Tassie defo laws dumped. It took just four weeks for Tasmanian Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin to dump a controversial pre-election policy to reform the state’s defamation laws and give companies with 10 or more employees the right to sue for dissemination of false and misleading information. The blunderbuss proposal, which would have undermined national defamation laws agreed by all states and territories a decade ago, was roundly condemned by the legal profession, civil libertarians, and media and environment organisations alike as likely to have a “chilling effect” on free speech not just in Tasmania but around the country. Goodwin told the Hobart Mercury:

“There isn’t really any appetite to change the law from my state and territory colleagues so, bearing that in mind and having listened to the concerns of community stakeholders, we’ve decided we won’t be proceeding.”

The backflip was widely welcomed this morning. — Paddy Manning

Kennett’s out. Big loss for 3AW this morning, with Jeff Kennett announcing he’s no longer doing his weekly slot with Neil Mitchell after 3AM management tried to reduce how much it paid him. The former Victorian premier was a big draw for the station, with his comments frequently ending up in the nightly news.

He revealed his departure live on air, telling Neil Mitchell: “This will be my last appearance. I’ve been approached by your management here. I’m not angry or upset. They’re entitled to do this. This station is going through a lot of changes.”

The station’s management, Kennett said, had sought to either reduce his stipend or have him appear only once a fortnight. Kennett wasn’t happy, and so he walked. “I may pop up somewhere else,” he said. Mitchell was unhappy, saying Kennett hadn’t discussed it with him.

A statement from 3AW management said Kennett was currently out of contract, and had been asked to consider a new one. “We discussed the option of continuing every second week, many of our contributors are featured fortnightly. Jeff has obviously rejected that option and felt he would prefer to be on a weekly basis or not at all.

“We value Jeff and appreciate his talent and contribution and we agreed amicably to discontinue the arrangement.” — Myriam Robin

The power of a poll. Did pollster Roy Morg give Indonesian authorities the leeway they needed to push ahead with the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran? That’s what the Bali Nine duo’s lawyer Julian McMahon has told Fairfax, after Indonesian officials cited the poll to show Australian supported the death penalty for the drug traffickers.

“It’s so irresponsible,” McMahon told Fairfax, adding that the poll result “is now a tool being used to get my clients killed”.

The poll in question was conducted by Roy Morgan using SMS after a request by the ABC’s Triple J, and asked: “In your opinion if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death, should the penalty be carried out?” Just over half (52%) of those who responded answered in the affirmative.

Roy Morgan has hit back the suggestion it was irresponsible this morning, saying in a statement that question had been asked dozens of times since the mid-1980s and has always shown a majority of Australians believe those caught breaking drug laws overseas who are sentenced to death should have the death penalty carried out. The pollster said in a press release:

“The Morgan Poll reports what the public thinks — we don’t set policy. It is vital in any democracy that the voice of the people is properly understood and measured on all sorts of issues. If this were not done, journalists, politicians and other policy makers can make erroneous claims about ‘what the people think’ and use that to justify their actions when in fact there is no basis for them to be making these claims.”

The pollster also said that while Triple J had requested polling on the issue, the radio station hadn’t been commissioned to conduct the poll. — Myriam Robin

First Radio National, now Q&A. The ABC sent out a press release this morning trumpeting the fact that it’s enticed  “arguably the nation’s most influential broadcaster” Alan Jones onto the show next Monday. Should be a cracker. Though we wonder how Aunty’s regular audience is appreciating the double dose of Jones they’ve been given in the past fortnight. Jones was invited onto AM in the lead-up to the Queensland election to talk Campbell Newman.

On roots and that. Press gallery journalist Latika Bourke will have a new book out in May. From India with Love is about her journey back to India, where she was adopted in her infancy. Publisher Allen & Unwin calls it “an astounding autobiography about uncovering your roots, about balance between your cultural heritage and growing up in Australia”.

