Carroll on Dateline cuts. SBS news and current affairs boss Jim Carroll has spoken to The Australian about the Dateline cuts, playing down the extent of the purge at the program. To quote from the Oz’s report:

“[Carroll] said there would be ‘a couple of redundancies’ due to the halving of Dateline’s length, with some editors redeployed within SBS and three video journalists who were hired on contract being offered freelance work. Some new positions will be created on the show. Award-winning journalist Mark Davis has been offered freelance work on the show and remains in talks.”

But Dateline’s former journalists were this morning shaking their heads at the comments, telling Crikey the “freelance work” they’d been offered was a joke, as none had been given commitments for more than a handful of stories — certainly not enough to pay the bills. “We would be much better off investing the time in finding a new job,” one reporter said, recalling comments made to Crikey yesterday by several of those on the way out of the show. Needless to say, Carroll’s comments about Dateline being as “a bit more fleet-footed” in covering global events also raised some eyebrows, with some questioning how a show with fewer committed staff could possibly be quicker to react.

Meanwhile, former Dateline (now BBC) reporter Yalda Hakim has an interesting piece on The Guardian in response to Allan Hogan’s article from last week, reflecting on her own experiences on the show:

“Departing executive producer Peter Charley and his chief of staff, Geoff Parish, knew they had a tried and trusted group of journos who had specific areas of expertise – whether it was Mark Davis in the unfashionable Pacific, Nick Lazaredes in eastern Europe or the fearless Sophie McNeill in wherever took her fancy …

“I can remember the many hours Peter and Geoff would stand in front of a whiteboard choreographing and juggling the mix of stories to make the program as appealing as possible. Paul Cutler would then have his say, as would the likes of George Negus. And then everyone would wait nervously for Wednesday morning’s ratings.”

Hakim concludes that it’s hard to get the right mix of light and shade, but it’s something Dateline’s staff have been doing forever. That said, the world is full of shade, and dark stories need to be told, too. — Myriam Robin 

Cricket sponsorship monopoly. TV viewers of the third one-day international cricket game between Australia and South Africa, broadcast on the Nine Network from Canberra overnight, might have noticed something unusual: the main sponsor of both the Australian and South African teams is the same beer company — SABMiller.

It owns Carlton & United, the sponsors of the Australian team. And it owns Castle, the South African beer brand, which was its main product for years when it was known as South African Breweries. It bought Fosters in mid-2011 and hasn’t had the best of times since, with falling sales and rising competition from craft beers. So SABMiller is advertising beer in South Africa, where the games are broadcast, and in Australia.

Wittingly or unwittingly, Cricket Australia has helped create the main sponsor monopoly and helped take some of the price tension out of the amount of money it gets from Fosters’ support. It does allow SABMiller to juggle its marketing budgets to its advantage, but not necessarily to the advantage of cricket in either Australia or South Africa. — Glenn Dyer

Stokes routed by the coal miners. It’s not been the best of weeks for Kerry Stokes — the slowing TV ad market, weakening resources sector, and plunging iron ore and coal prices have all taken a toll. Not to mention that sceptical investors have combined to give him a rough seven days or so, which has caused his shrinking fortune to shrink a bit further as the shares of his two main listed companies, Seven West Media and Seven Group Holdings, have continued falling.

A week ago, Seven West Media was sold off by investors surprised by the shock downgrading of this half’s profit estimate because of an unexpected fall in advertising revenues. And yesterday it was Stokes’ master company, Seven Group Holdings, which whacked investor sentiment with another earnings downgrade, gloomy talk about the outlook and another 100 job cuts, to go with the more than 1000 jobs already hacked out of the business in the past year. In return, Seven Group Holdings was hit by a first strike by shareholders upset at a rich $5.5 billion remuneration package for CEO Don Voelte.

Seven Group’s problems are being driven by the plunging prices of iron ore, coal (especially thermal coal) and gold. It operates in Australia, especially Western Australia and parts of the East Coast (through its WesTrac subsidiary, which also operates in North East China). WesTrac is one of the world’s major distributors and retailers of Caterpillar equipment, parts and service. And its China business is also being undermined by the plunging price of iron ore and coal, and surging production of both from Australia in particular (and some of WesTrac’s biggest customers, such as the iron ore operations in WA of BHP and Rio Tinto). WesTrac (and Caterpillar) are uniquely exposed to the current rout in iron ore and coal, and so is Kerry Stokes’ fortune. Every tonne of iron ore and coal that BHP and Rio Tinto digs from their West Australian mines and sends to China and other markets is damaging the share price of Seven Group Holdings and Stokes’ fortune. — Glenn Dyer

Shareholders spurn Murdoch. A week after the Murdochs, and especially patriarch Rupert, went close to a major embarrassment in losing a key vote at News Corp’s annual meeting in Hollywood, the clan is under pressure on the other side of the Atlantic, in London, where a group of shareholders in BSkyB (about to be just Sky) are opposing the re-election of James Murdoch to the board of Europe’s biggest media company. BSkyB shareholders meet on Friday night in London at the AGM which will approve the name change after the multibillion-dollar deal in which it bought Sky Italia and control of Sky Deutschland from 21st Century Fox, which is Sky’s biggest shareholder. The Murdoch clan controls Fox, with a 39% stake in the voting shares (the same situation at News Corp), even though they only control 14% of both classes of shares.

UK media reports this morning say James Murdoch is being opposed because of his role in running News International during the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum said his “ability to respond appropriately to a governance crisis at Sky is in doubt given the scandalous events at News Group Newspapers [publisher of News of the World] and the subsequent views of [UK communications regulator] Ofcom,” the Financial Times reported this morning on its website.

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum controls an estimated 150 billion pounds of investments, and together the 61 funds involved hold a reported 12% of BSkyB’s issued shares. Media reports say the forum has been a vocal opponent of James Murdoch and his management of News and his chairmanship of Sky since the News of the World scandal erupted in early 2011 and forced the Murdoch clan to shut the paper. — Glenn Dyer

Seven’s high-powered board. The TV network Prime Media, Seven’s regional affiliate in NSW and Victoria, appointed former News Corp boss John Hartigan as chairman of its board this year. His career resuscitation was thanks to the strong support from Kerry Stokes. At today’s annual meeting, another News Corp golden oldie was named as a new independent director — Peter Macourt, the former operating officer of News in Australia. That’s a very high-powered board at Prime now. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. Someone should figure out what percentage of Courier-Mail covers are given over to Clive Palmer. Still, this one’s not bad …

Peter Fray

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