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Federal

Jun 3, 2013

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Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has been accused of playing music too loudly — by people associated with a bar she’s feuding with for playing music too loudly.

Rhiannon, whose office is in Sydney’s Surry Hills, is at war with a new bar downstairs from her work, called Play Bar. Rhiannon reckons the jazz bar plays music too loudly and it disrupts her staff. She has complained to the City of Sydney Council and wants the bar to install insulation.

The war escalated recently when Labor took the bar’s side. Local Labor councillor Linda Scott and federal minister Peter Garrett attended a protest night at Play Bar on Friday night; Garrett relived his forgotten years with a speech talking up live music. But could anyone hear him? This tip came in from a mole who was there …

“Senator Lee Rhiannon hosted a noisy knees-up on Friday night in her Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices to farewell a Greens party functionary from the Eve St Erskineville Politburo. The Senator’s staff and guests spent considerable time stomping on their floors, drowning out the live jazz music below, and interrupting a speech by Peter Garrett MP about the importance of vibrant live music venues and small bars in the inner city. Later, the Senator’s staff became embroiled in an argument with the local constabulary about civil rights when they were pinged for drinking alcohol on the street outside the Senator’s office.”

Well well, the shoe’s on the other foot. We put this claim to a spokeswoman for Rhiannon, who said:

“The events on Friday night highlight the absence of insulation between Senator Rhiannon’s office and the Playbar which was removed before the venue started operating and which the landlord is responsible for reinstalling. Chris Dubrow is not a ‘Greens party functionary from the Eve St Erskineville Politburo’.  He has worked as a campaign co-ordinator for the Northern Territory Greens, an adviser for Senator Kerry Nettle and most recently a National Online Systems Co-ordinator for the Australian Greens … The farewell was organised well prior to Senator Rhiannon becoming aware of a Labor event at the Play Bar via this online piece.

“No one had any idea at what time Peter Garrett was speaking at the Labor event. Acoustic music was being played at the farewell with a pink guitar, a green kazoo, a uke and a mandolin and occasionally someone stomped their foot in time with the music. None of Senator Rhiannon’s staff talked with the police.”

For her part, Labor’s Linda Scott said “there was some noisy stomping [from upstairs] when he spoke, but primarily people were there to show their support for the live music that was being played at Play Bar”. And Garrett didn’t bite at Crikey’s enquiry about the live music face-off, merely responding with:

“There are precious few places where Sydney-siders can gather to enjoy local talent. The lifeblood of the local music scene depends on people having places to play and this little venue [Play bar] deserves to stay open on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Upstairs downstairs in Surry Hills! Who will win the live music war — and where will the green kazoo appear next?

Tips and rumours

Jun 3, 2013

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From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Greens v Labor in live music war. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has been accused of playing music too loudly — by people associated with a bar she’s feuding with for playing music too loudly.

Rhiannon, whose office is in Sydney’s Surry Hills, is at war with a new bar downstairs from her work, called Play Bar. Rhiannon reckons the jazz bar plays music too loudly, and it disrupts her staff. The war escalated when Labor took the bar’s side. Local Labor councillor Linda Scott and federal minister Peter Garrett attended a protest night at Play Bar on Friday night. What happened next? This from a mole …

“Senator Lee Rhiannon hosted a noisy knees-up on Friday night in her Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices to farewell a Greens party functionary from the Eve St Erskineville Politburo. The Senator’s staff and guests spent considerable time stomping on their floors, drowning out the live jazz music below, and interrupting a speech by Peter Garrett MP about the importance of vibrant live music venues and small bars in the inner city. Later, the Senator’s staff became embroiled in an argument with the local constabulary about civil rights when they were pinged for drinking alcohol on the street outside the Senator’s office.”

Well well, the shoe’s on the other foot. We put this claim to a spokeswoman for Rhiannon, who said:

“The events on Friday night highlight the absence of insulation between Senator Rhiannon’s office and the Playbar which was removed before the venue started operating and which the landlord is responsible for reinstalling. Chris Dubrow is not a ‘Greens party functionary from the Eve St Erskineville Politburo’.  He has worked as a campaign co-ordinator for the Northern Territory Greens, an adviser for Senator Kerry Nettle and most recently a National Online Systems Co-ordinator for the Australian Greens … The farewell was organised well prior to Senator Rhiannon becoming aware of a Labor event at the Play Bar via this online piece.

