Fairfax apologises to Keating for publishing unsubstantiated rumour, ABC returns to “fresh ideas”, Seven posts more losses, and other media tidbits of the day.

Department of corrections. Fairfax papers on Saturday published a lengthy correction and apology to former prime minister Paul Keating for an article published in June about the ABC. In the article, journalist Jacqueline Maley repeated a story, reported several times over the years, of a meeting between then-ABC managing director David Hill and then-treasurer Keating when Hill was lobbying for ABC funding — a story that had never been confirmed by Keating. The story included a quote reportedly from Keating that suggested the treasurer had threatened the ABC. The apology said:

Fairfax’s journalist did not contact Mr Keating, who has since confirmed that the story is unequivocally false. Mr Keating is concerned that the retelling of the story would have been understood by readers to mean that he had threatened to destroy the ABC for his own political purposes and had bullied Mr Hill to force the ABC to follow his own political agenda. The article was not intended to be understood in this way, and to the extent it was so understood, the Herald withdraws those suggestions. The Herald apologises to Mr Keating for any hurt or embarrassment caused.

There was no such apology in The Australian over one of its front-page stories in Saturday’s paper. A lengthy piece by Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers reported that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet cut off email and phone access to disloyal ministers last week. Department head Martin Parkinson put out a statement on Saturday calling the story “false reporting”, and asked for a retraction. — with Glenn Dyer

Spicks and Specks returns. Music quiz show Spicks and Specks will return to the ABC for an Ausmusic month special. The one-hour special will feature original host Adam Hills and team captains Myf Warhurst and Alan Brough, with guests rapper Adam Briggs, singer Ricki-Lee Coulter, Frank Woodley and Denise Scott. The show ran between 2005 and 2011, with a reboot in 2014 that lasted just one season.

The special show announcement comes two weeks after the ABC announced it was cancelling Tonightly after two seasons to make room for “fresh ideas”.

More losses for Seven. Seven West Media is facing the possibility of more losses as it struggles to rid itself of its unwanted half interest in the old Yahoo7 web portal. Earlier this year it announced it was exercising a put option with the owner of the other 50% — US internet group Oath (nee Yahoo), which is now owned by Verizon, the big US telco. In doing so, Seven said it hoped to complete the sale by August. Unless this happens in the next four days, then it won’t happen, and the two groups will be forced to a third party valuation.

The 50% stake has not been a happy investment for Seven West — it was forced to write down the value of the holding by $75.5 million in early 2017 at the instigation of the corporate regulator, the ASIC. It then wrote off another $79 million earlier this year in conjunction with the announcement of the sale to Oath. The new value in Seven’s 2017-18 annual report, including another $11.9 million written off, is $35.5 million, and judging by the lack of a deal, that figure may not be achieved. — Glenn Dyer

The National Enquirer’s downfall. The publisher of one of US President Donald Trump’s strongest media supporters has flipped, after being offered immunity to cooperate with an investigation into Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen. According to court documents, publisher David Pecker and Cohen worked to suppress news, at Trump’s request, that could damage his candidacy, including paying porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her relationship with Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of fraud.

Glenn Dyer’s TV Ratings. Nine’s night, easily. Seven faded and Ten was left behind as the ABC climbed into third overall and in the main channels. Nine won because of The Block and a hissy fit over a bathroom. Spare me days, a silly bathroom! Talk about a bunch of lightweights — they could be members of the Liberal party in Canberra. The Block averaged 1.82 million nationally (a series peak), 1.29 million in the metros and 528,000 in the regions. The Block was tops nationally, in the metros and second in the regions, a solid effort.

Insiders stunned with  739,000 national viewers and the 11th most watched program nationally. A tribute to its non-partisan approach to reporting and analysing politics. How will Four Corners go tonight with its instant reaction edition? Read the rest on the Crikey website.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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