Channel Ten could still be saved — if Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox or News Corp were willing to stump up some serious cash. Plus other media tidbits of the day.
How News Corp could save Ten. The Ten board meets today, and the losses are likely to keep coming. According to The Australian, Ten’s dud breakfast show Wake Up will go, along with the late night and morning news broadcasts. At least 50 jobs in the news division and in production are reportedly to be cut, taking the number in the past 18 months to more than 150 in news alone.
But there has been very favourable coverage in The Australian Financial Review about possible interest from foreign TV networks in Ten — first there was the page 1 speculation that UK broadcaster ITV was interested. Then this morning, the AFR reported US network CBS was “believed to be exploring potential strategic options with Ten Network Holdings” back on page 15 (a long way from page 1 on Tuesday). And this morning’s story killed off the Tuesday story about ITV eyeing Ten: “Sources described those discussions as preliminary and said they had not gone anywhere, but there was no doubt there are parties kicking the tyres.” Well, there is one very good reason why CBS and Ten are talking: to negotiate what is to be done with digital channel Eleven. Ten has ended its exclusive arrangement with CBS in the US, leaving the joint ownership of the Eleven digital channel up in the air.
Ten is chewing through its $200 million from the Commonwealth Bank because Ten’s ad sales revenue isn’t matching outgoings. To raise money from a cash injection, Ten would have to sell 30% of the company to raise around $200 million. That would require approval from the company’s big shareholders in Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon (and water down their shareholdings considerably), in addition to the CBA. Finding a saviour is next to impossible (Murdoch, Gordon, Packer and Rinehart obviously won’t put any more money in, which tells us just how bad Ten’s finances are). That leaves the most popular fallback of the Murdoch family empire.
One suggestion again doing the rounds is that instead of News Corp (through its 50% owned Foxtel) bailing out Ten, 21st Century Fox might. But that will have to get past Fox’s co-chief operating officer, Chase Carey, who resents the money invested in Australia on the pet projects of the Murdochs. The best bet is that Foxtel will slowly subsume Ten. MCN, the pay TV ad agency and media buyer, will likely take over ad sales for Ten (leading to more sackings at Ten). Foxtel would buy a stake to inject more cash into the network. The Commonwealth Bank, which is financing Ten’s death throes, won’t object because it has been bankrolling the Murdochs since the late 1960s.
Watch for Telstra to demand its pound of flesh for agreeing to Foxtel bailing out Ten. Telstra is feeling increasingly hemmed in by Foxtel and the Murdoch empire. But the stake in Foxtel means Telstra keeps a potential major competitor in telecommunications (as BSkyB has become in the UK) on a very tight leash. — Glenn Dyer
Hockey sues Fairfax. News filtered out yesterday that Treasurer Joe Hockey is making good on his threats to sue Fairfax over their now famous “Treasurer for Sale” front pages, which detailed the money corporate types paid for an audience with Hockey. Written by Sydney Morning Herald state political editor Sean Nicholls for the May 5 editions of numerous Fairfax papers and still available online, the story was panned at the time by Hockey, who said Fairfax had gone to print with what it knew were inaccurate imputations. Fairfax maintains the piece is factually accurate. They’ll now likely make that argument in court.
Unusually for a defamation case, Hockey’s lawyers have lodged with the Federal Court as opposed to the Supreme Court. Federal Court cases typically proceed without juries, which is unusual for such a high-profile case (both parties in defamation proceedings generally have a right to request a jury, but this is less likely to be granted in Federal Court). Federal Court cases also tend to have one judge presiding the whole way through, which can make things speedier. The case has been assigned to Justice Jacobson, and the parties will first appear in court on June 12.
It can strike people as somewhat rich that politicians blessed with parliamentary privilege still see the need to turn to the courts to clear their record, but there’s a long history of politicians suing media outlets in Australia. The University of Sydney defamation expert David Rolph says that even though Australian’s have an “implied freedom of political communication under the constitution, which should have an impact on politicians suing, it’s still possible for them to do so”. As well as Craig Thomson suing Fairfax over allegations of his misuse of union funds, other politicians to sue include Tony Abbott and Peter Costello (who successfully sued Random House over an aside in a book by Bob Ellis in the 1990s) and former treasurer Jim Cairns, who sued the National Times over allegations of an affair (which he later admitted to). — Myriam Robin
All in the family. Media writer with The Australian Financial Review Jake Mitchell, son of The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, did an interview for the AFR last week with John Hartigan, the new chairman of Prime, the regional TV affiliate of Seven Network (controlled by Kerry Stokes). Harto, as he’s known, was Chris Mitchell’s boss at News Ltd for a decade. No introduction needed? — Glenn Dyer
Front page of the day. Narendra Modi has given his first speech as India’s new Prime Minister …