Learning from the mother country. One of the aspects of the government’s mass surveillance bill currently before Parliament that has drawn concern from the media is the lack of protection for journalists’ sources — by keeping a record of every Australian’s phone calls and internet usage, data retention will make it much easier for both governments and companies to hunt down people who have provided information to journalists. This has proven particularly problematic in the UK, where an investigation has found rampant police misuse of journalists’ metadata, and led to calls for the introduction of a judicial warrant for access to journalists’ metadata. So concerned is the Attorney-General’s Department that Australian parliamentarians might be taken with the idea of introducing some safeguards for journalists, it tried to discredit the mooted British approach in its submission to the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s data retention inquiry. It told the committee:

“On 9 December 2014, the UK Home Office published a draft Code of Practice discussion paper on access to data. This issue of access to journalists’ telecommunication during the investigation of crimes had been raised as an issue by that profession… Some media reports had suggested that the UK Government was considering requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants to access journalists’ data. Rather than warrants, the Home Office proposes that authorising officers should give special consideration to necessity and proportionality when considering authorising the disclosure of data relating to the particular professions noted above.”

That claim has now been discredited. Overnight, British Prime Minister David Cameron accepted the recommendation of the Interception of Communication Commissioner’s Office that if UK police want access to a journalist’s metadata for the purposes of identifying a source, they will need to obtain judicial authorisation.

We look forward to the voyeurs of AGD pausing from their ongoing attack on Australians’ basic rights to update the committee on what’s really happening. We’d hate to think they’d want to mislead the committee … — Bernard Keane

Blue Sky for Murdoch. 21st Century Fox revealed a surge in gross profits overnight after their decision to sell Sky businesses in Europe to Sky in London as well as solid rises in returns from film and cable TV. As a result the company boosted dividend 20% to 30 cents a share and the shares jumped more than 2.5% in after-hours trading. The Murdochs, with their 39% stake in the voting B shares, will benefit from the dividend lift, and from the share price rise, as will the rest of the company’s shareholders who are predominantly in the non-voting A class shares.

The result supports the decision to split the Murdoch empire in 2013 into low growth, no hope News Corp and the higher growth-orientated video and content making and distribution business of 21st Century Fox. With about US$5 billion from the sale of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland to Sky (formerly BSkyB), Fox reported net income of US$6.21 billion, up from US$1.21 billion in the last three months of 2013. Revenues fell 1.3% to US$8.06 billion because of the exclusion of US$631 million in revenues at Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland which now goes to Sky UK. After factoring out the one-time items, earnings came in at 53 cents per share, well ahead of the 42 cents a share US analysts had forecast.

Fox said the improved result came mostly from higher affiliate and advertising revenues in Cable Network Programming and better box office in the filmed entertainment segment. The cable network programming business had revenues of US$3.38 billion in the quarter, TV’s revenues were US$1.62 billion and films US$2.75 billion. There were losses of around US$336 million in the corporate areas and other smaller deductions.

In London, Sky reported higher subscriber numbers in the UK, Germany and Italy and better customer retention figures. In fact it had its fastest subscriber growth in the UK and Ireland for nine years as 204,000 new customers joined Sky in the three months to December, many of them on the streaming service Now TV, which offers low-cost monthly contracts compared with the more expensive traditional Sky satellite TV packages. — Glenn Dyer

Horrorporn. When Islamic State/ISIS/Da’esh announced that they had murdered Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh by burning him alive, a call went up for an “ISIS media blackout” to resist the power of horror they were calling on. Not everyone agreed, willing to extend the group’s reach by indulging their propaganda. Dimwitted Brit journalist Piers Morgan announced that he had watched the whole 22-minute video “and you should too”. And the prize for collaboration at home went to … Andrew Bolt, who featured a still from the video on his blog. Doubtless he felt his audience needed to see it, so they could make up their own minds about whether burning a man to death in a cage was a reasonable thing to do or not. And it has nothing to do with pushing a bit of horrorporn to keep a jaded, shrinking fanbase going, eh Andrew? Good to see extremists of all faiths being of one mind. — Guy Rundle

Peter Fray

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