Crikey’s exclusive on News Ltd’s “Project Darwin”, a document that outlines the company’s attempt to rebrand itself, was the talking point at the Seven Network’s 2012 launch last night in Sydney.
The Seven launch, which will be repeated in Melbourne tonight, will be followed by an update next February when the network’s US program buys are better known.
But it was the News Ltd document that was the focus of attention; advertisers, media buyers, other media and Seven Network executives were fascinated (and appalled that it had been leaked).
One well-known senior Seven executive pointed out that Crikey has had two major leaks of News Ltd information (very delicate information was the description) in the past month or so (the other was a memo outlining the three-year cost-cutting program from the CFO).
The launch function generated several tidbits of information and gossip, the most notable being that Rupert Murdoch is to visit Australia in October.
That’s when he usually visits, ahead or after the News AGM in the US, which this year is being held in Los Angeles on October 21. The 2010 AGM was held on October 15 and Murdoch visited Australia after that meeting, around October 29.
From what I was told last night, Murdoch is coming with the objective of making major changes.
I was told one of these was changing senior management, with News Ltd executive chairman John Hartigan being replaced. The replacement wasn’t known.
If that’s the case (and these things at News have a habit of being denied strongly or reversed when made public ahead of time), it is a major move.
Hartigan hasn’t had a good couple of years. There was the Melbourne Storm salary cap rorting scandal, a problem for News because it owns the Storm. There was also the legal action involving Bruce Guthrie, where Hartigan and the head of News Ltd’s Melbourne business, Peter Blunden, came off badly as Guthrie won.
And now two significant leaks of highly sensitive internal documents that go straight to the heart of the company’s ability to restructure itself, cut costs and reposition itself, and without going through the public scrutiny that rival Fairfax is going through.
And then there’s the media review, which some in News think is still aimed at them. News Ltd editors, specifically Paul Whittaker at The Daily Telegraph and his former boss, Chris Mitchell, editor-in-chief of The Australian, have made themselves into public figures and players.
Hartigan has also tried to distance himself from News Corp and News International in London and the phone-hacking scandal that continues to dominate the company. He has started a probe into its spending, led by two former judges.
We will know in the next few weeks if this attempted stab at independence from Rupert and the rest of the Murdochs has worked.