Still big losses at the Oz. Last year The Australian lost, on average, $96,153 an issue. In a staggering admission to Media Watch, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has revealed the size of his paper’s losses. According to an email Mitchell sent Media Watch host Paul Barry, the Oz is on track to lose $15 million this financial year. Given earlier admissions that the paper has halved its losses this year, that means it lost $30 million in financial year 2012-13.

The newspaper has long been reported to be unprofitable, but this had (until this week) never been acknowledged by its management, with Mitchell in 2012 saying it made a positive contribution to News Corp’s bottom line. Yesterday’s admission comes after Media Watch quoted “industry insiders” as saying the paper lost between $40 to $50 million a year — a figure fiercely contested by Mitchell that has led to News Corp filing a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority against the program.

Given the longstanding News Corp policy of not revealing the losses of the national paper, an effective vanity project and political mouthpiece for chairman Rupert Murdoch, it’s hard to imagine News Corp brass being happy about this latest turn of events.

Media Watch yesterday admitted its earlier loss figure was inaccurate, but contested that the $40 million $50 million figure was “absured” or “hopelessly wrong”. The correction doesn’t seem to have smoothed things over — in today’s Oz, Mitchell calls upon ABC managing director Mark Scott to make Barry “apologise like a man, rather than snivel around behind the weasel words he has put up as a correction today”. — Myriam Robin

Sky News wants FTA; could Nine go 24/7? Sky News is trying to get free-to-air broadcasting rights, but the chat around TV land this morning is that it will be tough to get Foxtel to agree — unless News Corp can see a way for it to happen without too much damage done to subscription income. But the real opposition is coming from the Nine Network which, according to network sources, is becoming more interested in a 24-hour news channel of its own and is exploring ways of getting into the business. Nine and Seven control 66% of Sky News, with the remaining third owned by Sky News of the UK (part of the 39.1% Murdoch-owned BSKyB) and managed here by News Corp Australia (which also manages Foxtel).

Seven is not happy with the idea of Sky News’ local arm becoming a free-to-air network either, but Nine sources say it’s strongly opposed. Decisions on the Sky News board need the 100% approval of shareholders. Should Sky News appear as a free-to-air channel, subscribers might drop their Foxtel subscriptions. Sky News management is known (like the Foxtel board and management) to be increasingly concerned at the slow rate of growth in subscriptions for pay TV in this country. They grew 125,000 in the year to December, but that was all in the first half of the year, and the 2.5 million total didn’t move in the final six months of last year, according to the most recent financial report from Telstra.

Complicating all of this is the desire of News Corp to seek revenge on the ABC for a perceived multitude of slights, including the Australia Network (which looks like it’s being axed by the Abbott government) and the growth in the audience of ABC News 24. It is making life rough for Sky News, by showing viewers, including its pay TV subscribers, that there is a no-cost alternative.

Foxtel’s board is also understood to have just decided to slash its marketing budget for the next year and redirect the savings into more content, especially big formats like Nine’s The Block and Seven’s My Kitchen Rules. It wants local production companies (led by Shine, the Murdoch family’s main TV production arm in Australia) to come to it with ideas for audience pulling formats in this genre. Glenn Dyer

Press Council: p17 not good enough. The Press Council has upheld a complaint bought by independent journalist Margo Kingston against The Daily Telegraph about its coverage of the Peter Slipper saga. The report bought to the Press Council, published on December 13, 2012, was about the dismissal of the sexual harassment case against Peter Slipper, which was reported online and on page 17 of the paper. This was after several developments in the case got prominent coverage in the tabloid.

Kingston said that burying the story on the 17th page of the paper didn’t give it sufficient prominence. The Press Council agreed:

“In the circumstances of this case, it is not reasonable to assume that readers who saw the very prominent coverage across pages 1-3 of the 21 April edition were likely to see the very much less prominent report of the dismissal on page 17 of an edition eight months later or see the report on its website. It also is not reasonable to regard the newspaper’s obligations of fairness and balance as having been met by the story being widely covered in other media outlets.”

The Tele argued the dismissal of the case came on a big news day where other matters had to be higher up in the paper, and that the issue was less newsworthy now because Slipper had stood aside as speaker of the House of Representatives. The council took this into account, but ruled “the degree of difference was so great as to constitute a clear breach of the Council’s principle concerning fairness and balance”.

The paper reported the adjudication on page two today, under the factual if rather unexciting heading: “Press Council adjudication”. — Myriam Robin

Is the Oz‘s skirt showing? The Australian has illustrated the results of the latest Newspoll with a simple graphic on its homepage. The percentages clearly show Labor leading the Coalition, 54%-46%. But something’s a bit off about the visual representation …

Why is the Coalition’s blue bar much larger than the ALP’s red one? The Coalition’s blue bar seems to be taking up about 54% of the space, with Labor’s portion taking up about 46%. Without reading the percentages, it sure looks like Tony’s mob is ahead …

Soft porn makes good clickbait. Writer Tara Moss released a detailed account from a source on Manus Island speaking to her about the recent riots in the detention centre. But The Courier-Mail (as well as The Daily Telegraph and other News Corp tabloids) seemed to think there were other reasons to pay attention to Moss. We got this from Moss’ Twitter feed (the gallery has since been taken down, but Crikey saw it while it was still up) …

Tara Moss

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey