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Jones’ new TV gig part of News Corp’s game of thrones

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Ambition may be all well and good for the former Oz editor, but whether that’s attainable remains to be seen – there would be quite a few people in line ahead of Boris with more experience running larger commercial divisions of the Murdoch empire. Running News Corp Australia is a difficult job that requires a special temperament – somebody who can manage politicians, editors, a range of executives across real estate, broadcast and publishing, and, of course, the Murdoch family.

But, the Murdochs love to have newsmen at the top of their operations – global chief executive Robert Thomson began his career as a copykid at the Melbourne Herald, and former News Corp Australia chief executive John Hartigan started work at John Fairfax and Sons as a copykid aged 16.

Sky News chief executive Paul Whittaker. Supplied

The answer to who would step into Miller’s shoes – and there’s no indication he’s leaving anytime soon – is not clear cut within the News Corp hierarchy. If the News Corp Australasia executive chairman were to leave tomorrow, nobody could be considered an outright favourite.

News Corp Australia’s chief operating officer of publishing, Damian Eales, has consistently come up as a potential successor. The group executive of corporate affairs, policy and government relations, Campbell Reid, is a former editor of The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, and his is another name that has popped us as a dark horse – a calm operator who has quietly prosecuted News Corp’s case against Facebook and Google in Australia.

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany, who has the unenviable job of turning around the pay-TV giant and has managed to slash its cost base via renegotiated sports rights deals and restructuring, would also have a strong case as a contender given the challenges he’s attempting to take on. And News Corp’s managing director of Queensland, Northern NSW & Northern Territory, Jason Scott, has a chance to build a strong case to continue his climb up the ranks if he can successfully flip News Corp’s regional and community portfolio to a largely digital model.

Whittaker has signed Jones up for four days a week of prime-time TV programming, anchoring Sky after Dark at 8pm, colloquially known as Right at Night. Jones has already been working at Sky News two nights a week.

The strategy of running heavily conservative commentators at night, rather than straight news which Sky News runs during the day, has worked out well for Sky News’s ratings. Just last week, on the night where Fox Sports was getting 257,000 viewers for the return of the AFL last Thursday, Credlin, hosted by former prime minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin, pulled 71,000 viewers, Andrew Bolt’s Bolt Report garnered 65,000 and Paul Murray Live brought in 64,000. Sky News consistently rates as Foxtel’s No. 1 non-sports channel.

While ratings have improved, the accusations of bias, storms of controversy and meddling in politics have done little for Sky News Australia’s reputation since it was acquired by News Corp in December 2016. News thought it would get the mass reach of metropolitan free-to-air TV before Lachlan Murdoch’s attempts to gain control of Network Ten failed in 2017.

In August 2018, Jones and many Sky News commentators were among the cohort of conservative commentators Nine political editor Chris Uhlmann accused of running a campaign against former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, helping to lead to his toppling.

Australia has a population of more than 25 million, and less than a third of households have Foxtel, compared to the United States with more than 328 million people where conservative news network Fox News, the crown jewel of Murdoch’s new Fox, is a ratings and revenue powerhouse, despite ongoing controversy.

Australia simply doesn’t have the scale for the level of ultra-conservatism to spin cash the way it does in America. Alan Jones may have an audience, but as Nine (the owner of the Financial Review) found out, far-left groups have become sophisticated and coordinated in their campaigning. They aggressively targeted Jones’ advertisers following his remarks towards New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on his 2GB breakfast show to the point where it hurt the group’s radio earnings.

If the same advertiser boycotts that hurt Jones’ on 2GB continue and ramp up on Sky News Australia, it could well hurt the channel’s bottom line. Ratings may be well and good, but money talks in the Murdoch empire.

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Judge rejects Prop. 22 backers’ attempt to change gig-work ballot language

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A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Tuesday rebuffed backers of Proposition 22, a referendum aiming to keep some gig workers as independent contractors, in their lawsuit claiming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote a slanted description of their measure.

The attorney general writes the title, summary and label of an initiative that appear on the California ballot and ballot pamphlet and are vital to communicating to voters.

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that Becerra was biased and wrote language painting the measure in a negative light because he is suing Uber and Lyft, two of the major backers of Prop. 22, over their driver classification. Becerra’s lawsuit says that Uber and Lyft drivers should be employees under AB5, California’s new gig-work law — which is exactly what Prop. 22 seeks to avoid.

Besides Uber and Lyft, the other backers of Prop. 22 are DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart. The five companies have put up $110 million so far in their quest to convince voters that drivers and couriers should not be employees, which the companies say would destroy the flexibility those workers rely on. It would also cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars, and potentially increase the prices consumers pay for rides and deliveries.

Becerra’s language accurately informs voters about the initiative, wrote Judge Laurie Earl in a tentative decision that will become final unless Yes on 22 requests a hearing.

The campaign has until Wednesday afternoon to make that request. The hearing would occur Thursday morning with each side limited to 30 minutes of oral arguments. Yes on 22 did not immediately say whether it will request the hearing.

