Going, going … not gone. The long saga around when James Hird would finally step down as Essendon coach (he still hasn’t, having appeared to survive the supplements scandal) has landed The Age with a Press Council ruling against it, after a headline on The Age‘s front page said Hird had stepped down as coach in October last year.
That headline had been quickly revised to one saying Hird was expected to step down as coach, and subsequent reports said Hird had survived a challenge against his leadership. The Age said the first headline had come from a very reliable source, but conceded it had ultimately been wrong. Given the story was quickly fixed, the Press Council said the publication had taken reasonable steps to rectify the inaccuracy, so this aspect of the council’s standards had not been breached. But the original story was wrong, hence The Age had breached the standard requiring accurate publication. “The article concerned a matter of widespread interest and considerable importance within the AFL community. Accordingly, it was necessary to be especially rigorous before making the statement, or to make a more qualified and less emphatic statement,” the council’s adjudication read.
The adjudication is carried deep inside The Age this morning, at the top of page 12:
Sampson gets brainier. Leo Burnett CEO Todd Sampson has recorded another series of Redesign My Brain with the ABC. The first aired in 2013, and since then he’s been appointed to the corporate boards of Fairfax and then Qantas — demanding gigs he kept up while also maintaining his position as CEO at the ad agency. The first series was aimed at helping him retain vast amounts of information, so clearly the brain training worked.
Series 1 of Redesign My Brain was a ratings success for the ABC and picked up an AACTA award for Documentary of the Year. In series 2, our intrepid director trains to successfully walk along a high-wire strung up between two skyscrapers in Sydney. Across three episodes, he meets a string of experts who work with him to enhance his flexibility, pain management and mental endurance, along with his management of fear. Which particular corporate boards that will equip him for remains to be seen. The first episode airs May 28. — Myriam Robin
US dollar drags down News Corpse. News Corp directors have repeated previous warnings that impairments of up to US$1.7 billion (A$2.13 billion) are possible because of weak asset prices, with US$1.4 billion (A$1.75 billion) of that figure involving assets in the News and Information, and Amplify online education businesses.
Apart from Amplify (which was also subject to a separate section of its own in the risks to the company section of the report), the assets in the News and Information division most at risk were not identified. But some analysts say there are suggestions the UK newspapers could be at risk of some write-downs because of the relatively weak performance in the past year to 18 months, with sales sliding and ad revenues weak.
The more detailed quarterly report from News Corp, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (and ignored by News Corp’s Australian papers), also reveals that the strength of the US dollar in the past nine months or so has carved a billion dollar-plus hole in the company’s financial performance. That strength in the dollar is now a key weakness for the Murdoch-clan controlled company because its biggest assets (the newspapers) are concentrated in Australia and the UK, while the REA Group online property operation is Australian based, and book publishers HarperCollins have significant international sales, and the pay TV operations of Fox Sports Australia and Foxtel are also foreign based.
All of those expose News to considerable foreign exchange risk, and the SEC filing underlines that by revealing that foreign-exchange translation adjustments cost News US$315 million in the March quarter, a significant worsening from the positive contribution of US$223 million a year earlier. For the nine months to March, the loss on foreign-exchange translations was a huge US$1.25 billion (A$1.55 billion).
The impact of the strong dollar and currency translation losses is throughout the SEC report. Look at the performance here of News Corp Australia’s papers. Though the forex loss was the biggest weakness, there was a hint of continuing ad revenue weaknesses as well. — Glenn Dyer
And now, at Fox … The real company in the Murdoch clan’s empire is 21st Century Fox. It’s the growth vehicle, with real clout — political and media — in the US. The power of the rabid right-wing driven Fox News is a major force in US media and political life. The March quarter results again emphasised that reality with a 14% rise in cable network programming revenues to US$3.59 billion; a 22% plunge in television revenues at Fox Network to US$1.24 billion and a 4.8% rise in revenues at the “filmed entertainment” business (film and TV program production and marketing) to US$2.39 billion.
There was an explanation for the falls in revenue and earnings — the absence of the Super Bowl this year after Fox broadcast it at the start of 2014. But there were other factors — some would be acceptable to management — such as spending on new TV series. But underplayed in the directors’ comments was the sharp fall in ratings for the Fox free-to-air TV network in the March quarter — down 41% in the 18-to-49 key US demographic (that includes the Super Bowl factor).
Unlike News Corp, which is heavily exposed to current fluctuations, Fox is relatively more insulated, with the cable businesses domestically focused. But it is clear from this quarterly report that Fox has a gaping hole in its business line up. The Time Warner deal was an attempt to fill that. But the chances of Fox buying a competitor has been diminished a bit by the opposition to Comcast’s attempts to buy Time Warner Cable. It could try to buy Time Warner Cable, but it is still being eyed by John Malone and his Charter Communications group, in tandem with Malone’s Liberty Media. Fox could try to expand its film production, but its big rivals are inside bigger media groups, such as Universal (Comcast), Warner Brothers (Time Warner), Paramount (Viacom). Lionsgate, a smaller studio is said to be in the throes of a deal with one of Malone’s companies. Fox could always try the difficult and raid Netflix and try to grab control of the leading streaming video business … —Glenn Dyer
Video of the day. Be afraid, be very afraid …