battle of the billionaires for Prime Media

James Warburton did not want to fail twice. So, when the Seven West Media chief executive called his chairman Kerry Stokes on October 29 to discuss the final conditions of a bid for regional broadcaster Prime Media, he was relieved to get the approval, reports SMH’s Zoe Samios.

Stokes’ blessing for a sweetened offer was the final hurdle to clear for Warburton, who had aspired to create a truly national television network since he returned to the offices of Seven in August 2019. The deal, worth $132 million, was agreed by both parties last Saturday and announced to the ASX last Monday.

The acquisition of Prime Media, which broadcasts Seven’s programs such as The Voice and SAS Australia in non-metropolitan areas, was always meant to be a straightforward transaction that would boost Seven’s earnings and give Warburton a bigger empire.

Instead, it became a two-year stalemate, and a clash of some of the biggest egos in Australian media including three billionaires – Stokes, WIN Corp owner Bruce Gordon, Melbourne financier Alex Waislitz as well as Antony Catalano, real estate entrepreneur and would be regional media mogul.

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ABC finalises deal with Google, closes in on Facebook

ABC has confirmed a deal with Google and is close to finalising another with Facebook, reports TV Tonight.

Speaking yesterday at Charles Sturt University, managing director David Anderson said, “I am pleased to announce today that we have just finalised a multi-year agreement that will see ABC content on the Google News Showcase.

“Negotiations with Facebook are well advanced and I am hopeful that we will be able to finalise an agreement with that platform by the end of the month. These agreements will provide a significant boost to our services in regional Australia.

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ABC running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal case involving TV show The Checkout

The ABC is facing a legal bill that could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars over a long-running dispute being fought out in court over consumer affairs program The Checkout, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

The case has resulted in the public broadcaster being criticised in court for failing to be a “model litigant” in the matter – despite ABC chair David Anderson telling Senate Estimates a fortnight ago the public broadcaster was bound by “model litigant rules”.

The dispute started in mid-2019 and has ended up in NSW’s Supreme Court with The Checkout’s executive producer Julian Morrow — one of the founders of The Chaser — pitted against former business partner Nicholas ­Murray.

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ABC should punish, not reward, pricey social media blunders: MPs

Federal MPs are demanding the ABC revise its social media code of conduct to include real consequences, including termination, if journalists bring the national broadcaster into disrepute, reports News Corp’s James Morrow.

The call comes after it was revealed ABC managing director David Anderson authorised the payment of at least $184,000 to cover the legal fees and defamation costs incurred by Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan over tweets made on her personal Twitter account about Coalition MP Andrew Laming.

“What I’m striving for is to see that people are professional at work, professional on social media, and they’re not weighing into partisanship because for an organisation that receives a billion dollars a year in taxpayer funds, the least the taxpayers can expect is the people will be impartial,” NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg said.

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News Brands

US Congress to take leaf out of Sharri Markson’s book on Wuhan Covid leak

When Sharri Markson set out to investigate what really happened in Wuhan she certainly didn’t envisage that she would end up addressing US Congress members on her findings, reports News Corp’s Sophie Elsworth.

Yet on Tuesday, The Australian’s investigations writer will be doing exactly that after being invited to a Congressional briefing to discuss her revelations of the origins of the pandemic that featured in her book, What really happened in Wuhan.

Senior US political representatives took serious notice of Markson’s research and she will deliver a 30-minute speech from Australia via video link, delving into her world-exclusive reports into the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab leak theory.

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ABC dismisses Fox News’ Four Corners complaint

The ABC’s internal complaints’ division has ruled the national broadcaster did not breach its code of practice in a two-part series that focused on the way the Rupert Murdoch-owned US cable TV network, Fox News, covered the 2020 general election, reports SMH‘s Zoe Samios.

The ABC’s internal complaints’ division has informed the Murdoch-controlled cable network it had not upheld any of the concerns outlined in a 27-page complaint letter sent in early November. Sources close to Fox News said the company has not made a final decision on whether to escalate its concerns and is still assessing its options.

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment before deadline. An ABC spokesperson declined to comment.