“No one had any idea at what time Peter Garrett was speaking at the Labor event. Acoustic music was being played at the farewell with a pink guitar, a green kazoo, a uke and a mandolin and occasionally someone stomped their foot in time with the music. None of Senator Rhiannon’s staff talked with the police.”

And we talked to Scott, who said “there was some noisy stomping [from upstairs] when he spoke, but primarily people were there to show their support for the live music that was being played at Play Bar”. Upstairs downstairs in Surry Hills! Who will win the live music war — and where will the green kazoo appear next? You’ll read it in Tips first …

Jobs for the boys and girls? Ex-Labor advisers seem to be landing some good government jobs lately as the party heads for the political wilderness. Anyone noticed a crop of ex-Labor advisers rising to the top of DFAT? We’ve heard from a diplomatic-watcher who reckons:

“In April, DFAT Secretary Peter Varghese signed an administrative circular announcing the appointment of four new deputy secretaries. Three of them are former Labor staffers. He also announced a reorganisation of DFAT’s senior executive which means that for the first time anyone can remember all four deputy secretaries are former Labor staffers and none has worked in a Coalition minister’s office.”

We had a little look-see and there’s some truth to that; dep sec Paul Grigson worked as chief of staff to Labor’s foreign minister Stephen Smith in 2007-08, dep sec Jan Adams was adviser to Labor’s then-trade minister Peter Cook in 1993-96, and dep sec Chris Moraitis was adviser to then-Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans in 1994-95. Sounds like it could be one for Senate estimates …

Lawyering up. A caller to radio 3AW this morning reckons that “a young girl and her family” who have been in the media of late have hired lawyers. One to watch, perhaps …

Woof woof indeed. Tips has been curious about pollies and their pets lately, so we wanted to pass on this tweet from the PM that landed over the weekend:

Now, is “woof woof” prime ministerial? Gillard has been tweeting up a storm lately — 10 missives in the last 24 hours, on everything from DisabilityCare to tossing the coin at a footy game to attending the AFL with partner Tim. Gillard is well ahead of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who is a frugal tweeter. Come on Tony, get with the Gen Y program!

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Australia

Sep 11, 2012

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Our capital cities have some of the best live music scenes across the world. But I can’t experience much of it.

Last Friday night I was played beautiful melodies, awesome bass lines, powerful vocals and gorgeous guitar riffs … from my computer. I can only look at photos of gigs on band Facebook pages. I watch the lead singer fire up the crowd and hear the audience sing along to the chorus … on YouTube. I would be there too, singing along with friends and watching the magic that is a live gig. But I’m 16, and across most of Australia I’m not allowed into a gig.

Many artists struggle to make a living in the music industry. Bands such as these need as many of their fans to attend their shows as possible. Music venues themselves need to win the loyalty of the next generation of music-loving teenagers and young adults.

Young people are the heart of the music industry. We listen to music constantly and blast it from our bedrooms. We buy music and learn lyrics by heart. We have posters of our favourite bands on their walls. We buy EPs, and try to get the band to sign them. We should be able to see bands perform live.

Only in New South Wales and South Australia are all-ages concerts permitted — and those states all-ages gigs are held in very few venues. Bars that have bands play every night have to apply for special circumstances liquor licences. Across the rest of Australia, music bars are unable to hold all-ages gigs due to strict liquor licensing laws. However, all states allow under-18s gigs. These gigs cost more to run and often bands lose money.

Under-18s are not allowed in venues even with parental consent. I have been able to occasionally attend gigs with my mother, despite the embarrassment. Many venues don’t even allow this, yet a parent can take their young child to a pub.

At Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, I am allowed to see a live band. Alcohol is permitted, and the people that drink are not in a restricted area. At the Melbourne Cricket Ground I can see a football match where alcohol is served, again without a restricted area. Less than two kilometres away from both places is the popular music venue the Corner Hotel — I’m not allowed to enter on any night.

In Britain and the United States, all-ages concerts are held much more frequently. In Britain, most places hold shows that are 14-plus or 16-plus (younger if accompanied by a parent) most nights. In the US, laws in some states are similar to the ones in Australia, yet many gigs are all-ages. Some venues give bands the option of whether they want to perform an all-ages show or not. Bands that are more popular with under-18s commonly have all-ages gigs.

