Tele’s Rush court defence withheld. The Daily Telegraph‘s defence in the Geoffrey Rush defamation case has not — even a redacted version — been released by the court. Rush sued the paper’s publisher, Nationwide News, over a story it published on the front page accusing the actor of inappropriate behaviour during the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear. Rush denies the claims. The Australian reports that the Federal Court yesterday ruled the Tele‘s formal defence be suppressed until later this month, when lawyers will argue whether it should be released. Rush’s lawyers argued that publishing the defence would further damage Rush’s reputation.

ABC apologises to Rudd. The ABC has issued an apology on all platforms to former prime minister Kevin Rudd over one of its “cabinet files” stories. One of the documents the ABC reported on was prepared for the strategic priorities and budget commission, and warned of “critical risks” in the roll-out of the home insulation scheme. The report said the document did not specify the nature of the risks, but in its apology the ABC has said it didn’t intend “to suggest that Mr Rudd recklessly ignored critical risks”, and it “unreservedly apologises to Mr Rudd for any harm or embarrassment caused”.

O’Brien v Fairfax redux. Bruce McWilliam’s great lawyer mate Mark O’Brien seems to be transforming himself into a self-styled specialist in suing Fairfax. Indeed, if you cop a negative Fairfax article, chances are you’ll quickly become aware that O’Brien is the man to help you take them on. It certainly didn’t take The Cat, aka Antony Catalano, long to retain O’Brien to fire off a legal threat at Fairfax after the AFR published a story on Wednesday about an allegedly blokey culture at the recently spun-off Domain division.

The letter was quickly leaked to News Corp, which is delighting in Domain’s problems and regularly talks up O’Brien’s litigating efforts against Fairfax. So much for promoting press speech! O’Brien isn’t particularly choosey about who he represents against Fairfax — the Exclusive Brethren have paid him well in recent times and he was also happy to front up for high-scoring pants man Chris Gayle. But his services don’t come cheap — just ask Joe Hockey who ended up hundreds of thousands out of pocket suing Fairfax over its “Treasurer for sale” coverage.

And he sometimes wins against Fairfax on behalf of people who later come a cropper. As Kate McClymont tweeted this morning, when Eddie Obeid won an early case against Fairfax, O’Brien told the media that his client “hopes that the Fairfax press will make an effort to get their stories correct in future”. — Stephen Mayne

Why Fox’s Disney deal was done. The fourth-quarter figures from the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox makes clear why the US$58 billion asset sale was done with Disney — Fox and the family don’t need the Fox film studio and cable and the production assets to remain an immensely profitable and influential media company, even in the new landscape. In fact, had the Disney deal not been done, analysts, on seeing this fourth-quarter report, would have been questioning whether the Murdochs could afford to keep their underperforming assets, and still enjoy fame and power.

In a simple statement, the Fox result tells us that he who controls Fox News controls a gold mine, as well as a cesspit of mad and bad right-wing partisans, mixed with some solid old-style reporting. That is inferred from the results and comments from directors that Fox News made “a higher contribution” in the quarter. We could know more once the Disney deal is done (and the report raises the question if Disney is overpaying for the Fox assets it is buying).

The report shows that Fox saw revenue and profit gains carried from cable, against falls in broadcast TV and the film studio. Second quarter profit from continuing operations more than doubled to US$1.84 billion, thanks to a tax benefit of US$1.34 billion (it’s no wonder Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump have been besties — but has Murdoch’s “fucking moron” quote in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury split the relationship?)

Profit (as measured by the favourite method, and by accepted accounting measures) told the real story: cable programming saw a 2.6% rise in earnings to US$1.365 billion, but TV’s earnings collapsed, falling 85% to just US$56 million, while the Filmed Entertainment business saw its earnings plunge 66% to just US$131 million. — Glenn Dyer

Vice Media misses revenue target. Vice Media has fallen well short of its revenue target, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Vice reportedly missed its 2017 revenue goal of $805 million by more than $100 million. The Journal attributes the fall to the struggling Viceland channel (a version of which is aired on an SBS digital channel in Australia), but also notes that the co-president Andrew Creighton is unlikely to return from leave over sexual harassment allegations. Last month, Vice Canada and Rogers Media ended its joint venture to broadcast Viceland on TV in Canada. The media company has failed to live up to the hype it was getting a couple of years ago, which has attracted major investors like Disney, Fox, A&E (owned by Disney and Hearst), and private equity firm TPG.

Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings. Married at First Sight (1.295 million national viewers) and I’m A Celebrity (1.04 million nationally) came out on top. Ten was second in the metro main channels ahead of Seven because of Celebrity and Gogglebox Australia (992,000 nationally).

The snow games, and the ice skating and whatever start today on Seven. It will be a very expensive broadcast for not much gain, I suspect. But hopefully I am proved wrong, for Seven’s share price sake.

In the regions, Seven News was tops with 507,000 viewers, then Seven News/Today Tonight with 454,000, Home and Away was third with 403,000, Married at First Sight was fourth with 357,000 and fifth was the 7pm ABC News with 333,000. But the most interesting bit of programming was the way Seven slipped the “winter” edition of the Front Bar into its schedule last night at 9pm. It averaged an encouraging 484,000 national viewers. That is a solid number and sets up an interesting tussle with Nine’s AFL Footy Show when it returns next month. — Read the rest on the Crikey website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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