Press Council warns on siege coverage. The Australian Press Council has urged the media to be careful of its reporting of Monday’s siege at Martin Place, with council chair Julian Disney suggesting inaccurate or misleading reporting could have dire consequences:

“ … there have been some deeply regrettable errors and exaggerations, spreading dangerous misinformation without any reasonable basis. This type of material can be a serious risk to public safety, as well as causing an unjustified level of fear and distrust across the community.”

Disney’s comments were not directed at any particular outlet or publication, and he did not name any. However, the warning comes after the Press Council received complaints condemning The Daily Telegraph’s cobbled-together afternoon edition, which ran the controversial (and false) headline “IS takes 13 hostages in city cafe siege: Death Cult CBD attack”. Fairfax’s Financial Review also contributed to fears of an all-out Islamic State assault on Sydney’s CBD with a headline directly linking Monis to the terror group — despite any real evidence to support it. A spokesperson for the council told Crikey they had received complaints about coverage across a range of media.

But Disney was not wholly critical of the media’s response to the Lindt cafe siege.

“Much of the coverage has been excellent and has not hesitated to tell painful truths when necessary,” he said.

Certainly, 2GB’s Ray Hadley and every other journalist, producer and editor who refused to give Monis a platform to air his demands must be commended for their professionalism and restraint — the temptation of an exclusive to end all exclusives must have been almost overpowering. — Paul Millar

Correction: An earlier version of this brief said the Press Council “condemned” the coverage of the Sydney Lindt cafe siege. This was not accurate. As a Press Council spokesman told Crikey today, the council’s media release “does not make a negative comment about the overall media coverage of the incident, and in particular it does not ‘condemn’ that coverage. The media release also does not ‘criticise’ any ‘media frenzy’ or ‘rampant speculation’.” The brief above has been amended. 

Sun sets on Murdoch’s British empire. A surge in overheads and the continuing failure of digital revenues to offset falling print revenues has caused News Corp UK losses to worsen in the year to June 2014. Filings with the UK companies office in London reveal that the Sun King’s UK print operations recorded a sharp drop in earnings in 2013-14, as News Corp Australia did the year before. But unlike News Corp Australia, whose weak performance continues to be buried in its parent’s accounts, News Corp UK has to file results with the UK companies office each year — and for the second year in a row, things aren’t looking good.

Heavy spending on paywalls, digital rights to sport and many other initiatives at The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times lag behind digital revenue growth and weak revenue growth from the print editions. The Sun’s daily sales in the UK have fallen decisively under 2 million a day, and the Sun on Sunday continues to lose copies.

News Corp UK had a group operating loss of 3.5 million pounds before one-off charges in the last financial year, compared to a 51 million pound profit in 2012-13. Including legal fees and other items, News Corp UK lost 75.5 million pounds before tax in the year ending June 2014. Add that to the 75.3 million loss in 2012-13, when it spent an additional 40 million pounds on lawyers and settlements related to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

The Financial Times reported that the company blamed rising overheads, with administrative expenses up 15% to 392 million — the cost of building empires.

The Sun’s profits fell in 2013-14, with operating profits before one-off charges down from 62.1 million pounds in 2013 to 35.6 million. The Times’ performance improved, moving to an operating profit of 1.7 million, although it is still losing money on a pre-tax basis. The Sun’s revenues fell 5.5% to 489 million pounds, “due to continuing market decline in newspaper circulation, particularly for the popular segment”. News claims to have 225,000 digital subscribers, but that has failed to offset the fall in print revenues.

The FT points out that this weak result from News Corp UK is in contrast with Daily Mail and General Trust where the latest result reveals digital revenues for its free website MailOnline (the global leader among media groups) rose by 10 million pounds in the last financial year. — Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. American brothers and pundits Brad and Dallas Woodhouse sit on opposite sides of the aisle and often appear together do thrash out issues. Their mum calls in to tell them to get it out of their system before Christmas …

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Peter Fray
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