Decisions, decisions, what should we do? The chess board of life has brought together an interesting array of difficult issues for decision-makers to resolve in the coming weeks.

While many decisions are determined in isolation, you often need to look at the broader context. Trade-offs and compromises are needed.

Consider the following six separate but related questions where major decisions are pending:

  1. How generous should the wage settlement be with the AFL men, particularly given the emergence of the AFL Women’s competition this year?
  2. Should Seven West Media follow the lead of the Murdochs with Bill O’Reilly and get rid of CEO Tim Worner?
  3. How far should the federal government go in banning gambling ads during live sports broadcasts?
  4. With Ten Network Holdings looking financially sick, who should be allowed to buy the company?
  5. Should the federal government cut television licence fees in the budget?
  6. Should John Coates be replaced by Danni Roche as president of the Australian Olympic Committee?

All of these issues are connected but here are a few assumptions that can help guide the best package outcome. Firstly, there is a long history of gender inequality in Australian sport. We also know that a lot of powerful men tend to cling on to their positions for too long. Look no further than Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes. Sadly, Australians are also the biggest per capita gamblers in the world. We’ve also got very concentrated traditional media power but this is largely becoming redundant courtesy of the internet. Our television licence fees are very high by world standards and the business model of both free-to-air and pay television is being fundamentally challenged by the internet.

OK, so let’s start with the easy decisions. Seven West Media should make themselves far less objectionable by sacking CEO Tim Worner and appointing at least two new female directors. The federal government doesn’t want to be seen to be giving the toxic Worner a tax cut in the budget.

Given Australia’s long and sordid history of accommodating media mogul rent-seekers, particularly the Murdoch, Packer and Stokes families, the federal government shouldn’t just cut television licence fees in the budget. There needs to be a quid pro quo and that is the proposed clamp down on gambling ads during live sporting broadcasts. The government should go hard on this issue and cabinet needs to be brave when its makes a decision next Tuesday.

Victoria’s former gambling minister Tony Robinson was absolutely right in today’s Herald Sun when he pointed out that the NRL is effectively a franchise of the pokies industry, such is its addiction to clubs that rely on gambling revenues to stay solvent.

In an interesting twist, Clubs NSW is currently going to war against Foxtel over proposed subscription increases which will help Foxtel meet its burgeoning commitments to the AFL and NRL, which in turn are facing ever increasing demands for larger salaries for their players.

An obvious starting point to help resolve this impasse is the current AFL wage negotiation, which will go to a vote of the 817 male players in the coming days.

If the average player (excluding five rookies per club) is already on $300,000, does it really need to rise to $360,000 this year? Isn’t that just over the top, squeezing the pie for everyone else?

Incoming AFL chairman Richard Goyder has a strong record as an advocate for pokies reform, so surely a better outcome would be for the AFL and the male players to agree that wages will be frozen until the Victorian clubs have beaten their addiction to about $100 million a year in pokies losses.

A pay freeze for the blokes would also provide some wiggle room for the women players to be paid a decent living wage in 2018.

Continuing the gender theme, now is probably the time for John Coates to hand over the reins of the Australian Olympic Committee to challenger Danni Roche ahead of the divisive secret ballot on May 6.

The Herald Sun called for exactly that in today’s editorial, saying it was time for a change after 27 years.

Of course, when it comes to men who should retire, Herald Sun proprietor Rupert Murdoch is top of the pops having run News Corp with an iron first since January 1952, a world record 65-year stint of public company leadership.

Maybe John Coates should come out and say he’ll only retire if Rupert agrees to go, too.

Finally, we have the vexed issue of the flailing Ten Network Holdings which, as Glenn Dyer reported yesterday, appears at risk of going broke.

There are 17,000 retail shareholders in Ten who could potentially get nothing if the company falls into the hands of its three billionaire financiers: Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and Bruce Gordon.

One elegant solution here might be for the Federal Government to declare that Seven, Nine and Foxtel will all be permitted to bid for Ten, subject to conditions.

The logical buyer would be Foxtel but we need some competitive tension to generate a fair price and it wouldn’t be a good look to give the Murdoch family even more power.

The way to avoid that would be for Foxtel’s purchase to be contingent on an IPO that had News Corp and Telstra each sell down to below 30%, with management control shifting to a board with a majority of independent directors.

A requirement that News Corp also shifted to a democratic capital structure would also be an appropriate condition of any Foxtel bid for Ten.

John Coates is the sort of bloke who could chair a listed Foxtel, once he’s out of the Olympic movement. Even better, how about a female chair?

Peter Fray

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