There, alcohol is served and patrons too young to drink are marked with a cross on their hand as they enter. Why can’t Australian state governments adopt similar laws? If there is no change, generations of Australian teenagers will continue to miss seeing live gigs.

While music concerts are not the safest events in the world, they are not the most dangerous either. Parents should have the individual responsibility to decide whether their child can go to a live gig. This responsibility should not lie in the hands of state governments.

Late last Friday night as the two bands I wanted to see — Sydney-based Bearhug and Brisbane act Gung Ho — would have been playing, I decided I would write an email to my local state MP while listening to some Bob Dylan to calm me down. As I rued the night that could have been, a young Dylan sang through my earphones:

Oh my name it ain’t nothing,
My age it means less.

If only.

Food & Travel

Nov 18, 2011

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“Harvest promoter responds to irate fans” ran the headline in The Age this week. Promoter AJ Maddah had put together an impressive line-up and a beautiful location for his Harvest Festival in Melbourne (and in Brisbane tomorrow), headlined by a rare visit from much-loved ’90s trip-hop favourites Portishead and indie hipster icons The Flaming Lips.

But, as seems inevitable with festivals these days, there were logistical glitches. According to Marcus Teague’s article, “snaking, immobile queues were commonplace around the festival grounds, as punters waited in a multitude of lines for basic services such as food, alcohol, and amenities”. What was worse, “the lack of toilets on offer drove many into the surrounding bushes to relieve themselves, although the diminished opportunities for actually purchasing drinkable fluids most likely kept the steady stream in check”.

Predictably, fans turned to social media to vent their fury. The many tweets about the event echoed the general feeling of frustration at the lack of festival organisation. Unusually, the tweeters even included festival organiser Maddah himself, who blamed the shemozzle on “Inept bar operators. Spent 2 hours with our volunteers & staff fixing their f*ck-ups & selling coupons to get rid off lines.” This itself drew a storm of criticism from those who found the spectre of a festival promoter blaming his staff somewhat distasteful.

Crikey spoke to several Harvest festival goers on the day after the event, who confirmed the picture of under-provisioned toilets and bar facilities. A source within the festival told Crikey that there simply wasn’t enough beer purchased, forcing organisers to drive a truck around Werribee on Saturday afternoon looking for more palettes of beer. It has been suggested that the large number of comps and other free tickets given away swelled attendances well past the 15,000 capacity of the festival that bar organisers were originally told to cater for.

The travails of the festival are scarcely unique in the music festival sector. Two years ago, the Laneway Festival in Melbourne saw chaotic scenes as a huge crowd tried to pack into small alleyways in Melbourne’s CBD, leading to massive queues and fans being locked out of stages during long periods of the afternoon and evening. “Police were forced to send extra reinforcements to the festival to cope with the ‘noisy and aggressive crowd’,” Fairfax’s Thomas Hunter reported at the time. Laneway eventually eschewed the CBD location for somewhere more sensible, moving to a larger site in the suburbs.

Long toilet queues and chaotic staging are not the only problems festivals pose to their punters. There is a tragic side of audiences’ obsession with live performances. The most high-profile case in Australia was the death of 15-year-old Jessica Michalik at the 2001 Big Day Out. Internationally, the 2000 Roskilde Festival notoriously saw the death of nine young men in the Pearl Jam moshpit, and there have been several other deaths at other festivals around the world. A PhD thesis by QUT student Cameron Earl cites an international study that puts the number of deaths at outdoor music festivals as high as 232 between 1992 and 2002.

Luckily, the average outdoor music festival mainly sees injuries such as rolled ankles, sunstroke and dehydration, but hospitalisations for drug overdose are not uncommon. Disturbingly, r-pes are also a feature of outdoor concerts. The charging of a 28-year-old man for assault after the 2007 Meredith music festival is certainly not the only such example, but Crikey could not easily find any collated research about the phenomenon.

What we can say with certainty is that the dangers and frustrations of music festivals don’t deter the punters. Australia’s live performance industry continues to undergo a boom, with industry body Live Performance Australia reporting last year that overall revenue grew “22.6% to $1.3 billion, while attendances grew 13.5% to 17.2 million paid and unpaid tickets”. Despite — or perhaps because — of the boom, the industry remains relatively dynamic and non-transparent.

