Australia media firms join fight against Rebel Wilson’s record $3.6 million defamation payout

The Supreme Court of Victoria found that Rebel Wilson missed out on Hollywood roles as a result of a string of articles published by German magazine publisher Bauer Media. (Reuters)
Updated 26 February 2018

Australia media firms join fight against Rebel Wilson’s record $3.6 million defamation payout

SYDNEY: Australian media companies on Monday sought to join German magazine publisher Bauer Media in fighting a record A$4.56 million ($3.6 million) defamation payout to Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson, arguing it set a dangerous precedent.
The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Fairfax Media Ltd, Seven West Media Ltd. and Nine Entertainment Co. Holdings Ltd. and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. filed a joint motion to “intervene” in the case, a lawyer representing the companies said.
The move is a rare show of unity in an industry increasingly divided along political lines. In 2017, a court awarded the “Pitch Perfect” Sydney-born star the country’s highest defamation payout, smashing the A$389,000 maximum, by using the actress’s global reach to justify a “special” damages payment.
The Supreme Court of Victoria found that Wilson missed out on Hollywood roles as a result of a string of articles published by Bauer which claimed Wilson lied about her age, real name and some childhood events, even after it knew the allegations were false.
In Australian law, companies are allowed to seek permission to intervene in a case if they believe the outcome affects their business directly. If allowed, they get to argue their case, separate from the plaintiff and the defendant, during a hearing.
“The concern is that Justice (John) Dixon (of the Supreme Court of Victoria) found that where aggravated damages are awarded, the damages cap no longer applies,” said Justin Quill from Macpherson Kelley Lawyers, representing the media companies.
“This sets a precedent because if someone has an aggravated damages claim then they can be given unlimited damages – the sky is the limit,” he added.
Wilson’s lawyer did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Bauer wasn’t “surprised to see Australia’s largest media organizations supporting its position in relation to the cap on defamation damages,” its general counsel, Adrian Goss, said in an email.
“That aspect of the court’s decision has significant consequences for all media,” Goss added.
Australian media companies routinely intervene in cases when they want to overturn suppression orders, but rarely in matters concerning defamation.
Bauer’s appeal against the Wilson payout begins on April 18.


MBC hires Marc Antoine d’Halluin as new CEO

Updated 10 December 2019

MBC hires Marc Antoine d’Halluin as new CEO

  • Appointment comes as Saudi-owned broadcaster launches video-on-demand “Shahid” platform

LONDON: Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC has hired Marc Antoine d’Halluin as its new CEO following the departure of veteran broadcaster Sam Barnett.

MBC founder Waleed Al-Ibrahim said his new CEO would drive forward the company’s five-year growth plan announced last year and which has a heavy emphasis on developing video on demand (VOD) content.

D’Halluin started his career at Sony Pictures Entertainment and prior to joining MBC Group was the chairman of the Luxembourg-based M7 Group, which operates satellite pay TV in Holland, Belgium, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. M7 Group was recently sold to Vivendi’s Canal+ Group.

Regional broadcasters including MBC are facing increasing competition from new arrivals to the region in the rapidly growing video on demand sector, dominated by Netflix and Amazon.

In response, MBC Group is ramping up investment in its own Arabic-language VOD platform while also targeting the Arab-speaking diaspora.

FASTFACT

MBC was the first private free-to-air Arab satellite TV channel.

Subscription video on demand is expected to more than double in the Middle East and North Africa between 2018 and 2024, according to Digital TV Research. 

Last month, MBC’s VOD platform, known as “Shahid” announced the launch of its first-ever original production. Titled “ElDiva,” the drama series stars Cyrine Abdel Nour in the lead role, alongside actor Yacob Alfarhan, and the Egyptian folk singer and actress, Bosy. 

“MBC was the first major media company in the region to launch a VOD platform,” said Shahid managing director Johannes Larcher at the time of the launch

“Nearly all the international giants of entertainment have turned or are turning their attention to this type of ‘digital first’ content.”

MBC Group originally launched in London in 1991 as the first private free-to-air Arab satellite TV channel and moved to Dubai in 2002. Today it includes a number of leading channels that include the 24-hour Arabic news channel Al Arabiya.