From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Twits. Interesting that Julia Gillard should be so unusually outspoken on the Slipper case in this tweet, brought to us by the Herald Sun online.

What makes it even more interesting is that this is a fake Twitter account. This account, launched on September 30, is @JuliaGillard_MP (it’s got 79 followers). But the real prime ministerial deal is @Julia Gillard, and has more than 280,000 followers. So how did the Hun get tripped up by this easy mistake — and once which led one commentator on the story to say this: “What planet does Julia live on, definitely not the same as working Australians, doesn’t this PM have any idea, my thought is no”. Well, this features at the bottom of the Twitter news feed on the Hun story:

Which makes us wonder if News is using an aggregator to fill its Twitter news feeds. That could be risky.

The PMO confirmed to Crikey that the tweet above came from a fake account, and has asked Twitter to take down the account. Know of anyone else who should know better who has been recently caught out by a fake Twitter or Facebook account? Drop us a line.

Empty press gallery. Speaking of boo boos, Tips made one yesterday, accusing press gallery journalist Samantha Maiden of writing for The Australian (although note that we were commending Maiden for appearing to be one of the few journos present in the gallery when Slipper made history by resigning on Tuesday night, just after 7pm). Maiden did indeed used to work for The Oz, but is now national political editor for News Limited’s Sunday papers.

Maiden defended her colleagues for not attending the Slipper speech:

“Hardly surprising no one else was there. Right on deadline people would have been bashing out copy as it happened, easier to do from the desk — at that time of night watching from the gallery is something of a luxury.”

Chris Willis, director of News at Seven Sydney, pointed out where his gallery journo — Mark Riley — was at the time:

“He was in his Canberra studio on air breaking the news that Slipper had resigned. He broke that story before Slipper got to his feet and before anybody else reported it. But, after breaking that story he was in the gallery until Parliament rose. During that time he got the material which enabled him to break the story that Alex Somlyay offered himself as speaker (Sunrise this morning).”

Tips has to hand it to Riley — we were watching ABC TV news on Tuesday night, and the first we heard of the Slipper news was when we flicked to Seven. (The ABC caught up later.)

The empty chair syndrome is increasingly the case in the press gallery, where rolling online deadlines (and a lower headcount of journalists) mean hacks have less time to go into the chamber and experience it first-hand. Instead, most of them are watching it on their TVs in their offices, a few hundred metres away (Question Time is the exception). This does beg the question why the journalists are in Parliament House at all — you can watch the TV in Sydney. And that would mean they would be less captured by the rarefied air of working around the clock in Parliament House, where journalists risk losing their grip on reality and indulging in groupthink. Tips is aware of various media outlets which have considered pulling their journos out of Parliament over the years.

Newspaper free-for-all #67252. We couldn’t help but notice, watching some fine commercial television in Sydney last night, an ad for McDonald’s alongside a special “free” offer for The Daily Telegraph. If people buy certain products offered by Maccas during its breakfast shift, the buyer will get a free Tele to read. Now will these “freebies” be counted in the current audit period by News Limited, or stripped out?

Nine navel-gazing. According to Adele Ferguson on the Fairfax websites this week, writing on the tribulations of the Nine Network and Nine Entertainment:

“It has long been speculated that media mogul Bruce Gordon, who owns the Nine stations in Adelaide and Perth through his Win Corp is interested in buying Nine Network if it is put up for sale — at a reasonable multiple. Preliminary discussions are believed to have taken place. Gordon also has a stake in Ten Network.”

Well, a little bird in TV land wonders how Mr Gordon will convince his banks, especially the lead bank (the NAB), to lend him more money when WIN already has debt of some $700 million, which is around the most he can borrow? Gordon can’t control Nine, it’s too expensive and has too much debt. What he wants is the NBN Television network which costs Nine $250 million. Nine or its receivers would want a lot more than that for the regional TV operator.

Gordon’s stake in Ten has lost him around $200 million in value as well over the years. There’s no dividend, so WIN is paying the financing costs for that stake as well. Most of his shares have an original entry cost of around $3 a share. Ten shares are now 38.5 cents. He put up his share of the $200 million issue from Ten earlier this year to lower his overall entry cost. The issue was done at 51 cents a share, so there’s more losses for Gordon. To buy part or all of Nine would require that Ten stake to be sold at a big loss. Gordon and WIN already control the weak Nine stations in Adelaide and Perth.

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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