Media basket cases win breathing space. Two of world media’s most obvious basket cases, Canwest Global of Canada and Independent News and Media in London, have won a bit more breathing space to try and avoid failing under a mountain of debt. Canwest Global won yet another reprieve on its debt — the fourth in two months and Independent has postponed its results release for a week while it tries to win a rollover and restructure of some of its debt.

Canwest, whose previous extensions expired Tuesday, said early today, Sydney time, that it had won another two-weeks breathing space and would continue discussions with its secured lenders and a committee of its 8% noteholders. All up there’s around $C3.7 billion in debt involved.  Canwest said the lenders agreed to extend the waiver of borrowing conditions until May 5, and during that period they will continue to provide credit to the owner of the Global television network, various specialty TV channels, a chain of big-city newspapers and the National Post. That means no extension, no credit and bankruptcy.

Canwest has violated terms of a senior secured credit facility (with banks), and failed to pay US$30.4 million in interest due since March 15 on the 8% notes. The noteholders are entitled to demand repayment of the US$761 million outstanding as well as the missed interest. Its biggest shareholder, is Fairfax Financial and its CEO last week said the company regretted its investment in Canwest (and several other local media companies).

The Canadian Government has proposed a $C150 million local production support fund, but nothing concrete has eventuated. Some of that money would only buy Canwest a few months, or it might be part of a wider refinancing package. However the obstinacy of the Asper family about giving up control is said to be a major sticking point.

Giving up control has in the end not been a problem at Independent News and Media in London where Tony O’Reilly is departing and the influence of his family holding and his sons in the business is set to wane. INM has postponed its annual results report a week and is said to be seeking an extension on debt repayments to bondholders and is considering a capital raising in a bid to tackle its $US1.7 billion in debt. It has a $US260 million bond repayment due next month and like Canwest, it can’t pay.

The Financial Times reported that the company has asked bondholders to extend the maturity of their debt claims in exchange for some of the debt being repaid and security over certain assets for the outstanding bonds, according to people close to the matter. It tried to sell its controlling stake in APB News & Media in Australia without any joy. — Glenn Dyer

Nine’s exclusive just ain’t so. A picture of the latest SV picked up near Barrow Island was supplied to media outlets by the Defence Department. This is how it was used on the Nine News:

And this is how it was used on Channel Seven:

Lindsay Tanner hearts Don Walker. Well, if the Minister for the Environment and the Arts can be a former rock star, then the Minister for Finance can gush about the dude from Cold Chisel’s book in his news blog:

There’s not much for Cold Chisel fanatics in Shots . There are occasionally glimpses of band members and incidents, often quite oblique, but the book is no tell-all story of the early years. A few glimpses of the pub gigs and crap living on tour are pretty much it.

Shots is well worth a read. If, like me, you’ve experienced the inner urban and rural worlds of Walker’s past, you’ll recognise lots of things and lots of people. It’s a tremendous collection of snapshots of recent Australia, of people and cultures that are beautiful and ugly simultaneously.

Being a good sport? Not the issue. Just in case you haven’t caught it, Channel Nine’s Tuesday night program Commerical Breakdown intends to show funny television commercial from around the world, complete with “zany” host and laugh track. This week they included in their show  this Australian ad put out as part of the Good Sports program which aims to reduce alcohol and other drug problems in sporting clubs.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyVALIMpS8E[/youtube]

Now imagine it with a laugh track and the studio audience giggling along. Is this appropriate content for the program?

Automated advertising, now with wrap arounds. The SMH are obviously testing a range of new ad formats. One format involves wrapping the ad almost entirely around the story. And here, in the new age of advertising from the SMH , is a little nugget of automated gold. “Jockey linked to gangland boss” garishly wrapped by a Betfair ad for “betting as it should be”. Oops.

The future of the media. Is news media fucked? The ABC don’t think so. Radio National’s program Future Tense has a somewhat positive slant on the death throes of its medium, a two part series called “News of the future”. Part one looks at potential new ways of funding and providing news, with David Cohn, Adrian Holovaty and Joshua Karp. Part two, due to run today, will question the pervading industry view that serious journalism is in serious trouble.

Murdoch’s biographer gives newspapers eighteen months to live. Media columnist Michael Wolff certainly knows an attention-getting quote. Appearing with Air America CEO Bennett Zier and CraigsList ‘s Craig Newmark in a panel discussion sponsored by Gotham Media Ventures, the head of aggregation site Newser, predicted that big media, whether it’s newspapers or conglomerates, are just months away from the dustbin of history. “About 18 months from now, 80 percent of newspapers will be gone.” — The Washington Post

The end of Myspace Tom? TechCrunch predicts an imminent announcement that Tom Anderson, co-founder and president, will be out, along with chief executive Chris De Wolfe and chief technology officer Aber Whitcomb. There may be more on top of that — all because the new News Corp digital media chief executive Jonathan Miller is throwing his weight around. TC says the MySpace chief executive replacement has already been recruited. — The Guardian

SPJ waive fees… what about the MEAA? Editor and Publisher reports that in an apparent sign of the economically troubled times, the Society of Professional Journalists in the United States has announced it will allow any member who has lost a full-time job to have their membership fee waived for at least six months. Given the massive lay-offs in Oz we must ask, will the Media Arts Alliance consider waiving the union fees of recently unemployed Australian journalists?

Obama administration opposes new antitrust immunity for newspapers. The Obama administration on Tuesday rejected new immunity from antitrust laws for teetering American newspapers struggling to compete with Internet providers of news, entertainment and advertising. Newspapers, however rare and financially weak, can adapt and ultimately conquer the threat posed by the Internet, the Justice Department’s Carl Shapiro told a House panel. “We do not believe any new exemptions for newspapers are necessary,” said Shapiro, an assistant attorney general for economics. — Chicago Tribune

Peter Fray

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