Barriers to entry are reasonably low, allowing smaller promoters to ante up existing operations into mid-sized festivals with apparent success, while established festivals such as the Big Day Out, Falls, Meredith, Woodford, Splendour in the Grass, Homebake and many of the rest continue to report strong ticket sales — if not perhaps the guaranteed sell-outs of recent years. Crikey understands that this year’s Parklife festivals, for instance, experienced mediocre sales, and that certain promoters are feeling the pain of a saturated market.

But if this is all that promoters have to worry about, it’s not that crook in Tallarook. Music festivals remain one of the hottest tickets in town, and by far the healthiest segment of the broader music industry. The problems of music festivals are essentially those of success, such as over-crowding and poor planning and management.

It’s the sort of trouble other sectors of the arts industry can only look at with envy.

Music

Aug 9, 2011

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On a chilly Sunday last April, former Victorian premier John Brumby stood in the gutted Tote front bar to announce the re-opening of the hallowed rock palace, which had been forced to close its doors three months earlier.

The stilted occasion was the culmination of delicate negotiations between local Labor MP Dick Wynne, new Tote owners Jon Perring and Andrew Portokallis and the leaseholder to safeguard the venue’s future, the demise of which sparked a large protest.

The former government, realising the potency of the issue (and its potential to cruel Wynne’s electoral hopes), had pulled out all stops, signing a live music accord, commissioning a $130,000 report by Deloitte Access Economics and later that year committing a hefty $24.7 million for the sector under its Victoria Rocks program.

The report, measuring the real economic and cultural benefits to Victoria, was finally released this morning. But this time it was Ted Baillieu draping himself in the Tote’s mythical sticky carpet to ram home his message that Liberals “love live music”.

A besuited Baillieu, serenaded by folky rootster Jordie Lane (Baillieu’s office had requested a rendition of  Dig Straight Through), trundled through the usual gags about his misspent youth, claiming to have once been a Moving Pictures fan and revealing he had rocked out to Men at Work before they conquered America.

Claiming to have once attended the venue late at night, Big Ted whimsically recalled last year’s protests, where 20,000 punters were greeted by members of the then-opposition on the steps of state Parliament. The convergence, Baillieu said, had ensured “there was a vote attached to the Tote”.

“Live music is here to stay in Victoria and we’re going to make it so,” Baillieu reckoned, in a speech laden with awkward generalities.

As jugs of orange juice sat in for Carlton Draught, and MC and Cherry Bar proprietor James Young revved up a phalanx of close-cropped Liberal advisers, it was left it to consumer affairs minister Michael O’Brien to announce that he would proceed — finally — with promised reforms to the Liquor Licensing Act and reinstate Brumby’s Live Music Roundtable, as demanded by industry lobbyists Music Victoria.

But sadly there was no time for questions as youngsters Stonefield, in exactly the same manner as Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge, counted in one of their Led Zeppelin-aping tracks that apparently went off at Glastonbury. (A doorstop out the back was confined mostly to questions about job losses at SPC).

Among the highlights in the Deloitte report, written in the dry language beloved of bean counters, is the $501 million in gross state product injected into the Victorian economy last year through live music alongside 17,200 full-time jobs.

A massive 5.4 million people attended gigs — way more than the 4.3 million that attended AFL games.

But perhaps the most telling indicator comes from the pittance artists earn each year — just $19,500 — with 70% of this grafted from live gigs at the state’s 600 venues, 370 of which are in Melbourne — the most concentrated amount in the country. The fact that you’d be better off on the dole raised nary an eyebrow as Baillieu trundled through the numbers.

The executive summary concludes blandly:

“Live music makes an important economic, social and cultural contribution to Victoria. Furthermore, as with any industry, the conditions affecting the ongoing commercial viability of live music are subject to a range of influences, particularly in relation to regulatory and policy developments.

“Careful consideration should be given to any government interventions that might directly or indirectly restrict or indeed promote the provision of live music.”

Music Victoria CEO and former Age scribe Patrick Donovan welcomed the report this morning:

“Music Victoria commends the state government for recognising the lack of quantitative data which has hampered our sector.

“We are pleased that social and cultural contributions of live music are now supported by genuine economic data. Now we have to look at strategies and solutions to assist the sector in living up to its potential as one of the live music capitals of the world.”

