Nine CEO moves to allay Fairfax fears over editorial independence

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 1 August 2018
From left: Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner, Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany,ThinkTV CEO Kim Portrate, Nine CEO Hugh Marks and Ten chief executive Paul Anderson.

Editors of Fairfax mastheads will be empowered to make editorial calls on their own behalf, Nine CEO Hugh Marks has confirmed.

Following news on the mega merger between Nine and Fairfax, concerns over editorial independence quickly emerged with journalists' union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), calling for Nine to sign the Fairfax charter of editorial independence.

Speaking at a ThinkTV dinner at Advertising Week APAC, on a panel with top TV bosses including Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner, Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany, Nine CEO Hugh Marks and Ten chief executive Paul Anderson, Australian Financial Review managing editor Joanne Gray pressed Marks for a firm decision.

“Great content brings results and that can apply as equally to print media for the new world, but also with television showing the numbers it does up there in terms of its effectiveness,” Marks said.

“We're really reliant on great editors doing great work. Great work leads to great results.”

When it comes to editors being empowered to make those editorial decisions, Marks said “A loud proud yes”.

Despite not confirming to sign the charter as such, and with one CEO quipping “buy the land, get the Indians” to make light of the matter, the conversation soon turned from the impact on journalism to what the merger will mean for advertisers and audiences.

Marks said the “world is changing”, which means it has to think of the business as providing marketing solutions, rather than “just selling advertisements”.

“It's about working with clients in a way that perhaps we didn't in the past, but we do in the future - and to do that across more than just one medium,” he said.

“We have to take control and understand how to innovate our business so that we can work with customers on better marketing solutions.

“What we know is we need to bring more value into play.”

No more overnight ratings

The panel discussion also hit off the ACCC inquiry with concerns over Google and Facebook's power arising and how they devour a “huge slice of the advertising pie”, while also marking their own homework.

“I would have done even better at school if I was able to score my homework. I would have been bloody brilliant,” Worner commented.

Moves to make the buying of TV far easier and the impact of Think TV, praised for its “industry awakening”, were commended.

Worner also called for the end of overnight TV ratings.

“I don't believe we should provide overnight numbers,” he said.

“We should provide overnight shares and then once we actually know what the total audience for a show is, that's when we should provide a number. Not before, when we're actually providing a number because it's not a total audience of a show. You'll know what a total is after seven days, after 28 days.”

On capturing the attention of millennials, Anderson mentioned Ten's upcoming pilot week saying by “taking a punt on a whole bunch of shows that are one-offs”, that are punchy and edgy, Ten is hoping this will pay off. While admitting it probably would've been “a bit scared” to pull such a move in the past, Ten hopes its pilot week will pull more millennials into television.

“I think Love Island is a great example of programs and shows not necessarily on the main channel that then allow people to watch it wherever and whenever they want on whatever they like,” Anderson said.

“It's about breaking out of that mindset of producing content and putting it only on the main channel.”

Want more? See:

Media agency leaders react to Nine and Fairfax merger

Domain and Stan main merger motivator, but journalism important to Nine

A Fairfax-Nine merger is better than Fairfax collapsing

Nine and Fairfax merger will offer scale and simplicity to advertisers, says sales boss


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