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Media briefs: ABC’s unkind cuts … Godwin’s law … brownface …

Peter Lewis has departed Southern Cross Media — could it be Ten’s dismal ratings that drove him out? Plus other media tidbits of the day.

Savage cuts at Radio Australia. The ABC has revealed more details about cuts to its international coverage of the Asia-Pacific in a series of proposed changes sent to staff. Radio Australia has been hit hardest, as it will now be forced to rely on ABC radio and ABC news for all its English-language content. Two high-profile Asia-Pacific finance correspondent positions based in Melbourne and Sydney are being cut. The Asia Pacific, Asia Review and Mornings programs, vital services for overseas executives, are being axed.

The Asia-Pacific News Centre is set to lose its correspondents in Delhi, Jakarta, Beijing, the Pacific and Parliament House. Coverage of the Pacific will fall to existing ABC correspondents in Auckland and Port Moresby. Business Today and the 5pm Australia Network news bulletin are being cut. Australia Plus TV will be reduced to broadcasting a limited television service to the Pacific, using programming from other parts of the ABC and SBS.

The total reduction in staff is predicted to be 52 international positions, seven news operations positions and 25 Asia-Pacific News Centre editorial positions — almost half its editorial staff.

This is in stark contrast to global media investments in the region. China, France, Germany and Japan have all introduced extra services in the Asia-Pacific, while the BBC World Service is set to receive 6.5 million pounds in extra funding from the national broadcaster’s trust even after deep cuts by the government.

In a speech to Asialink in 2012, ABC director Mark Scott praised the ABC’s networks as a powerful tool for promoting Australian interests in the Asia-Pacific.

“These Australian services [Radio Australia and Australia Network] are a sign to our regional neighbours in Asia and the Pacific of our determination to engage with them,” he said. “But they are also a sign of something larger, of how Australia lives up to the promise of freedom of expression, of an open, democratic way of life.”  — Crikey intern Paul Millar

Time after Time. The Australian media writer Darren Davidson wrote this paragraph in his business-page story in this morning’s paper about dear leader’s second attempt to grab control of Tine Warner.

Time is in the process of spinning off its publishing assets into a separate company called Tribune Publishing Co, which includes prominent newspapers the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun …”

Wrong. Time Warner spun off its publishing assets in a company called Time Inc, which has been a separate listed American  company since last month. It owns magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated and People. The newspapers Davidson refers to is Tribune Publishing, being spun off by another company called Tribune Co, which is unrelated to Time Warner or Time.  —  Glenn Dyer

Lewis calls it quits. Eyebrows have been raised in the media industry by the sudden announcement late yesterday that Southern Cross Media’s new-ish chief financial officer Peter Lewis had quit after 10 weeks in the job. Lewis was the former CFO of Seven West Media and earlier this year conducted a controversial review of the ABC and SBS for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Lewis isn’t saying anything, but media sources suggest that Southern Cross wasn’t quite what it seemed with weak financials (because of the flagging TV business affiliated with the Ten Network) and a mixed radio business in Austereo, which has been hurt by the loss of revenues from 2Day FM in Sydney when Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O walked to KIIS.

One of his first tasks was to prepare the numbers for a profit downgrade on May 30, just 30 days after he started work at Southern Cross. The company said in the update profits would be 10% down on 2012-13’s and that the problems at the Ten Network were to blame with weak ratings and ad revenues, the soft ad market and the loss of revenue (and higher marketing costs) in its metro market radio businesses.  — Glenn Dyer

Brownface in America. Chris Lilley’s new ABC comedy, Jonah from Tonga, has been picked up by American network HBO, and it’s ruffling feathers. While our own Daily Review colleague asked “Is Chris Lilley too funny to be called racist?”, the answer, in the US, at least, appears to be “no”. Cleo Paskal has written a scathing article in the Huffington Post declaring:

This is barely post-colonial racism. This is a middle-aged white guy putting on brown face paint and a curly wig and pretending to be a sexually aggressive, moronic, criminal, brown guy whose only saving grace is singing and dancing (or in this case, rapping and break dancing — I kid you not). I thought the days of minstrel shows were over.”

She goes on to detail the show’s offensiveness and adds that it’s not even very good.

Please, HBO, I get it, you like Lilley — this isn’t about the quality of his other shows. You may even think he is Australia’s Shakespeare. But it’s not the 16th Century. Nowadays, friends don’t let friends wear blackface. Period.”

The Washington Post has weighed in, asking “Is brownface acceptable in new HBO show ‘Jonah From Tonga’?”. The Post quotes Tevita Kinikini, an academic adviser of Pacific Islander programs at the University of Utah:

“He’s painted a picture not only to look like one, but some stereotypes that are very offensive to our Tongan community, which does not represent the values and virtues that we have as Tongans.”

Maybe not so funny after all?

Godwin’s law of thermodynamics. For decades, the gold standard of enthusiastically breaking Godwin’s law — that the first person to mention the Nazis has lost the argument — was set by Grover Norquist, the Reagan-era anti-tax campaigner who compared progressive income tax to the Holocaust, because the former singled out a specific people — the rich — for special, negative treatment, just like you know who.

But that record may have been shattered by Exxon-funded climate “sceptic” William Happer, who told the CNBC network Squawk Box program that climate science slates carbon dioxide in the same way that … yes, he went there. Like Hitler targeted the Jews. “Carbon dioxide is good for us and so were the Jews” is a statement so wrong in so many ways that it meets itself coming back. Now that Lord Monckton has abandoned climate change to work full time on President Barack Obama’s fake birth certificate, will Happer happen to get an invite Down Under from the Institute of Prostituted Arguments, or similar?

Video of the day. Yes, we did “Weird Al” yesterday, and we promise not to double up again. But his new “Word Crimes” parody warms the cockles of our pedantic hearts …

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  • 1
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    All of Chris Lilley’s characters (cough) are offensive. They offend my sense of humour. I can’t see the slightest bit of humour in anything he has done.

    And yes, of course it’s colonialist, racist, bogan rubbish.

  • 2
    Electric Lardyland
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I often wonder about people like Happer. Are they really and honestly so knuckle-draggingly ignorant, or are they just on cynical, manipulative missions, to dumb down the populace as much as possible?

  • 3
    John Taylor
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Godwin’s Law does not stand for the proposition advanced - the person who raises the Nazis does not lose - rahter Godwin’s Law was that the longer an online discussion continues the more likely a comparison to the Nazis becomes. It has been accepted as canonical in some fora that the person who makes the comparison loses, but that is just intellectual laziness and dishonesty on the part of the person advancing that particular interpretation. It is also illogical - what if the comparison is accurate?

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