Read Fairfax for the scoop (and the spin) … The irony is delicious. There on page 1 of this morning’s Australian Financial Review is an exclusive interview (and the first in English) with Huang Xiangmo, a powerful Chinese property developer and political donor, at a time when political donations are very much in the news. The story continued on pages 36, and on page 37, there was a feature on how China is influencing local debate through “a network of students and community groups”.

But, hang on, what’s this on pages 34 and 35 of the AFR this morning? Why a two-page spread (advertisement, as properly labelled) called “China Watch” from the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, China Daily? The two pages contained soft stories about the G20 summit this weekend and backgrounder on the city where it is being held — Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. Some of the headlines on the stories provided by those folk at China Daily were “Paradise blessed with immortal love stories” and “The city where ideas and businesses bloom”. And the main article was headlined “G20 Summit spawns great expectations”.


So the journalists at the AFR and other Fairfax papers are going on about China’s use of soft power and agents of influence, and then at the same time their paper is running ads masquerading as “news” from a Communist Party mouthpiece. Crikey pushes Fairfax on this from time to time, and the line is always that the ads don’t affect editorial coverage. The fact that Fairfax is leading the coverage on Chinese donors is thus reassuring. But then again, we’re sure Sam Dastyari and others have similar arguments about accepting financial favours from donors.

Also in the Fairfax papers over the weekend were exclusive stories from Adele Ferguson and Sarah Danckert on further 7-Eleven employee exploitation being investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Which is presumably what led 7-Eleven to take out full-page ads in the SMH and The Age on Tuesday. The ads were a letter from CEO Angus McKay and explicitly criticised Fairfax’s reporting.

“Claimants and potential claimants should not be discouraged from pursuing claims as a result of reports published over the weekend in Fairfax Media, which contained a number of, in our view, inaccurate comments and inferences about the repayment program.”

Crikey’s sources say the ads haven’t gone down well in the newsroom.


— Glenn Dyer and Myriam Robin

Nine to buy The digital arm of the Nine Network has made an offer to purchase a majority stake in CarAdvice, a 10-year-old business that offers reviews of motor vehicles and makes money from advertising.

Nine Digital this morning confirmed the two companies were in close discussions. Crikey hears the deal, which has yet to be finalised, values the car review company at $35 million — which is a million times as much as the startup’s founder Alborz Fallah invested in 2006 to buy the domain name.

In a statement, Nine does not reveal the price that comes with its offer:

“Coupled with a minor equity injection (comprising cash and contra), NEC intends to hold a majority stake in CarAdvice post-completion. The offer to shareholders incorporates a path to 100 per cent ownership by NEC within three years.”

“CarAdvice provides high-quality, independent editorial content for new car buyers and influences, with a key focus on video and audio casting. CarAdvice offers highly targeted and premium advertising opportunities for the automotive industry.”

Nine’s chief digital and marketing officer said the start-up will help Nine’s exposure to automotive advertising. “Automotive is the single largest ad category for both TV and digital, with ongoing migration online. This is a great example of us targeting verticals which we believe we can build and ultimately own through the cross-promotional capabilities of our TV and digital platforms.”

Last year, Fallah told Crikey sister site SmartCompany that the website had grown because it adapted the genre to the internet. “Previously, car journos would go to the launch of a car and publish the story in a week. We started putting a rule in place that we would have a story up in 24 hours,” he said.

Nine has been beefing up its digital division. It recently hired Helen McCabe, most recently editor of Australian Woman’s Weekly, to oversee its lifestyle verticals. The company has launched a BuzzFeed-style viral website in Pickle, and this month consolidated all its websites under the domain — a move that caused it to shoot up the online news audience rankings. — Myriam Robin

ACMA finds against Libs. Two Liberal election ads have fallen foul of the media regulator, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority finding both had failed to tell listeners who was speaking in the ads, as required in the Broadcast Services Act.

One aired on Southern Cross in Tasmania, and featured premier Will Hodgman spruiking what his Liberal government had done for Tasmania — progress that would be undermined by a Labor/Greens minority government federally. The ad featured who authorised it, but didn’t say it was spoke by Hodgman.

The other aired on C91.3FM, owned by Campbelltown Radio Pty Ltd. It featured grabs from Liberal party candidate Russell Matheson, and said at the end it had been authorised by campaign director Tony Nutt, but didn’t say the ads were spoken by Matheson. The ads started with the words, “Hi, I’m Russell Matheson”, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the rather strict rules.

“Both the broadcasters involved have taken steps to ensure compliance into the future,” the release states. “The ACMA expects all licensees to have effective clearance and control procedures in place to ensure compliance with the election advertising rules.” — Myriam Robin

TV Ratings. Nine and Ten dominated last night in the metros and regions. Seven was left behind and the flop of its late-ish use of Bridget Jones Diary at 9.10 pm instead of Code Black which ran at 11.10pm. Bridgie had just 283,000 metro viewers, and very poor 423,000 nationally. Selling Houses Australia (not Series 5, but Series 7, according to Seven) was conspicuous by its low audience: 442,000 in the metros and a weak 732,000 nationally from 8pm. With those figures it’s no wonder Seven was third in the metros in the main channels and weak in the regions.

The Code returned to the ABC at 8.30pm: 442,000  and 668,000 nationally and The Tunnel returned at 9.30: 317,000 metro and 445,000 national viewers. Those low figures are a big thumbs down from viewers. For loyal ABC viewers to urn off The Code and The Tunnel tells us just how bad they are in the eyes of the most important people in this story: viewers. Home and Away faded again for just 678,000 metro viewers and 1,171 million nationally, thanks to the solid 493,000 regional viewers who are keeping this stalwart Seven program alive on some nights.

The Checkout did well with 725,000 metro viewers and 1.005 nationally for the ABC (emphasising what a turnoff The Code and The Tunnelwere) while The Bachelor was the most watched non-news program in the metros with 857,000 and 1.141 million nationally and second afterHome and Away among non-news programs. Gogglebox’s audience faded from that level to average 619,000 metro viewers and 934,000 nationally.

In regional markets Seven News was tops with 613,000; Home and Away was second with 493,000; Seven News/Today Tonight was third with 472,000. The Chase Australia 5.30 pm was fourth with 443,000 and A Current Affair was fifth with 385,000. On those figures you’d say Seven won easily, but Nine and Ten did better from 7.30pm onwards as Seven’sSelling Houses Australia (295,000) and Bridget Jones’ Diary (140,000) sank almost without a trace.

In breakfast, Today with 307,000 viewers beat Sunrise with 281,000. The Seven chat show has had a weak time of it since the Rio Games ended. — Read Glenn Dyer’s full TV Ratings here

Article of the day. From today’s New York Times