Dose of reality? With a new hire from Foxtel, the ABC may be looking to boost ratings | Amanda Meade

Josie Mason-Campbell, the corporation’s latest signing has a CV that includes Gogglebox and The Great Australian Bake Off. Plus: Mark Colvin gives his new kidney a special name

We are still a couple of weeks away from the unveiling of Michelle Guthrie’s new ABC management structure but one new hire this week may give us a hint of the direction in which the former legal counsel for Foxtel is going. The Foxtel executive Josie Mason-Campbell, whose claims to fame include Gogglebox Australia, The Great Australian Bake Off and Coast Australia, was appointed head of non-scripted production. The role will see her taking responsibility for all factual, entertainment, arts and events programming. “Josie is a natural creative leader, who has thrived in the industry,” Guthrie said. “We are looking forward to her helping the ABC create more great Australian shows that resonate with a broad audience.”

Following on from the managing director’s comment that ABC should reach 100% of Australians, her desire for a “broad audience” for its programming may be significant. Will the ABC commission some reality TV shows to boost ratings, was the question some were asking after the surprising appointment. Mason-Campbell and her husband, Matt Campbell, are great mates with the departing director of television Richard Finlayson, who resigned last month. Finlayson and Campbell, who is the chief executive of Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder (CJZ), worked together at SBS when Finlayson was chief operating officer, and are very close. The first task to greet Mason-Campbell may be to ensure the 17 Australian science documentaries that were promised to replace the half-hour Catalyst will actually be delivered in 2017, as Weekly Beast understands that only a couple are at the commissioning stage.

Guthrie continues to be supported by the Murdoch press, not surprising since she spent most of her career working for Rupert, at Foxtel and Sky TV. “In my view Guthrie appears to be on the right track,” the former editor-in-chief of the Australian Chris Mitchell wrote on Monday. “If news and current affairs swallows up $200m of $1.1bn then management must make some tough calls. Perhaps it is time to let stuff go that can easily be provided by normal commercial media operators.”

Press Council criticises News Corp

A story published in the Daily Telegraph and the Courier-Mail has been criticised by the Australian Press Council for its reporting of suicide. The story detailed the apparent murder-suicide of a 25-year-old mother and her two-year-old son at the beach side suburb of Maroubra in New South Wales and featured several photographs of family and friends at the clifftop mourning the two. The mother “described killing herself and [her son] as the ‘bravest thing’ she had ever done”, the Courier-Mail reported. Published last March, “Mother, son found dead beneath cliff at Maroubra” breached the council’s standards by detailing the method, the precise location, the suicide note and the tribute to the mother being “brave”. According to an adjudication published on Thursday in the Courier-Mail, the report was “likely to cause or contribute materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety”. While the story originated in the Tele the complaint was made about its publication in the Courier-Mail.

Credlin goes full-time at Sky

The former Tony Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin joined James Packer’s CPH last year as head of policy and business development. The corporate gig, which she did as well as writing a column in the Sunday Telegraph and hosting a show on Sky, lasted just five months. Now Credlin, who already has her own regular show on Sky News, Credlin Keneally, alongside Kristina Keneally, has taken up a full-time role as a commentator at the News Corp-owned company. Credlin’s commentary will now appear across Sky on Sunday Agenda, Paul Murray Live and The Bolt Report. “As a former journalist, Tony Abbott always ‘held the pen’,” Credlin said. “That’s how it should be as it is their voice, their brand. So to write my own columns and publish under my own name has been wonderful. I was really pleased at the end of the campaign when the Sunday Telegraph and Sky News said it [had] been an outstanding success, you’ve built up a following and we want you to stay.”

Peta Credlin
Peta Credlin, former chief of staff to Tony Abbott, is enjoying the freedom to write columns without the former PM ‘holding the pen’. Photograph: Sky News

Mastheads of your Domain?

The Australian newspaper makes a sport of predicting Fairfax Media’s demise. Almost weekly there is a story foreshadowing the end of the daily edition of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. But this week there was a report that revealed some investors were keen to see Fairfax management move more urgently on ending the printed product and focusing on digital news and the property money spinner Domain.

Weekly Beast asked the investor Alex Waislitz why he wanted to change Fairfax Media’s name to Domain after he said it was anachronistic. “He believes there is significant value in the Domain business and brand name which the Fairfax board and management has yet to fully bring out,” a spokesman said. “The suggested name change was one of many potential steps he believes Fairfax might consider taking to help fully realise that value.” Waislitz says changing the company’s name to Domain wouldn’t devalue the journalistic brand at all because “there is also very considerable value in the group’s individual mastheads such as the SMH and Australian Financial Review and their individual reputations for quality journalism would not be diminished by a name change of the parent”.

Mark Colvin’s inside story

The ABC PM host Mark Colvin was writing the first draft of his bestselling memoir Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son when he was approached by Belvoir’s artistic director, Eamon Flack, and the writer Tommy Murphy (Holding the Man) who wanted to tell the extraordinary story of his kidney transplant – as an unlikely piece of theatre. Many discussions later, on 25 February the new Australian work Mark Colvin’s Kidney will open on the Sydney stage. On Wednesday night Flack and Murphy and the director, David Berthold, told a group of invited guests the story behind the making of the play – whose pivotal moments include mentions of model Elle Macpherson, Rupert Murdoch and Twitter – but sadly Colvin was not able to make it owing to family commitments.

Mark Colvin’s Kidney is the story of how the Murdoch phone-hacking victim and UK businesswoman Mary-Ellen Field came to offer to save the life of the veteran journalist she had never met. John Howard, who plays Colvin with suitably dulcet tones, and Sarah Peirse, who plays Field, joined journalists Jeff McMullen, Sue Spencer, Deb Masters, The Drum presenter Tracey Spicer and media executive and member of the Australian Media and Communications Authority Anita Jacoby to celebrate the stranger-than- fiction story ahead of its debut. At the gathering Weekly Beast was reminded how Colvin liked to joke that he was going to name his new kidney “Rupert” because it was the media mogul who was responsible for it, in a roundabout way.

All women on Aunty?

The question of how to mark International Women’s Day next month is being earnestly discussed inside Aunty. One idea, which an ABC spokesman says is not confirmed, is to celebrate women on 8 March 8 by ensuring every presenter across TV and radio is female. Since Lateline has just replaced a woman (Emma Alberici) and a man (Tony Jones) with two men – Jeremy Fernandez and Matt Wordsworth – that would be one place to start. Leigh Sales will be fine on 7.30, as will Eleanor Hall on the World Today and Sabra Lane on AM. But it sounds as if it would be a tricky project to coordinate if all the local radio stations and state TV bulletins are included.

Chris Mitchell with Malcolm Turnbull
Chris Mitchell with Malcolm Turnbull. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Channel flop

Finally, a note to Chris Mitchell who lamented in the same column referred to above that on the day of the US presidential election ABC News Radio broadcast parliament. How dare they? “It would have been simple to change ABC NewsRadio’s programming by channelling News 24’s coverage. Sydney radio 2GB often does exactly that, running a Sky News feed.” Chris, the ABC is required by law to broadcast the proceedings of federal parliament. That’s why News Radio was set up.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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