How far does an injunction stretch? Earlier this year, Australian newspapers refused to publish online what was said about Rolf Harris during his pre-trial in the UK, though they covered the proceedings in print. This was because a British court, with no formal jurisdiction over Australian newspapers, had gagged the media from naming him. At Fairfax, the company’s lawyers went so far as to suggest newspapers publish a warning to readers on the front page, urging them not to tweet or talk about the story online, as they could fall foul of the injunction.
At the time, Crikey wondered why it was that Australian publishers had been so attuned to the wishes of a foreign court. Now it seems the situation has been reversed, with foreign publishes showing little regard for local gag orders. In Sydney, a 30-year-old woman has been charged with dropping her baby down a drain (the baby was found alive after five days), and the Australian media are not allowed to reveal her name.
Crikey will play it safe and not link to or identify the articles (breaching a suppression order can land you with a $420,000 fine in Victoria), but we will say a prominent British newspaper has published the name of the boy’s mother online. It’s not geoblocked in any way — any Australian with a liking for British news can find it. From there, we searched for the mother’s name on Google and found dozens of instances of publication, often in the headline of articles. It’s viewable on the website of one of America’s broadest circulation newspapers, and on the website of one of its leading online media sources.
What this means for the mother’s right to a fair trial is difficult to say, although the case has also been widely publicised in Australia. We’ll let you know if it comes up at the trial. — Myriam Robin
Aly leaves RN Drive. Radio National Drive host Waleed Aly announced on Monday’s show that he wouldn’t be hosting the program next year. But he said little on his plans for next year.
“It was my choice — it just became clear Drive wasn’t something I could do,” he told us yesterday. Aly is also a lecturer at Monash University, a commentator on Fairfax Media and a regular co-host of Channel Ten’s The Project. As he quipped to Crikey yesterday, the Tax Department reckons he has six jobs at the moment.
Aly is hopeful of continuing his involvement with Radio National in some form next year — his decision to step down from his role at Aunty isn’t driven by budget cuts. Aly’s other ABC commitment, weekly TV show Big Ideas, was axed a few weeks ago by the ABC in mysterious circumstances. It now looks likely the brand will continue in some form, though the show, in its current iteration, will not. Aly posted a farewell to that show’s viewers online last week. — Myriam Robin
Vultures circle on Ten. Foxtel and Discovery Communications of the US have “signed off” to make a “non-binding” bid for the struggling Ten Network, according to the The Australian‘s Darren Davidson, in the range of 20-25 cents. Ten shares dipped back to 24.5 cents yesterday, from 25.5 cents, a sign the bid might come in around 24 or 25 cents a share.
In a statement this morning, Ten kept the dream alive, saying its adviser Citigroup had received:
“… non-binding, conditional proposals from a number of parties in relation to transactions which, if implemented, could result in a change of control of Ten or a refinancing of its existing debt facilities.”
“An independent committee of the Board of Ten will now consider those proposals in conjunction with Citigroup. In this regard, it should be noted that the proposals are confidential, non-binding and conditional in nature and may or may not result in a transaction which is acceptable to the Company.
“Ten will update ASX again when required to so under its continuous disclosure obligations. In the meantime, Ten urges caution in dealing in its shares on the basis of media speculation about potential transactions involving the Company.”
So we don’t know how many actual proposals/bids have been received, or how many offers to refinance the $200 million CBA debt noose. Still time for a query from regulators to get a bit more information, especially when we will no doubt see more detail appear in the print media about these “proposals”. Thus far, the bids are “non-binding”, just in case due diligence turns up some festering financial details in Ten’s books. So the company is far from sold. If a new buyer doesn’t follow through, other options include recapitalising its debt, while probably taking the company private.
Three of Ten’s largest shareholders, WIN Corp owner Bruce Gordon, Crown chairman James Packer and News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch, are in a powerful position if the board does not accept a bid for the equity and the company seeks to recapitalise its balance sheet. The three shareholders personally guaranteed a $200 million loan from Commonwealth Bank in October last year.
Fairfax has also learned that Ten and Citi are prepared to accept bids for the network after Tuesday’s deadline in an effort to drum up as much interest as they can for the struggling free-to-air broadcaster. — Glenn Dyer
A retraction ... From page 52 of yesterday’s Courier-Mail:
Times in the black. A rare bit of good news in the world of newspapers — London’s two Times newspaper titles are back in the black for the first time in 13 years. News Corp-owned The Times and The Sunday Times reported an “operating” profit of 1.7 million pounds in the year to June 14. That’s down from an “operating” loss of 5.9 million pounds in 2012-13, and one of 72 million pounds in 2009. Up to 2013-14, the two papers had lost more than 400 million pounds in 13 years.
UK circulation data shows that including digital subscriptions, The Times’ total paid sales rose 3% year-on-year to 545,000 in October. Digital subs rose 8% to 152,000. The Sunday Times, which relies more on newsstand sales than The Times, had sales decrease 2% in the year to October. Total paid sales were 958,000 in October, with digital subscribers up 12% to 154,000. Times Newspapers said the growth in total paid sales has meant that both titles are less dependent on advertising, with paid sales representing 51% of TNL’s revenue, compared to 44% coming from ads.
But UK media analysts say the profit reported is a bit of an illusion because it doesn’t include the two papers’ share of News Corp’s corporate costs in Britain, such as payments for the rights to sports highlights, which both papers have been acquiring in the past couple of years (such as the highlights of the European Champions League from 2015).
Both papers moved behind paywalls in July 2010 at a cost of 2 pounds a week for print or digital packages. Subscribers now now pay 6 pounds a week. As the digital subscription figures show, both papers are still overwhelmingly reliant on sales of print copies. The biggest driver in the operating profit has been cost cuts — paper and staff, for example. Since 2011, more than 220 jobs at both papers have been cut in the UK and Ireland. — Glenn Dyer
The internet eats itself. It’s said that online, for every person attempting satire, there’s someone out there who believes it to be genuine. We can only assume this is what happened at BuzzFeed HQ after the viral website swooped in to hire Clickhole associate editor Daniel Kibblesmith, who rose to prominence satirising, well, BuzzFeed. Clickhole is brought to you by the folks behind The Onion, and has for several months been ruthlessly lampooning the tropes of online journalism. Today’s headlines: “Seven nonexistent traits to look for in your future boyfriend”, and “What a difference six months make: calendars then and now”. Clearly all ideas currently missing at BuzzFeed. — Myriam Robin
Front page of the day. Santa Hockey … could be worse …