An opportune public hearing. On Saturday, The Weekend Australian revealed that in 2011, after Fairfax investigative reporter Natalie O’Brien discovered that Vodafone’s billing system, Siebel — containing customer addresses, credit card and driver’s licence information — could be accessed externally, Vodafone investigators discussed accessing O’Brien’s phone records to find the sources for the story. Of the two sources identified in a 2012 email obtained by The Australian, one has since committed suicide, and the other has been accused of stealing phones from Vodafone. The incident occurred under the watch of former Vodafone Hutchison Australia boss Nigel Dews, but the subsequent investigation by Vodafone’s head of fraud, Colin Yates, occurred under the watch of then-new CEO Bill Morrow.
Morrow left Vodafone at the end of 2013 to head up NBN after the change of government. This morning, Morrow faced questioning on the matter from former communications minister Stephen Conroy in a Senate committee hearing on the NBN. Morrow claimed he had no knowledge of the alleged incident, other than that there was a case of fraud in the company when he arrived. Morrow was recruited from the United States to “fix” Vodafone, then troubled by it so-called “Vodafail” network issues that led to millions of customers to flee the company, and into the embrace of Telstra and Optus. Morrow said there were lots of issues when he arrived.
“Fraud was one of the many problems in Vodafone,” Morrow said.
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Morrow declined to answer many questions on the incident, instead referring Conroy to Vodafone. Later, when Conroy asked Morrow to text the company for an answer — to dissuade Morrow from taking any more questions on notice — he was surprised to learn the CEO still had a Vodafone mobile.
“I’d be careful what you send on that. You never know who is looking.”
The NBN Senate committee often veers wildly off the topic of the rollout of the National Broadband Network through Conroy’s lines of questioning. There had been hope that new chair Labor Senator Jenny McAllister might rein in the former communications minister, but no luck so far. — Josh Taylor
Parody trumps reality. On Friday, we told you that the parody @jjjHack had quickly amassed half the Twitter followers of the original (and actual) Triple J account (though the Hack team said they were fine with it). An update on the progress of the runaway parody: it’s now up to 74,000 followers, nearly 20,000 above the 58,000 who follow the real thing. — Myriam Robin
ACCC iffy on Foxtel-Ten deal. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this morning declined to make a decision (yes or no) on Foxtel’s proposal to buy a 14.9% stake in Ten, plus merge its MCN ad sales business with Ten’s (which has already happened) and to sell Ten a small stake in the Presto video-streaming business co-owned with Seven Network. Instead it did what the TV sector had expected it to do and released a statement of issues on the proposed acquisitions, outlining its considerable reservations about the transaction. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement:
“The ACCC is concerned that the proposed acquisitions have the potential to substantially lessen competition for the supply of free-to-air television services in Australia, particularly in the broadcasting of sports content. The proposed acquisitions could increase the likelihood of Ten and Foxtel entering into joint bids and other commercial arrangements for acquisition of sports rights, to the exclusion of other free-to-air networks. Such arrangements could enhance Ten’s ability to acquire the rights to sports, including premium sports, and could increase the likelihood of more sport being shown exclusively on Foxtel. Given the importance of sporting content to a broadcaster’s ability to compete strongly with other free-to-air networks, the ACCC is concerned that the advantage Ten would gain in acquiring sporting content may lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the free-to-air television market, or in the broader market for the supply of television viewing services.”
The ACCC wants further submissions to be sent to it by September 28 and it promises a decision by October 25. The language the ACCC uses indicates it might reject the deal, but it wants more support from Ten’s competitors and groups in advertising, sport and the various adviser groups to these sectors.
If the deal is knocked back, Ten’s future is up in the air. The recovery in its TV ratings have helped stem the slide we saw in 2014, but the $200 million Commonwealth Bank loan remains the millstone (especially with interest being capitalised). Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and Bruce Gordon are being paid guarantee fees that support this loan because if Ten can’t pay in 2017, then the trio will end up controlling the network. If that’s the case,what will the ACCC do?
And the chances of the Ten-Foxtel deal happening took another blow with the main media regulator, ACMA, releasing a statement at 12.22pm noting the ACCC’s statement earlier in the morning, but revealing that it had started its own inquiry.
For its part, ACMA is currently assessing whether the proposed arrangements between Foxtel and Ten are consistent with the media diversity and control rules in the Broadcasting Services Act, the main piece of legislation overseeing broadcast media in this country. — Glenn Dyer
Front pages of the day. The UK tabloids are no fans of Labour’s new leader …