AAn episode of Media Watch investigating whether ABC’s coverage of transgender issues has been influenced by the broadcaster’s corporate partnership with an LGBTQ+ community group has angered reporters in the broadcaster’s news division.
Touted as “a tough conversation we need to have”, Media Watch host Paul Barry called on the ABC to review its relationship with Acon, a community organization that grew out of the AIDS crisis and now focuses on health and inclusion issues.
“The problem here is that a media group partners with and is rewarded by a pressure group – any pressure group,” Barry said. “And how that can lead to perceptions of bias in coverage or bias itself.”
Media Watch appeared concerned about the reaction to the program as comments on Twitter were disabled for the first time.
The ABC participates in Acon’s Australian Workplace Equality Index, which measures the impact of inclusion initiatives in organisations. In the annual report, the ABC claims to have won three inclusion awards and “retained the coveted Gold Employer title for the second consecutive year”. ABC Chief Executive David Anderson was named CEO of the Year and ABC also won Best External Media Campaign for the Innies + Outies podcast, which was created, hosted and produced by Mon Schafter, ABC’s Queer Content Manager and member of ABC Pride.
Barry argued that the Workplace Equality Index ‘raises questions about ABC’s impartiality’ – although the company insists ‘participation in benchmarks has no bearing on content ordering processes and no influence on editorial content”.
The program used as evidence of bias emails obtained under FOI by an anti-trans group. Among the journalists who publicly discussed the Media Watch segment were Patricia Karvelas, host of RN Breakfast, and Benjamin Law and Beverley Wang, hosts of Stop Everything. RN tech reporter Ariel Bogle did not specifically mention Media Watch, but pointed out that using “anti-trans voices and talking points” without context was problematic. Karvelas pointed out that the ABC participates in other benchmarking programs.
Barry: ‘Acon’s ABC relations manager offered editorial advice, including adding a helpline number, to improve ABC’s Australian Workplace Equality Index score “.
“And emails from 2020 – obtained under FOI – show an ABC reporter seeking and receiving advice from Acon on the correct definition of the word family.”
It was not a gun. If the program had uncovered real evidence of editorial bias, it might have been worth the “difficult conversation,” a reporter told Weekly Beast. Others said they had no idea the Equality Index even existed, let alone allow it to factor into editorial decisions.
“There is no evidence that this influenced our independent reporting,” said another.
Back to print
Nine decided to stop printing The Age and Australian Financial Review newspapers in Tasmania this week after the cost of printing on local presses run by Australian Community Media rose.
Nine’s managing director of publishing, James Chessell, told trade press Mumbrella: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but the rising cost of paper means it is not is not profitable to print in Tasmania. We will continue to focus on our many Tasmanian digital subscribers who can access the increasingly popular digital version of “Today’s Newspaper”.
But after cries of protest from rusty fans of the print newspaper and the Tasmanian media, Chessell backtracked.
“There has been positive movement on the printing of the Age and the Australian Financial Review in Tasmania, and we are pleased to confirm that the printed issues of these mastheads will continue,” Chessell told Weekly Beast . “We are always exploring ways with our printing partners to ensure physical paper is available as widely as possible.”
Digital Platforms Payday
Buried in ABC’s annual report, which was tabled in parliament on Thursday, is the figure the broadcaster received from its deals with Google and Facebook under the news media’s code of negotiation.
Under “content sales,” a total of $21,741,000 is listed for fiscal 21/22, up considerably from 20/21 when it was just $9,662,000. The $12 million difference was made up, according to Weekly Beast, by money the ABC received for its news content on digital platforms.
Aunty is already making good use of Google and Facebook money, hiring more than 50 reporters to report at more than 20 regional sites this year.
And when it comes to moving some 300 journalists from Ultimo in the city center to Parramatta in western Sydney, the ABC has received a cash injection to fund the plans. The report reveals that the ABC received $88 million from the sale of one of its properties, Lanceley Place, in Artarmon.
Mundine’s busy schedule
When defeated Liberal candidate Warren Mundine resigned last month from the SBS board of directors two years after a five-year term, he cited his professional and personal commitments. The annual report reveals how pressing those other commitments were for the businessman and former Sky News presenter.
Mundine attended just three of six board meetings in the past fiscal year and only one of four audit and risk committee meetings. This despite pocketing $44,000 for the non-executive role. All other board members had 100% attendance.
Mundine’s salary, of course, was significantly lower than that of SBS general manager James Taylor, whose package was around $800,000.
As we talk about compensation for CEOs of public broadcasters, ABC CEO David Anderson’s package is worth $1 million.
Stream Dream for advertisers
There was a surprise moment during Foxtel’s ‘upfronts’ held at the new $88million Allianz Stadium on Thursday night and it wasn’t when Foxtel comedy star Tim Minchin stepped on stage to perform a song from the hit show.
When it was announced that Foxtel Group’s streaming service Binge would air commercials in 2023, the audience cheered loudly. That’s when we realized the audience was largely made up of media buyers, advertisers, and marketers who were thrilled to have another platform to sell their brands on.
Advertisers will be able to place ads before and during a show, but they will be capped at four minutes per hour. The move follows Netflix’s plans for an ad-supported tier, Basic with Ads, which will launch on November 3.
In Australian Original Productions, Foxtel unveiled a Strife scripted series based on Mia Freedman’s memoir Work, Strife, Balance. Actress Asher Keddie said she was thrilled to play the lead role, inspired by the media entrepreneur’s family and professional life.
Colin from Accounts, a romantic comedy starring Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall, has also been ordered for 2023.
Just when you thought dating shows couldn’t get tackier than Love Island and The Real Love Boat, HBO Max’s FBoy Island arrives.
The premise of FBoy Island is to put three women on an island and have them identify the womanizers (the “fboys”) of those looking for a serious relationship.
Magda Szubanski and Fran Kelly bonded over how they are being ruthlessly stalked on social media when the comedian chatted with the Frankly host during a taping of the ABC talk show on Wednesday.
While Kelly said she “didn’t engage” with the trolls, Szubanski said she couldn’t hold back and usually hit back, blaming her Polish mother. However, she said attacks based on her weight were so common that they were “water off a big duck’s back”.
Szubanski got emotional while discussing the 20th anniversary special, Kath & Kim: Our Effluent Life, as it features never-before-seen footage of the late Shane Warne via clips from previous shoots. Szubanski said she found it hard to believe he was gone.
Frankly, which also features actor Richard Roxburgh and British actor Shazad Latif, airs Friday at 8:30 p.m.