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‘Bloody nonsense’: Andrew Probyn takes on Scott Morrison

If the Glasgow COP26 climate change summit and the G20 meeting in Rome that preceded it are any guide, things could get pretty heated in the upcoming federal election campaign between ABC political editor Andrew Probyn and PM Scott Morrison, reports News Corp’s Nick Tabakoff.

Diary is told “Cyclone Probyn” posed no end of challenges for the PM during his brief but eventful overseas trip, which ended with the ABC political editor accusing the government of spouting “bloody nonsense” about him.

First there was the ABC political editor’s surprise interception of an angry French leader Emmanuel Macron in Rome, which set the tone for much of the PM’s visit. Then, by the time the Australian entourage reached Glasgow, Probyn visibly annoyed Morrison in press conferences over the alleged leaking of a private text message from Macron.

Finally, at the end of the trip, Probyn published a scathing “analysis” piece accusing Morrison of being “vindictive” towards Macron.

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Ex-radio star takes on networks to deliver radio by women, for women

Jo Stanley, a familiar voice to those in Melbourne, is taking to the airwaves once again as she creates a radio network for the women the traditional world of radio broadcast typically ignores, reports AFR’s Miranda Ward.

The chief executive of Broad Radio, and the former co-host of Melbourne’s Jo and Lehmo for Breakfast on ARN’s Gold 104.3, is out to create a radio network for women with the music they love and content they are interested in.

“I witnessed firsthand when I was doing breakfast radio for Fox and Gold that beautiful moment when you know you’re making a difference to someone’s day. Often people are really isolated and lonely, we’ve seen that so much in the last couple of years. I just love radio for that,” she said.

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Ratings on the slide for Network Ten

Network 10 insists its stranglehold on the youth market remains firm and is driving revenue growth at the commercial TV operation, despite dramatic ratings slides this year in several of its heavily promoted programs, report News Corp’s James Madden and Sophie Elsworth.

While its livestreaming and catch-up service 10 Play has enjoyed 10 per cent growth in 2021, the network’s main free-to-air channel has suffered a succession of ratings disasters, with MasterChef Australia’s audience share plummeting 38 per cent year-on-year, The Bachelorette falling more than 30 per cent, The Bachelor slipping 26 per cent, and The Masked Singer down 25 per cent against its 2020 series.

But perhaps of most concern to the network’s bosses is the gradual decline of The Project, with the flagship panel show slumping to an all-time ratings low this year.

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Poor ratings bad news for The Project co-hosts Lisa Wilkinson and Carrie Bickmore

With ratings plummeting to an all-time low, television circles are buzzing with talk The Project’s most high-profile hosts will be asked to take pay cuts, reports News Corp’s Briana Domjen.

Ratings for the Channel 10 evening news panel show are down 20 per cent year on year, luring just 367,000 viewers (five city metro) this week, having shed almost 30 per cent of its 2011 audience of 538,000.

Nationally, the show is recording similar percentage drops, from 725,000 in 2011 to 490,000 now. The program made its debut to 1.2 million viewers in 2009.

Sunday Confidential has heard hosts Carrie Bickmore and Lisa Wilkinson face pay cuts as executives try to give the show a lifeline.

Wilkinson, who joined the program in 2017 after leaving Network Nine, is believed to be on $1.7 million, while Bickmore, who has been on the show since its inception, is said to be earning $1.5 million.

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Sport Media

Michael Vaughan taken off air by BBC in race row

Michael Vaughan has been withdrawn from his BBC 5 Live radio show after a second Asian cricketer said he heard the former England captain make a racist comment while playing for Yorkshire in 2009, reports News Corp’s Matt Lawton and Martyn Ziegler.

Vaughan said at the weekend he was named in the 100-page report on claims of institutional racism at the county after allegations by Azeem Rafiq, 30, who had spells at Yorkshire in 2008-14 and 2016-18. Vaughan said he was “gobsmacked” he was in the report and denied the allegations, relating to a match at Trent Bridge.

Nevertheless, the BBC has made the “editorial” decision to remove Vaughan from The Tuffers and Vaughan Cricket Show.

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