Rejection of competition complaints wasn’t what the Australian was hoping for. Plus: Ray Hadley sees the light.
A $1.2m inquiry, which included a fact-finding mission to London for the expert panel, found this week that the ABC and the SBS were not disrupting News Corp’s business model by offering free online news and streaming, and the biggest threat was Facebook and Google. The Australian, which had campaigned hard for the inquiry, called it “a bitter pill” to swallow.
“It is glaringly obvious the ABC enjoys a competitive advantage over commercial media,” blasted the Oz commentator Mark Day in defiance of the actual evidence in the report by the economist Robert Kerr, the commercial TV lobbyist Julie Flynn and the former ABC TV executive and producer Sandra Levy. “It is gifted a billion dollars a year of your money and doesn’t need to bother about small matters like raising enough revenue to fund its business or deliver a profit to shareholders. But in the world of bureaucratic gobbledygook, this does not mean it has an unfair advantage.”
Ordered by the communications minister, Mitch Fifield, to get Pauline Hanson on side for his media reforms, the competitive neutrality inquiry was an expensive exercise which even required the panel to hop on a plane to examine the BBC model of public broadcasting. The comprehensive rejection of all the complaints from the commercial broadcasters, Fairfax Media and Rupert Murdoch’s outlets was not the result the Australian was hoping for and the paper’s headlines didn’t exactly match the spirit of the report.
The ABC, the SBS and Labor welcomed the report. Weekly Beast understands that the ABC is bolstered by the findings and has written to the government in the lead-up to the midyear economic forecast on Monday. The ABC wants the government to reverse its decision to pause indexation in the May budget, a decision which amounted to an $84m cut. The ABC is also asking for assurance that a further $43m targeted grant to support news gathering will be forthcoming, according to sources.
In the 2017 budget, Foxtel was inexplicably gifted $30m over four years to “support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation”.
Neither Foxtel nor the government explained why they got the money or how they would spend it.
But now a hefty fine of $25,200 imposed by the communications watchdog means Foxtel has to hand at least some money back to the government. An investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Foxtel was using aggressive marketing practices and refusing to end calls when consumers wanted to get off the phone.
“Consumers have the right to end a telemarketing call at any time during the call,” said the Acma chair, Nerida O’Loughlin. “It’s unacceptable for a call to continue once someone has indicated they want it to stop. The Acma will act when aggressive marketing practices don’t meet acceptable standards.”
Ray Hadley on the road to Damascus
The Sydney shock-jock Ray Hadley has made a name for himself by, among other things, pressuring governments and courts to be tough on crime. A recent example: when a man was acquitted of drug-driving charges by a Lismore court, Hadley slammed the decision as “bizarre” and “codswallop” and insulted locals by referring to the area as “the bong capital of Australia”.
Then there was the time when he was furious at the four-year jail term handed to the one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge. “I’ve had an absolute gutful, as has everyone in the state of NSW,” Hadley said. “We’ve got a weak-kneed attorney general and attorney general’s department in NSW.”
Hadley has also been known to accuse the NSW government of being “soft on crime”, and repeatedly saying he fights for victims of crime and not criminals.
But when his police officer son Daniel Hadley was arrested for drug possession, Hadley became a protective father, asking for forgiveness and understanding for his son. He said Daniel Hadley had been battling with mental health issues and suffering from PTSD.
The Hadleys made an application for the charge to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act, and this week a magistrate dismissed the charges.
After the dismissal Hadley said he had had no idea how much his son had been struggling with PTSD from his time with the police force and he’d missed the signals to help him.
“He’s not going to come out of here saying, ‘You beauty, I got a section 32, I’m better,’ because he’s not better,” Hadley said outside court. He promised to use his radio show to educate listeners about the dangers of PTSD.
Seven management takes home its bat and ball
As the cricket was firing up on its new home on Seven for the first time, behind the scenes at Australia’s number one network management was in a bitter battle with staff. A new enterprise bargaining agreement, which covers about 800 permanent staff and more than 500 casuals, was under negotiation and Seven was playing hardball, insisting on changes to redundancy provisions and the exclusion of arbitration from the disputes procedure.
When 82% of staff voted against the proposal, Seven applied to Fair Work to terminate the enterprise agreement. The Community and Public Sector Union’s acting director, Emma Groube, called it “corporate bullying”.
“Seven says it can’t afford to treat its workers fairly but somehow can find the money to shower its executives with hefty bonuses and throw $1bn at the cricket,” Groube said.
“Seven is a profitable company but those profits depend absolutely on the skills and expertise of the people who work there. Our members at Seven feel cheated and betrayed by this hardball push to strip them of gains they’ve taken years to secure around things like redundancy provisions, shift rosters and penalty rates for working those shifts.”
A spokesman for Seven said negotiations were at an impasse but the network had made an application to Fair Work to conduct a round of conciliation.
“Seven has prepared an application for termination of the 2016 enterprise agreement; that will be heard if there is no reasonable outcome from conciliation,” he said. “This is a step that we do not wish to take. It has always been our strongest preference to work with staff and the unions to find a solution that is fair and sustainable.”
There’s one person who’s noticeably absent from the cricket coverage on Seven, or ABC radio, and that’s Catherine McGregor.
The ABC News Breakfast co-host Virginia Trioli tweeted her support for McGregor after a one-off appearance on the show.
In her blog Indian Summers, McGregor revealed how hurt she was to have been dropped as a cricket commentator by the ABC, a sentiment she has expressed on Twitter too. “I made my debut as a cricket broadcaster at the Adelaide Oval when India played there in December 2014,” she wrote.
“Last Friday I gave my last broadcast [on ABC Breakfast] about Test cricket for the ABC, from their Adelaide studio. Commentary is like playing. You get dropped without explanation. It has left me sad and perplexed. The camaraderie of the media box is wonderful. Cricket has given me golden friendships and joys that I would never have dare anticipate.”
The ABC told Weekly Beast McGregor hadn’t been dropped but her contract for commentary had not been renewed this year, as it made changes all the time.
“I look female and sound male,” McGregor said on Twitter. “It’s a huge problem for management. And I never played Test cricket. I simply don’t fit the paradigm.”
• This is the final Weekly Beast for 2018. It will return in January.
This article was published by The Guardian.
Amanda Meade is Guardian Australia’s media correspondent and writes media diary the Weekly Beast. She has been a journalist since 1989, first at the Sydney Morning Herald and then at the Australian.