FremantleMedia’s Fennessy brothers jump ship, here’s why. Crikey yesterday revealed that Elisabeth Murdoch had moved to set up her Shine production company in Australia by poaching the Australian heads of FremantleMedia, the biggest independent TV producer in Australia.

Mark and Carl Fennessy will leave Fremantle in November and start with Shine early next year. Both had contracts with Fremantle following the acquisition of their Crackerjack company in 2006. Those contracts expired in January of this year and both have been effectively independent since then, although still running Fremantle here. The two brothers, especially Mark, have become increasingly frustrated with the process driven higher management at Fremantle (which is owned by RTL, in turn owned by the German giant, Bertelsmann). They wanted to make TV programs and expand their reach, the higher levels of Fremantle wanted return on investment, cost control, low assets levels etc. That’s the stuff of TV these days, whether you are a producer or a broadcaster.

At Southern Star, Huge Marks, the head of the group now owned by Endemol, is tipped to be someone Fremantlemedia will look at to replace Mark Fennessy and run the group here. That would leave Rory Callaghan to run Southern Star for Endemol. He’s a former executive producer of Big Brother, formerly at Granada Australia (Dancing With The Stars) and the Nine Network (head of light entertainment and before that the NRL Footy Show).

Elisabeth Murdoch hasn’t done it all on her own. Dad might have given her some money, but she’s had Sony backing her and BSkyB, the group she walked out on when she fell out with Sam Chisholm years ago. She is the majority shareholder in the company, with Sony Pictures Television International and BSkyB holding minority stakes. BSkyB is reported in London to now have an 11.3% holding. In Australia the Nine Network has the closest relationship with Sony via a production output deal with Sony’s Columbia TV unit. They could send Shine towards Nine next year. — Glenn Dyer

Behold the wrath of The Oz : From today’s City Beat column in The Australian. We presume the author is Rebecca Urban as advertised, but at the Oz , who knows.

AFR‘s Prince gets it wrong

You would have thought that after a fortnight of research, The Australian Financial Review ‘s Brett Clegg, and his eager sources, would have got his facts straight.

Last Saturday, the AFR ‘s anonymous gossip page, The Prince, declared that lobbyist John Connolly had been “desperately trying to open doors for ( The Australian ‘s) senior editorial managers at the bigger end of town”.

Apparently, suggested Clegg (oops, there goes the anonymity), the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, has Connolly on some kind of financial retainer to grease the wheels with corporate Australia. And apparently Connolly’s close ties with BHP Billiton chairman Don Argus have coloured The Australian‘s “unflattering” coverage — a campaign, no less! — against the Chinalco-Rio Tinto tie-up. Wrong on both counts.

But before we get to that, it’s worth exploring how the falsehoods made their way into print. It seems an approach by Connolly to set up a meeting between Woolworths chief Michael Luscombe and some of The Australian ‘s senior business writers — who often host such events — found its way to Clegg. (We wouldn’t dare point fingers at, among others, Woolworths’ long-time advisers FD Third Person, the PR shop set up by Ross Thornton, Mark Gold and Jim Kelly, which just happens to be advising Chinalco). Two weeks ago, Connolly and Mitchell were alerted that the AFR was cooking up its conspiracy theory. Clegg’s venom wouldn’t have anything to do with his repeated (and unsuccessful) efforts to land a job at The Australian, would it?”

The lesson is … never apply for a job at News Limited! — Jonathan Green

Nick Squires, double agent. Listeners to ABC radio news in the past three days will have heard solid reporting from the Italian earthquake zone by an English sounding reporter called Nick Squires. On Sunday he was described as a reporter for the London Telegraph, with this amusing story on the latest gaffe by the country’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who told quake survivors to look on the aftermath as a “camping trip.” He then did the story for the ABC 7.45 am news this morning in Sydney. Squires signs off his reports “Nick Squires, ABC Radio.” But he’s also the London Telegraph‘s man in Rome. — Glenn Dyer

ABC local radio news in Sydney is a bit behind the times. An ABC news update yesterday afternoon mentioned that “another” media company had become a victim of the credit crunch and mentioned Canwest, the Canadian-based Ten network owner, which has just won a two week stay from lenders in Canada. Canwest has been troubled for more than six months, although its trials and tribulations with its banks have worsened on the past couple of months. Reading Crikey, or the finance pages of the Sydney papers would have informed anyone in the ABC newsroom of that. Canwest has another deadline next Tuesday, Canadian time with another group of creditors, it is no longer a company fallen victim to the crunch: it is being battered flat because of its huge and unsupportable debts. The reason why it was on the ABC? Because a story about Canwest’s stay appeared on AAP mid afternoon yesterday. — Glenn Dyer

Your ABC: politicians available, camera crew not so much. TV is a glamourous business, especially early in the morning in an automated remote studio with no studio staff to help. Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Nick Minchin learned this the hard way on the national public broadcaster’s Breakfast News program:

Perhaps Senator Minchin will now hear the Friends of the ABC when they call for more funding.

Fairfax: why retain editorial staff when you can employ more managers? More new senior management positions were announced yesterday at Fairfax — lucky they lost those journos, hey? The chairman and chief executive of News Limited, John Hartigan said the appointments represented a further “significant investment in journalism with the aim of improving the quality and reach of our mastheads”. Investing in journalism by firing journalists and hiring managers. Does this actually make sense?

Fox to make reality TV show out of company layoffs. The Fox network is letting employees of some troubled small businesses decide which one of their colleagues will be laid off and turning the results into a reality show. The series, Someone’s Gotta Go, is in production but Fox wouldn’t say on Wednesday when it would go on the air. Each episode will feature a company with about 15 or 20 employees that needs to cut costs because of the economy. Instead of the boss deciding who is fired, the company will open its books to show everyone’s salaries and let the employees make the call. In an inverse to The Apprentice , the chosen one loses, instead of getting a job. — The Age

Protests in Moldova explode, with help of Twitter. A crowd of more than 10,000 young Moldovans materialized seemingly out of nowhere on Tuesday to protest against Moldova’s Communist leadership, ransacking government buildings and clashing with the police. The sea of young people reflected the deep generation gap that has developed in Moldova, and the protesters used their generation’s tools, gathering the crowd by enlisting text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, the social messaging network. The protesters created their own searchable tag on Twitter, rallying Moldovans to join and propelling events in this small former Soviet state onto a Twitter list of newly popular topics, so people around the world could keep track. — New York Times

Why the Boston Globe is on death watch. With a weekday circulation of about 350,000, the Globe is reported to be on track to lose $US85 million in 2009. “For a newspaper of their size, that’s just an extraordinary amount of money,” says analyst Edward Atorino of the Benchmark Co. Obviously The New York Times Co. agrees, or it wouldn’t be threatening to shut the Globe down unless it can bring those losses down by $US20 million in a hurry. Atorino says it has a lot to do with the city’s makeup: a high proportion of Boston’s residents are college students, who tend not to read newspapers, and a high proportion of its businesses are financial institutions, which, of course, have gotten hammered over the past two years. — Portfolio

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Peter Fray
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