Opps, wrong guy. Fairfax’s The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times and The Age newspapers have today apologised for a photograph they featured on their front pages which they claimed was the teenager shot by police on Tuesday night, Numan Haider.

The Age’s photo, which runs to nearly half the page, features a caption that says it was taken from Facebook, and that it showed Haider dressed for a formal occasion (although Crikey has blurred his face, Fairfax did not). The SMH’s photo was smaller, but carried a similar disclosure that the photo was taken from Facebook.

In a statement posted on the websites of both papers, the publications apologise for the photos, which were not of Haider.

“We unreservedly apologise for the error,” the statement reads.

“The young man has no connection whatsoever with any extremist or terrorist group and we deeply regret any such inference arising from the publication of the photograph. The picture has been withdrawn from circulation.”

Australian Property Review. There’s an irony unnoticed by management once again in this morning’s edition of The Australian Financial Review (aka The Australian Property Review). One of two page-one stories this morning about yesterday’s release of the Financial Stability Review from the Reserve Bank pointed out the growing concern the RBA has about commercial property overheating, and the way the banks are exposed to what is the most toxic area of financing for the sector. Prices are rising, yields falling to boom-like levels of 6%, but vacancies are rising in some markets and reaching nasty levels — a recipe for pain and a lot of red ink for boards and shareholders, not to mention regulators.

The AFR clearly doesn’t look at itself. If it did, it would have twigged months ago that the commercial sector is booming. Crikey has, from time to time, charted the dominance of the property sector (commercial) in the paper’s Thursday editions (and it’s starting to grow in Tuesday’s). Property-related content, stories and ads have ranged from 18% to just over 25% in a paper size of 52 to 60 pages. But today the share has jumped to just under 30% — 19.5 pages in a 60-page paper. That’s close to the highest level we have seen. If you add in the page-one stories on the RBA’s increasing concern about property, the Chanticleer column on the back page and other stories on pages 2, 10 and 11 and 59, the property-related content of today’s paper is an all-time high of 40% (or 24 pages).

All of those ads and stories involve commercial property — from rural to CBD buildings, industrial and broadacres. (Friday sees upmarket homes in the Lifestyle liftout). That concentration alone — and the way the paper’s Thursday edition has become home to more and more ads and content from the sector — should be regarded as a indicator of why the RBA is concerned about  commercial property overheating.

The question now is whether the commercial sector once again triggers a crash — as it has done three or four times in the past four decades. Financing investor lending for the purchase of houses and apartments should be classed as commercial, and not home lending. The RBA realises that, as it pointed out in yesterday’s Review. — Glenn Dyer

Starz in their eyes. Have Rupert Murdoch and his key media company 21st Century Fox changed tack in their expansion plans? Instead of returning for another go at Time Warner after its first US$85 billion offer fell over, the Murdoch empire is now said to be looking to expand its reach in content distribution by a possible US$3.2 billion grab for listed US cable operator, Starz, which along with an associated channel called Encore, was spun out of John Malone’s Liberty Media group only at the start of last year.

Reports in Los Angeles yesterday said Fox executives had met counterparts from Starz, with some reports suggesting a bid from the Murdoch company might follow. Fox could also decide to take an ownership stake instead of buying Starz outright, but a rival media company (such as Charter, 24% owned by Malone) could emerge with a counterbid. Fox sources later tried to pour cold water on the prospect of a deal, according to reports in the LA Times and Variety.

Starz has been spending heavily (more than US$600 million a year) to create original programming. It lost a deal to streaming site Netflix over accessing Disney movies, which will take effect in early 2017. Last year it signed a deal with Fox to access the latter’s film library for its Encore movie channel. Interestingly that deal includes streaming (on demand) and online rights for the Starz Play and Encore Play offerings.

Together Starz (22 million) and the Encore movie channel (35 million) boast 57 million subscribers, more than Time Warner’s HBO, Cinemax and the CBS Showtime networks. That makes it a fat prize. Starz has more than doubled its market value since the spin off from Liberty media 21 months ago. The company’s revenue this year should reach nearly US$1.4 billion. Nearly all of its revenue comes from affiliate fees paid by pay TV providers, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast, DirecTV and Cox Communications. Starz has been producing original programming such as Spartacus and, more recently, Outlander (Seen here on SoHo on Foxtel). — Glenn Dyer

Print in a bad Moody’s. The closure of the Los Angeles Register earlier this week after just six months of life has underlined the grim (but hardly shocking) forecast for the US print media this week from the Moody’s ratings group. It’s an outlook that investors in Australian print-related companies (Seven West Media, Fairfax, News Corp and APN) must heed. What happens in the US print media is very often a precursor to what happens here, especially on the (declining) revenue side. More worrying for publishers is the forecast from Moody’s that digital initiatives, such as paywalls and websites, will not be enough to help the embattled sector. Moody’s predicted negative revenue and earnings growth for print media through for the next year or more. “Our outlook for the US Newspapers and Magazines sector is negative,” the report concluded.

Moody’s senior credit officer Carl Salas wrote in the report: “Companies will make some gains against this decline from ongoing investments in digital platforms, but not enough to prevent most publishing companies’ performance from eroding.” But he thinks the New York Times Company will be among such survivors. “They’re leading the pack in terms of digital growth,” he said. They have “more cash than debt, which means they have the cushion to invest in their growth”. News Corp also has more cash than debt.

And naturally, Moody’s sees publishers continuing to cut costs and outsourcing content creation in an attempt to offset spending on new revenue streams. Ideas such as central news/reporting hubs, centralised or linked back-office operations and printing facilities are all being tried, or have been used and abandoned by desperate media group.

For the huge US magazine industry Moody’s report had a glimmer of hope — it sees magazine publishers as having an advantage over newspaper publishers due to having more targeted audiences. But that won’t stop the share of overall US ad spending falling to 5% in 2016, from 9% in 2004. But for newspapers, the news is even worse — Moody’s predicts that by 2016 newspaper will only hold a 7% share of all ad dollars spent, down from a 25% share in 2004. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

72 hours only. 50% off a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

Our two-for-one offer with The Atlantic was so popular we decided to bring it back.

But only for 72 hours.

Use the promo code ATLANTIC2020 and you’ll get 50% off a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year of digital access to The Atlantic (usually $70). That’s BOTH for just $129.

Hurry. Ends midnight this Thursday.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

Claim Now