Today in Media Files, the free-to-air TV networks have been given their promised licence rebate, and Australians won’t pay for online news, but they do still read what they can get for free of the main print brands online.

TV networks handed licence rebate. The federal government has followed through on its promise to the TV and radio sectors and rewarded them with interim relief on licence fees. The abolition of the fees had been part of the media law changes that remain stuck in the Senate, and it applies to the 2016-17 financial year, which starts on Saturday. The administrators of the Ten network will be very happy because it (slightly) improves the chances of a sale, and the decision makes Ten’s finances a little better. Free TV chairman Harold Mitchell said in a statement the rebate was “welcome relief” for the industry as it faces competition from multinational tech and media companies:

“In the internet age, it makes no sense to continue to impose the world’s highest licence fees when these foreign media tech companies pay nothing. Licence fee relief is critical for broadcasters to invest and transform their businesses. It is now up to the Senate to do its part in permanently replacing the licence fee with a spectrum charge.”

Mitchell said the full media reform package was crucial for Australian jobs and local programming. “We cannot allow local media companies to continue being strangled by out-dated media ownership laws,” he said.

But will anyone check to see if the fee abolition flows through to more jobs or programs? After all, the fees have already been cut by the Rudd and current governments from 9% of revenue to 4.5% of revenue, and the industry’s overall performance is worse than it was half a decade ago. Ten is broke and in administration, Nine and Seven, Prime and Southern Cross have all followed Ten in slashing the value of their TV licences because of falling revenues, ratings and profits. Employment is lower, and the abolition of the fees for 216-17 won’t change the outlook one bit, no matter what Harold Mitchell thinks. — Glenn Dyer

Petition to stop plagiarism. Freelance journalist Ginger Gorman is continuing her crusade against journalistic plagiarism. Gorman has created a petition with a collective of freelance journalists calling on Australian publishers to stop lifting other journalists’ work:

“Plagiarism weakens democracy and has a ripple effect of harm on the ability of the media and journalists to do their jobs properly. If it goes unchecked, this practice will contribute to the destruction of an industry that is vital to a fair and informed society. We call on those outlets and journalists who participate in this unethical practice to stop immediately.”

Gorman said the petition would be delivered to the Australian Press Council, Copyright Agency, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and other MPs, the senators on the select committee on the future of public interest journalism and the ABC’s Media Watch program.

Daily Mail Australia responded to Gorman’s invoice last week by saying there was no copyright on an idea, after she accused the publication of ripping off an online trolling investigation published in Fairfax.

Aussies won’t pay for news (but will read it for free). Just 13% of Australians pay for online news, according to a new Reuters Institute report. The study, conducted over 36 countries, found that 8% of Australians have ongoing online news subscriptions, and another 5% had made a one-off purchase in the past year. But they will still read it — half of the Australians surveyed still read the free content on the traditional print brands’ websites. News Corp’s free site news.com.au was the most used, followed by the ABC and nine.com.au.

The study found that many of those surveyed didn’t understand why they were asked to donate to commercial entities:

“It is not obvious to outsiders, for example, why publishers give content away for free at a time when they are losing money, or why digital advertising should be worth so much less than print advertising.”

More than half of those surveyed said they did not pay for news because there were free alternatives. But, contrary to some of the cries we’ve heard from commercial media in Australia, the report points out previous research that found consumption of public-funded media doesn’t have any impact on a person’s willingness to pay for other news sources.

Of those who do pay for news, a quarter do it to fund journalism, and they also value good writers, exclusives and mobile apps that are customisable and easy to use.

More younger people will pay for audio and video, but the report found that the figures for paying for online news were more evenly spread:

“This is a powerful corrective to idea that young people are not prepared to pay for online media. Even when it comes to news, younger people are no less likely to be paying than older people. Rather, news publishers have not been quite as successful as other media companies in convincing younger people to part with their money.”

Regardless of age, people who already pay for audio or video online are more likely to pay for news.