But veteran rocker Kim Salmon, who has penned a swingeing call-to-arms to be published in tomorrow’s Age, sounded a more cautious note, calling for the report to become a springboard for reform: “Let’s change our attitude to benefit the people without whom there would be no music industry — the musicians.”

The report comes after a long period of soul searching among the Melbourne live music scene that started with the Tote’s closure, followed by the SLAM rally and then the change of government.

As Crikey reported in May, compared to the record $24.7 million package announced by Brumby in the lead-up to last year’s election, the Coalition has reduced funding by 87% and axed the popular seven-year-old $2.4 million FReeZACentral mentoring program. More than 3500 participants had gone through the program, which is currently being wound up.

And the significance attached to the Tote is probably also misplaced.

Recent Tote documentary Persecution Blues has annoyed some punters because it failed to properly emphasise previous proprietor Bruce Milne’s cash flow problems, including a famously botched $75,000 beer deal with the collapsed Blueprint festival. Instead, the documentary laid the blame firmly at the feet of an aggressive Liquor Licensing Commission.

While extra security costs mandated by the commission’s heavy-handed enforcement regime played a part, the Tote was of course re-opened without any substantial changes to legislation after Liquor Licensing director Sue Maclellan fell on her sword. Changes to the policing of the Act provided some breathing space, but significant hurdles remained.

Dick Wynne told Crikey this morning that “Ted Baillieu had finally discovered the live music industry to launch a report commissioned by the previous government. There is nothing in today’s visit to the Tote that can give any joy to live music fans.”

No doubt Baillieu — as a champion of the scene — will hope rock fans stay deaf to that message.

Advertising

May 6, 2011

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The Age of emptiness. The shambles at The Age over the sacking of 45 subeditors is making a mockery of Fairfax’s rental of Grocon’s gleaming $110 million Media House edifice. Editor Paul Ramadge championed the building as a state-of-the-art, five-star Green Star triumph showcasing the company’s digital future at its opening in 2009. But journalists say it’s so large, with diminishing occupied desks, that staff could erect a display home or granny flat and camp overnight. And swing a few cats.

And what about the purpose-built 3AW studios on the seventh floor with their fabulous view designed to stimulate Neil Mitchell’s synapses each morning? If the station is sold to John Singleton, what happens then? Will Mitchell and co rent the space, or will it be vacated to allow more display homes and granny flats? The way things are going, the company should have set up humpies on the site.

In other disturbing news, Sean O’Connor, one of the paper’s “deputy editors” has gone on leave, apparently peeved that Mike van Niekerk was appointed over the top of him as Monday-to-Friday editor. So many editors, so few subs … — Andrew Crook

Bolt’s Obama spray gets weird. Andrew Bolt might want to be a bit more careful about where he links to from his much-read blog. Yesterday, in a predictable spray at Barack Obama over the alleged connection between intelligence obtained by waterboarding and Osama bin Laden — a claim already discredited well before Bolt wrote his piece — he also referred to claims that Obama had opposed the mission to kill bin Laden and somehow been overruled (yes, overruled) by Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta.

What was the source for this astonishing claim that, if true, would surely forever discredit the Obama presidency? As blogger/tweeter Cosmic Jester quickly pointed out, it was the blog of a conspiracy theorist on the Socyberty website, which details the presence of aliens on earth, including, apparently, shape-shifting reptilian aliens called the Anunnaki. To support such high-quality geopolitical analysis, the site runs an array of lurid ads. Clicking on the link provided by Bolt will today take you to a page where the “ads selected for you by a sponsor”  include “Secrets of Women’s Clitoris” (just the one, apparently) and “Girls Love Anal S-x”.

Bolt thanks “reader Gary” for the tip. Indeed, cheers Gary. — Bernard Keane

Vic rock lobby defends diminishing returns. Crikey‘s story on Wednesday highlighting the 56% real reduction in rock and roll funding in Tuesday’s state budget has ignited a firestorm inside the sector with legal letters flying and peak bodies scrambling to defend their lobbying prowess.

Over on the fabled Mess + Noise discussion boards, an anonymous Music Victoria spokesperson posted a curious defence after commenters took it to task over a positive press release highlighting its $500,000 in Baillieu government funding. But not only had Music Victoria been denied an extra $250,000 promised by Labor, popular Victoria Rocks programs like the $2.4 million FReeZA Central commitment and $1.3 million in Music Equipment grants had disappeared. Instead, the government had simply recommitted to a bare bones sum of $2.6 million for Victoria Rocks over three years, which chafes badly with the $7.1 million deal struck in 2007 under the previous government.