The title written by Becerra that Yes on 22 objects to reads: “Exempts app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers.”

The Yes on 22 campaign charged that “exempt” was a prejudicial term.

But the judge disagreed. “Read as a whole, this is not false, misleading, or inaccurate, and the use of the word ‘exempt’ in the ballot title does not make it so,” Earl wrote. In fact, she wrote, the ballot measure would exempt the companies from complying with various state laws applicable to employees.

Earl rejected Yes on 22’s claim that Becerra’s case against Uber and Lyft meant he was not impartial.

“This lawsuit is irrelevant,” the judge wrote, pointing to precedents that elected state officers are entitled to take public positions on matters of public importance.

The Yes on 22 provided a written statement responding to the ruling from Doug Mead, a freelance writer and Uber Eats and Postmates driver from Palm Springs. The campaign said he was among thousands of drivers who support remaining independent workers.

“The Attorney General is playing politics with the jobs of nearly one million Californians and threatening the services so many families rely on,” Mead’s statement read. “His biased and prejudicial description of Prop. 22 only benefits his special-interest supporters while doing a disservice to California voters.”

The No on 22 campaign, which is backed by organized labor, applauded the tentative ruling.

“The judge’s thoughtful deliberation on this ruling ensures that every Californian will know the unbiased truth when they fill out their ballots in November: Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are trying to buy themselves a special exemption to roll back drivers’ rights,” said Mike Roth, spokesman for the No on Prop. 22 campaign.

Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: csaid@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @csaid



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IWGB wins workers status and rights for gig economy couriers at CitySprint

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CITYSPRINT couriers’ status as workers with rights was confirmed once and for all today after the company was dragged back to an employment tribunal for the third time.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claimed victory in its battle to gain basic employment rights for five gig-economy workers at the company. 

CitySprint had changed workers’ contracts rather than comply with a previous ruling that they are entitled to holiday pay and the legal minimum wage. 

The company could now be forced to give them thousands of pounds in lieu of the holidays they were denied once its financial liability is established at a final hearing in October.

Claimant Phil Weber said: “This victory over CitySprint shows what strength there is in being part of an active front-line union like the IWGB. I hope it gives others courage. 

“So many ‘gig economy’ courier companies wrongly classify their workforce as self-employed independent contractors. 

“We all know they’re playing the system to deny basic rights like holiday pay and pension contributions, but most workers are afraid to stand up for themselves because, as it is, there’s not enough work to go around and so little job security. We’re left fighting for scraps. 

“But when we are united and fight together, things can turn out very differently.”

The IWGB said it was appalled that it had had to take the company to an employment tribunal three times because the company “was so determined” to deny workers basic protections. 

But yesterday’s victory shows that even when terms of contracts are manipulated, union organising can still win the fight for workers’ rights, the IWGB added. 

General secretary Dr Jason Moyer Lee said: “CitySprint and other ‘gig economy’ companies are making a mockery of the British legal system.  

“If the law were enforced and sanctions were real, CitySprint wouldn’t have dreamed of simply acting like it hadn’t already lost a tribunal claim over its couriers’ workers’ rights. 

“In the absence of the state enforcing the law, the IWGB will continue to hold these cowboy companies to account.”

A separate £43,668.86 holiday pay claim is being made against Royal Mail-owned eCourier on behalf of three couriers transferred from CitySprint.

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Gig-Workers Across CA Protest in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Across California Protest on Thursday 8/6 in Advance of Judge’s Ruling

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Gig-Workers Demand That Uber And Lyft Obey AB 5

This Thursday, August 6, gig-workers across the state of California will be participating in actions demanding that Uber and Lyft obey AB 5 and immediately reclassify their workers as employees. Workers will also be demanding that the companies drop their Prop 22 Ballot Initiative (which the company’s have committed to spend $110m on) which would roll back gig-workers’ rights. This statewide day of action comes in advance of a judge’s ruling on the preliminary injunction motion filed by the California Attorney General in the state’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, which will come down at 1:30 PM on Thursday.

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In Oakland, drivers from Gig Workers Rising, Rideshare Drivers United & We Drive Progress will be holding a rally titled “Workers Can’t Wait” to demand the employee status they are legally owed under AB 5. Workers will gather at the East Oakland Lyft Hub and, starting at 11:30 AM, various drivers will speak about the grave mistreatment by the companies and demanding that voters vote no on Prop 22.

In Los Angeles, Mobile Workers Alliance and Rideshare Drivers United will host a joint press conference at a Lyft hub. The action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 AM.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and a coalition of city attorneys filed an injunction in June to require Uber and Lyft to immediately begin obeying AB 5, which took effect in January. AB 5 requires the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. Uber and Lyft argue that they shouldn’t be required to follow the law until after voters vote on Prop 22 in November. Becerra argues the harm currently facing drivers is so great that it would be neglectful to wait until the end of the current litigation. The law is clearly on the workers’ side.



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