Sarah Palin sues The New York TimesFormer US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is suing The New York Times over an editorial that she says defamed her, published on June 14. The Daily Caller has published the writ, which says the Times incorrectly said Palin had incited a shooting frenzy in January 2011, in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Griffiths was shot. The Times published a correction to the online version of the editorial two days after it was published, saying, “An editorial … incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.” The editorial was published following a shooting at a congressional baseball game by a left-wing Bernie Sanders supporter. Palin could have her work cut out for her, though, as the bar for public figures and elected officials to prove defamation is very high, and The New York Times famously never settles.

Murdochs planning for another deal. Ireland is on board, now for the UK. The Murdoch family is gathering approvals for the US$18 billion mop-up bid for Sky plc, the big UK and European satellite broadcaster. Ireland’s Communications Minister Denis Naughten cleared the deal on Tuesday, following rulings clearing the transaction on public interest grounds, including plurality by authorities in all of the markets in which Sky operates outside of the UK, including Austria, Germany, Italy.

The European Commission gave its approval in early April, covering both the UK and the rest of the European Economic Area, and the Jersey Competition Authority has also given the green light. But all these approvals don’t matter, the most important is Britain itself.

The final decision is now down to the UK, where the questions of media plurality are strongest, along with the separate question of whether 21st Century Fox is fit and proper after News Corp’s inadequate performance during the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Culture and Media Secretary Karen Bradley will make her announcement in the House of Commons on Thursday night AEST. — Glenn Dyer

Fake news upon fake news. US President Donald Trump is continuing down his fake news track, this time inventing lies about CNN’s recent viewership. He tweeted on Tuesday morning saying, “Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!”. (The Russian story refers to a story about claimed contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign that appeared on CNN’s website. Three journalists resigned because it breached CNN editorial policy, as reported in Crikey yesterday. CNN retracted the story on Friday night).

But the clueless President happened to tweet on the same day second-quarter cable news ratings were released. They showed that contrary to Trump’s belief, CNN ratings rose and the network recorded its best second quarter in its history. CNN’s ratings were up 10% in prime time. It is in 10th place among all cable networks (and second in cable news networks). CNN’s total day viewership jumped 25% — to 787,000 viewers.

Figures from deadline.com show that Fox News remains on top of the cable news battle (which is the most competitive part of the entire US media), but MSNBC is encroaching, especially with its prime time star Rachel Maddow, who is taking advantage of Fox firing its star Bill O’Reilly over sexual harassment claims. MSNBC was the best performer in terms of audience gains. — Glenn Dyer

Google News, with extra facts. Google has redesigned its news page, including a section for fact checks. The new design gets rid of the messy hyperlinks and thumbnails, and, Google says, is more readable and easy to navigate. The fact check box will feature articles that have been fact checked.

The new design hasn’t rolled out in Australia or markets other than the US yet.

Glenn Dyer’s TV ratings. Ten’s night thanks to MasterChef and the way Seven and Nine ran dead. Seven might have had more viewers overall, but Ten edged Nine in the main channels, with Seven third. And the main channels is where the money is made — especially important for Ten! SBS was boosted by the first of three episodes of its reality program Filthy Rich and Homeless, which grabbed 476,000 national viewers (354,000 in the metros and 122,000 in the regions). Part 2 is tonight. In breakfast, while Sunrise again won nationally — 513,000 to 432,000 and Today won the metros, 300,000 to Sunrise’s 272,000.

Seven again dominated regional viewing with Seven News tops with 707,000, then Seven News/Today Tonight with 544,000, with Home and Away third with 537,000, The 5.30pm part of The Chase Australia was fourth with 497,000 and the 7pm ABC News was fifth with 376,000 viewers.

Tonight: Mad As Hell at 8.30pm with Shaun Micallef and Offspring on Ten at 8.40pm — both more appealing that what went to air last night, apart from MasterChef. — Read the rest on the Crikey website

Peter Fray

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