To add insult to injury, before losing his majority last November Labor had offered rockers a monster $24.7 million package at least partly to sandbag inner-city seats on the verge of falling to the Greens. Take that into account and the leather jacket set is a massive 87% worse off than it otherwise would have been.

The action yesterday was on rock and metal site Tone Deaf, which posted a follow-up yarn relaying the sad news and suggesting lobbyists were left stranded far from home when Ted Baillieu snagged his lower house majority. “The question can now be asked — has the inability of publicly funded representatives of the music community to remain non-partisan in politics f-cked the people they were supposed to represent?,” it thundered.

The observation prompted an angry exchange of emails between a lawyer representing Music Victoria, Fair Go 4 Live Music and the SLAM Rally, which accused it of “Fox style accusations” resulting in this “Right of Response” this morning. But rock identities contacted by Crikey say the vitriol might be better directed towards the government before the scene becomes — as the Cosmic Psychos once opined — a lost cause. — Andrew Crook

Barry’s book the best of business. Before BBC-turned-ABC-turned-Seven-turned-Sydney Morning Herald-turned ABC-turned-Crikey journalist Paul Barry joined us here in the bunker he wrote a very good unauthorised biography on James Packer called Who Wants to be a Billionaire?. Packer, not surprisingly, didn’t like it very much. But last night, from 25 entries and four shortlisted books, Barry was named the winner of Blake Dawson’s annual prize for business literature.

Judges called the book “carefully written and thoroughly researched”, “a lively and very readable book with a strong narrative”. Finalists included Bridget Griffen-Foley’s Changing Stations: The Story of Australian Commercial RadioUnder Corporate Skies: A Struggle Between People, Place and Profit by Martin Brueckner and Dyann Ross, and Salts and Suitsfrom Phil Jarratt.

Barry was pretty excited this morning (though that might have something to do with the $30,000 prize): “I’m really thrilled to win. Who Wants to be a Billionaire? was attacked by some of James Packer’s friends and slagged off by a couple of reviewers. So it’s great to have an independent panel of judges rate it so highly. It’s nice to be vindicated.” — Jason Whittaker

Guido Fawkes’ shameless whisky freebie. The art of the freebie plug is a hallowed one, but subtle. Drop in a casual reference to a product and have a box of it delivered to your door. What can go wrong? Well, you can do it so explicitly that the brand looks cheap and desperate, and your readers feel used. Here’s UK Toryboys scandal site Guido Fawkes (order-order.com), from their twitter feed (I’ve x-ed out the brand):

Possibly written while finishing said case. Maybe a few plugs for Berocca will now be in order-order. — Kim Serca

Front page of the day. The UK’s Daily Star is an unapologetic tabloid. But today it hit tabloid gold with this memorable front page …

The Department of Corrections. A new segment for Crikey‘s Media Briefs: each day we’ll trawl the world’s newspapers and choose a selection of outstanding corrections. From today’s International Herald Tribune:

Wall Street Journal launches WikiLeaks-style site

The Wall Street Journal has launched its own WikiLeaks-inspired whistleblowers’ site, SafeHouse. Similar to WikiLeaks, SafeHouse allows whistleblowers to confidentially upload documents to the site. A senior Wall Street Journal editor will manage the standalone site, which is based on secure servers.” — The Guardian

Photo editors discuss iconic situation room photo

“We can’t blame them for thinking Clinton was doing something noteworthy, but it turns out, she was just coughing. ‘I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs,’ she told the AP. ‘So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever’.” — Mediabistro

Facebook will pay gamers to watch video ads

“So, as users play the games, they may be presented with an offer for a certain number of Facebook credits if they sit through a video ad for Windows Phone 7 (for instance). Those credits can then be redeemed for items in other Facebook apps. Right now, Credits are optional, but this summer Facebook is requiring all games to use Credits for selling virtual goods in games.” — Business Insider

Big change for MTV networks

“Judy McGrath, chairman-CEO of MTV Networks and a 30-year veteran of MTV, is leaving the company effective today, she said in a statement released by MTV parent Viacom. No successor will be named; all the division heads will begin reporting directly to Viacom president-CEO Phillippe Dauman.” — AdAge

Victoria

May 4, 2011

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The Victorian rock and roll community is reeling in the wake of yesterday’s state budget, which saw funding for the contemporary music sector slashed by 56% and the popular FReeZACentral program abandoned.

