Facebook and North Shore Mums: of all the pages blocked, this one fired up Paul Fletcher

of all the Facebook groups the Morrison government was worried about when Mark Zuckerberg blocked thousands of crucial community, Indigenous, health and emergency services pages on Thursday there was one that stood out.

f all the Facebook groups the Morrison government was worried about when Mark Zuckerberg blocked thousands of crucial community, Indigenous, health and emergency services pages on Thursday there was one that stood out.

It was North Shore Mums, with its 22,000 members on Sydney’s leafy north shore, that caught the imagination of the communications minister, Paul Fletcher, who is of course their local member.

So outraged was the member for Bradfield he found the time to speak to the operator of the page in between handling the biggest media crisis his portfolio had ever seen.

Taking to the podium with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to address what had become a global story, Fletcher singled out North Shore Mums.

“I have spoken this morning to the operator of North Shore Mums, which is a well-known Facebook page in my own electorate,” he said.

“Like a number of similar services around Australia, her page, her Facebook page, has been blocked, and that is of significant concern.”

Later in question time he told parliament that what Zuckerberg had done was wrong and should be reversed. “Why would you pick on small businesses like North Shore Mums in my electorate?”

But Fletcher wasn’t finished. On ABC’s Q+A panel he spoke up again for the largely well-heeled mums, condemning the removal of “fire and emergency services, health, the Facebook pages of their government departments being blocked, 1800 RESPECT has been blocked … and North Shore Mums.”

You’ll be relieved to know the group is back online on Friday, posting important questions such as: “Ladies, best brunch cafes with water views please for taking visitors?”

The reporter breaking down disability barriers

Nineteen-year old Charles Brice consumed a lot of news when he was recovering from a spinal injury in 2009, an injury so severe the surgeon told him he would never walk again.

“Not once did I see a piece-to-camera, a live cross or a newsreader who used a wheelchair,” he remembers. “It appeared that disability did not belong on-air.”

On Thursday Brice changed all that when he did his first live cross on ABC News Breakfast as the program’s Adelaide reporter.

Brice told Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar about the Garden of Unearthly Delights, which was ready to welcome travellers from regional Victoria as the border opened up.

Brice says he was inspired by the ABC journalist Nas Campanella, then a Triple J newsreader, who is blind.

Campanella is a regular face on ABC TV in her high-profile role as a reporter with a disability reporting on disability issues.

“To me, she was the pioneer and she sounded just like other radio newsreaders around the country – professional. It proved two things,” Brice says. “That people with disability belong in Australian media industry, as we are just as capable as our able-bodied counterparts.”

After graduation Brice was employed as a digital producer at ABC News, and then more recently fronted the camera for a story on Landline about disability in rural areas.

Now Brice is joining Campanella in breaking down barriers for people with a disability reporting for TV news.

According to the latest available ABC figures, content makers with a disability make up 4.7% of staff at the ABC, content makers who are culturally and linguistically diverse make up 9.4% and Indigenous content makers represent 2.8%.

Brittany Higgins story weeks in the making

A lot of attention has been given to Lisa Wilkinson for her interview with Brittany Higgins on The Project, and deservedly so. It was a highly effective interview. But it was a big week too for the news.com.au political editor, Samantha Maiden, who broke the story.

Weekly Beast understands Maiden, who won a Walkley last year for scoop of the year, had been talking to Higgins since January about her story, spending weeks fact-checking and researching her claims. Separately, Higgins had a connection to Wilkinson and she agreed to a television interview that would run after Maiden’s exclusive had been published on Monday.

Outsiders play dress-up for new promo

Sky News Australia is spending up big on advertising and promotions, shelling out for an unusually glossy promo for its Outsiders program fronted by Rowan Dean, James Morrow and Rita Panahi on Sunday.

The trio describe the show as a “no-holds barred observation of the political week that was”, and are one of the more extreme shows on the channel, which is saying something. They have spent a great deal of time lately, for example, bolstering false narratives of election fraud in the US, and Panahi was a fan of the late rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh.

But the Outsiders are marketing themselves as the “fun” show and have played dress-ups for their new promo.

Panahi, Dean and Morrow are outfitted in full astronaut gear and are seen flying off in a spaceship. But the weirdest part is the vision of Panahi dressed Barbarella-style in a white spacesuit pointing a gun at the camera.

She clearly loves the stylised shoot, having posted several images on her Instagram account.

ABC journos extract funding guarantee

Thanks to all the ABC journalists who irritated Paul Fletcher by persistently asking him about ABC funding on Thursday we now have an on-the-record guarantee the Coalition won’t cut funding as a result of any revenue the public broadcaster may get from the media bargaining code.

After initially being excluded from receiving payments from Google and Facebook for using their content, the ABC and the SBS were added when the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, made changes to the draft mandatory news code in parliament in December.

The changes were made after Labor, the Greens and several crossbenchers suggested they should be added to the ranks of Australian news publishers in the interests of helping gain broad cross-party support for the legislation.

Fletcher was asked on ABC News Breakfast by Lisa Millar, then again at the press conference by political editor Andrew Probyn and then finally by Hamish Macdonald on Q+A.

Fletcher gave a similar answer to all three: “I am reliably asked this question by every ABC journalist who interviews me about this issue. The government will not be offsetting the funding commitment that we make for any proceeds the ABC receives from the digital platforms.”

Facebook ban to shake up news traffic

Facebook’s banning of Australian news sites is going to shake up the news media market considerably in the next few months.

The Mumbrella founder Tim Burrowes tells Beast it will have a major impact on traffic. It may also change the rankings as some sites – such as Seven and Daily Mail – depend more on Facebook referral than others.

“Just about every site gets a significant amount of its traffic from Facebook so I’d expect to see them all fall,” Burrowes says. “So if this proves to be more than a short-term show of power by Facebook for a couple of days that will have a material effect on publishing economics, particularly for sites which have advertising as their only revenue stream.”

The senior lecturer in journalism at RMIT University in Melbourne, Dr Alex Wake, says the journalism industry is reeling from the Facebook shutdown.

“We need a new way of sharing news with communities,” she told Beast. “Anything people now see on Facebook is not trustworthy news. They’ve chosen bad (but profitable) information over good (researched, credible, trustworthy) information.

“After being slow or inadequate to act on matters such as fake news, rightwing extremism, and child exploitation, Facebook has been stunningly swift to act on this. It’s corporate bullying of the Australian government by Facebook. We are now looking how we shared news in the old days: email newsletters, bulletin boards, Reddit, radio. Those in the industry are things like Parler instead.”

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