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Media Week: Budget behind the scenes, ABC moves


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In this week’s column, the Treasurer’s special Budget gift for selected media outlets, staff moves at the local ABC, the game show hoovering up news viewers, and much more.

Budgeting for influence

UPDATED: The State Budget process is full of anachronisms.

The most obvious is the “lock-up” of journalists to prevent premature publication of details, which comes after weeks in which the  government itself doles out budget info to suit its media strategy.

(And the strategy worked a treat this year, with the bad news of the Emergency Services Levy increase pushed out of the way early, leaving the media to focus on business tax reform on budget day.)

But surely the most anachronistic performance of the day is the yearly trip of the Treasurer to Waymouth Street to pay homage to Rupert Murdoch’s local representatives.

Yes, before the Treasurer talks to the broader media, to Parliament, or to you – the people who elected him – he genuflects at the altar of Murdoch, giving a private briefing to the Tiser editor and sundry minions. It’s not unique to the current Treasurer – it’s a long-standing practice in South Australia.

It says a lot about how things have and haven’t changed in Adelaide since the days when a crusty triumvirate of the Tiser, Tom Playford and the old boys from the Adelaide Club ran the town.

Back then, Murdoch’s afternoon newspaper, The News, was the cheeky challenger, not beholden to establishment Adelaide or the government of the day.

That power dynamic has been turned on its head.

InDaily can also reveal that for the past few years – including yesterday – the ABC has also received a pre-Budget briefing from the Treasurer, effectively gifting them a headstart on their rivals (although, unlike the Tiser, they go to him).

It’s all very cosy, and begs the question: what is the point of the lock-up?

(Speaking of News Corp, there have been some changes at the top announced this morning. Details here.)

Happy campers: members of the press listening to Tom Koutsantonis's press conference in the Budget lock-up. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Happy campers: members of the press listening to Tom Koutsantonis’s press conference in the Budget lock-up. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Drew Radford’s last day

ABC state director Drew Radford finishes at Collinswood today after a career with the public broadcaster spanning nearly two decades.

Radford, whose broadcast career includes time at BTN, radio and ABC rural, is a victim of the wholesale ABC cuts announced late last year in which the positions of state directors were axed.

“The actual closure was delayed until July 1 this year, giving the directors time to work closely with state branches to reassign tasks, ensuring a smooth changeover and the ABC’s continued strong relationships with local communities,” Radford said in a statement.

Radford will spend a month overseas before assessing his career options.

Harmsen to Washington

ABC political reporter Nick Harmsen, one of the true gentlemen of the Adelaide media, will be leaving us – temporarily.

He’s being despatched to the ABC’s Washington bureau, beginning in a couple of weeks and returning in August.

Long-term US correspondent Lisa Millar has been re-assigned to the London bureau and Ben Knight is also on leave.

It’s a feather in Harmsen’s cap: US politics is entering a crucial and exciting time, with the jostling for presidential nominations hotting up.

Family Feud causing problems for news

TV newsrooms in Adelaide are typically focused on competition from each other – but another threat is growing in strength.

Channel 10’s recycled game show format, Family Feud, is hoovering up news viewers in the 6pm slot.

In a trend which appears to be particularly pronounced in Adelaide, the game show has skimmed some of the cream from ratings leader Seven, and is edging closer to Nine’s viewership.

Last night – a strong news night following the SA Budget – Family Feud pulled in 88,000 Adelaide viewers, compared to 92,000 tuning in to Nine news, and 118,000 for Seven’s bulletin. That’s getting uncomfortably close for Seven and Nine.

Do we just love this game show, or are we turning off the news?

Naughty corner

The 24-hour news cycle causes all kinds of problems for journalists, including the tendency to jump at shadows.

This week, local reporters went bananas on social media over a Police operation near the Torrens. The word was that possible human remains had been found. After hours of ultimately meaningless fuss, Police identified the remains as part of an animal.

Another unfortunate aspect of modern media culture is the unrelenting coverage of celebrity trivia in mainstream media outlets that once wouldn’t have touched this rubbish.

It must be intensely frustrating for good local reporters when there are ironic juxtapositions of their work with trash sourced from the syndicated sewer. So it was this week after The Advertiser’s local office did some good work exposing American sleaze bags who have been promoting exploitative photographs of Adelaide women on a US-hosted website.

You don’t need a PhD in women’s studies to appreciate the cognitive dissonance evident in some of the Tiser’s other key concerns this week that appeared adjacent to their serious local coverage – particularly, singer Katie Perry’s “side boob” and actor Ruby Rose’s “nudie” scenes in Netflix TV show Orange is the New Black.

Top of the class

InDaily has been concerned about the constricting effect of the ICAC on the freedom of the press for a long time.

But it’s clear our early concerns didn’t go nearly far enough.

As we reported previously, Liberal MLC Rob Lucas has told Parliament that the ICAC is going after whistleblowers – trying to track down the source of leaks from within government to journalists and MPs. He knew this first-hand because ICAC investigators came knocking on his door (he “politely” told them to “get nicked”).

For the clearest explanation of why the ICAC’s activities are concerning to journalists, watch this excellent piece by veteran reporter Hendrik Gout.

Media Week is published on Fridays.



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