Despite trumpeting half-a-million dollars in new funding over two years to peak body Music Victoria in its official press release, detail buried in the budget reveals struggling rockers will have to make do with an annual shortfall of $775,000 compared to the $7.1 million spent by the previous government under funding arm Victoria Rocks.

The 7-year-old $2.4 million FReeZACentral program — which offers training workshops and rock star mentoring for struggling jobseekers — will wind up on June 30. And $1.3 million in popular music equipment grants, that allowed a “bank” of musical equipment to be hired by aspiring under-26 rock pigs, was also junked.

Instead, a bare-bones Victoria Rocks program will be maintained by the Baillieu government over the next three years with funding of just $2.6 million.

Push General Manager Peter Chellew, who oversees FReeZACentral and also serves on the board of Music Victoria, told Crikey he was “bitterly disappointed” and would be demanding a meeting with Youth Affairs Minister Ryan Smith in the next few days to find another way forward.

“On behalf of the music community we’re extremely disappointed that FReeZACentral is not going to be continued. It’ s been a fantastic and effective program in getting people jobs,” Chellew said.

He said the program has pushed over 3500 young people through training and a further 300 had received one-to-one mentoring from stars like Clare Bowditch.

Well-regarded ex-Age scribe turned Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan told Crikey that while he was pleased the seed money for his fledgling organisation was continuing, the government’s overall approach was based on a “very different economic philosophy” emphasising self-sustainability.

“The message I’ve got from the Coalition is they think organisations such as ours should be self-sufficient,” he said. “It’s really like comparing apples with oranges.”

Budget papers show that a fourth year of funding worth $250,000 promised under the previous government has evaporated, with Donovan expected to pay his own way through subscription fees and grant revenue by 2013.

Music industry sources have argued that yesterday’s Liberal commitment represents an 87% reduction in funding compared to what was on the table under the previous administration.

One irate former Victoria Rocks insider was scathing at yesterday’s numbers: “Last February I saw Liberal members holding up signs declaring their love of live music even though they had never committed to a contemporary music policy as part of their election platform. I hope that Victoria’s Rock ‘n’ Roll community holds the government accountable for this, as it would be a shame to see our musos slip on a pair of blue undies and jump into bed with Ted.”

As the Victorian election campaign entered its final days last November, John Brumby splashed hard on a rock package, spruiking a record $24.7 million contemporary music policy to woo inner-city voters thinking of defecting to the Greens. FReeZA funding was maintained and Victoria Rocks was extended by another four years. Brumby was apparently so keen to court the leather jacket set that a version of the Kinks classic Victoria was considered for his official re-election theme song.

The Liberal Party also appears to be an even more recent convert to the cause.

Protesters at the historic SLAM rally last year, when 20,000 fans rebelled against liquor licensing laws that wrongly equated music with violence, were surprised when they were greeted by besuited MPs holding “Liberals Love Live Music” placards on the steps of Parliament House. But in a subsequent interview given to Inpress magazine, Ted Baillieu media spokesman Simon Troeth needed to be reminded what Victoria Rocks was.

Credit: MT

SLAM organiser Helen Marcou told Crikey the struggling local music scene, in which aspiring rock stars are forced to live on as little as $11,000 a year, would be “further squeezed” by yesterday’s budget.

“The Liberals had promised they’d protect the industry but we had suspicions about their overall agenda. It appears these suspicions have been realised,” she said. Marcou noted the government was yet to make good on an election promise to change the object of the Liquor Licensing Act to protect the industry.

An Arts Victoria spokesperson confirmed the $2.6 million in re-branded funding for the three grant categories — Music Career Building, Music Touring and Strategic Music Industry Partnerships — would be maintained under Ted Baillieu’s personal portfolio.

Artists including Dan Sultan — last seen sporting an impressive Aboriginal flag singlet and Southern Cross board shorts combo at the recent Boogie festival in Tallarook — WA expats The Drones and Dan Kelly have all benefited from the grants over the last decade.

A spokesperson for Smith, who oversees the FReeZa components of Victoria Rocks under his Office for Youth, did not respond to Crikey‘s queries before deadline.