Today in Media Files, the NT News has editorialised against proposed anti-discrimination laws in the NT that its cartoonist could fall foul of, and emails released under Freedom of Information reveal concerns  ABC staff had with a memo telling them to cover all sides of the same sex marriage debate.

Save our scribbler. Darwin’s NT News has launched an Australian-style defence of its cartoonist Colin Wicking, with a front-page story and double-page feature in today’s paper using the stamp, “save our scribbler”, as well as an editorial. The story shares Wicking’s concerns that a proposed anti-discrimination law for the NT could lead to complaints being lodged about his work, published in the daily newspaper, the Sunday Territorian and the Alice Springs sister paper the Centralian Advocate.

The story, written by Sky News Darwin correspondent and NT News columnist and former editor Matt Cunningham, references the case against The Australian‘s late cartoonist Bill Leak, who was investigated by the Australian Human Rights Commission under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act over a cartoon published in the paper. The proposed NT legislation would make it illegal to insult or offend on the grounds of race, disability, sexual orientation, religious belief, gender identity or intersex status, and individuals or organisations could make complaints to the anti-discrimination commissioner. The proposed laws have provisions protecting freedom of expression, but Attorney-General Natasha Fyles wouldn’t guarantee to the NT News that a complaint about a Wicking cartoon couldn’t come forward.

ABC journos upset at marriage equality memo. An ABC internal email telling staff to cover both sides of the marriage equality debate upset some employees enough for them to respond by emailing management with their objections, according to emails obtained under freedom of information by The New Daily. The ABC sent a directive to staff in August warning them to be impartial and to ensure “all perspectives are given a fair hearing”. The memo from news editorial policy manager Mark Maley also asked staff to be “circumspect on social media” if discussing the issue. In the emails, one staffer emailed editorial director Alan Sunderland to say the ABC was on the wrong side of history, while another employee wanted to know if ABC were allowed to participate in rallies.

For the record. On Friday, we wondered if The Age had inadvertently published two letters by the same person — on its letter pages there were two letters by a Dr Andrew Watkins, one in Highett and one in Hampton (Melbourne suburbs right next to each other), both about Victoria’s voluntary assisted-dying legislation debate. But, it seems, there are two blokes with the same name — the Highett Dr Watkins emailed in to let us know there are in fact two men of the same name, with the same honorific, who live in neighbouring suburbs and who are Age letter-writers:

“I’m the Highett Dr. Andrew Watkins. And yes, I can assure you am definitely not the Hampton one. Though he writes a damn good letter, usually on medical matters (he’s a medical doctor), while I usually write in on climate ones (I’m a PhD in climate science). It always seemed inevitable that one day our paths would cross in the middle pages of the (r)Age. I can only thank fate that this Watkins family moved house — we used to live in Hampton East!”

Fairfax shares hit new high. Is someone stalking Fairfax in the sharemarket and assembling a growing holding ahead of its annual meeting that will vote on the spin-off of its Domain property website? Without too much publicity (except in Crikey last week), Fairfax shares have risen more than 15% since the end of September — from 94.5 cents to $1.09 yesterday. That is the highest the shares have been since June 30, and the 14.2 million traded on Monday is the highest since the 16.8 million traded two months ago on August 18. Daily volumes this month have risen from about 3 million a day in the first week to yesterdays figure. The only change in substantial shareholdings was the move to 5.1% by the Commonwealth Bank on October 6. The shares traded so far this month are equal to about 4% of Fairfax’s capital. The shareholders’ meeting will be held in Sydney on November 2. The date for entitlements to the spin-off is expected to be 5pm on November 17, so the rising level of trading could be one or two shareholders topping up Fairfax shares to maximise their entitlements to Domain scrip. — Glenn Dyer

How Fox News covered Bill O’Reilly lawsuit. At least Fox News has had the guts to cover the latest atrocity involving its former star, Bill O’Reilly. The New York Times reports that Fox new about a a $US32 million sexual harassment settlement between O’Reilly and a longtime Fox contributor (but not the amount) when it signed him up on a $US25 million-a-year contract for another four years. The network sacked O’Reilly in April after The Times reported on $Us13 million in settlements with five women over sexual harassment claims. The cost so far in payments made by Fox and O’Reilly is about $US200 million — a quarter of a billion Australian dollars.

There has been an unusual level of frankness in Fox’s commentary on the payment. Fox News Channel’s chief media reporter Howard Kurtz (and former CNN reporter) said at the end of his coverage of the story on Sunday:

“21st Century Fox has been trying to move on from this mess, hiring a bunch of new female executives and on-air hosts, among other steps. But this is a significant setback for Fox, there is no question about it. It’s embarrassing, it’s disappointing that O’Reilly was given a new contract under these circumstances. I hope it doesn’t impede the progress the company has been trying to make, which in the end the company did fire its biggest moneymakers.”

Perhaps Lachlan, James or even Rupert Murdoch will address these stories and the cost to Fox and others when 21st Century Fox reveals its first-quarter results on November 8 in the US.

Former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, on her new NBC program, rejected O’Reilly’s claims that no one had complained about him, saying that she had complained about him herself. — Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings.  Nine’s night, thanks to a special from The Block  —  it will be all programming filler from here to the climax next weekend.  This  is called “milking it for all the ratings you can get”. And it did the job, with 1.70 million national viewers. The Four Corners special report on the flailing NBN grabbed 1.05 million national viewers. Ten’s attracted 1.04 million viewers nationally. Ten’s main channel share doubled to 13.6% last night from Sunday’s 6.8%.

Seen News in Sydney beat Nine News from 6pm to 6.30pm for the third time in a week. Not a trend but an intriguing weakening at Nine. Media Watch grabbed 917,000 national viewers (thanks 4 Cs) and included anther good kick at Alan Jones for his bizarre and repeated claim that Macau is a Muslim or Muslim-dominated country. Q&A had 833,000 national viewers with yet another discussion of marriage.

While Nine won the night and won it easily, Seven finished third behind Nine and the ABC in the main channels — where all the real TV programming action happens. That is a measure of how Seven is running dead until Nine completes The Block. In regional areas the top five programs were — Seven News back on top with 588,000, The Block fell to second with 538,000, third was Seven News/TT with 500,000, then Home and Away with 453,000 and the 5.30pm part of The Chase Australia with 379,000. — Read the rest on the Crikey website 

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey