Adverse Action Lawyer wanted in Frijters versus UQ case

I am seeking a lawyer to run an Adverse Action case connected to the recent Fair Work Commission verdict that found systematic breaches of procedures and procedural fairness in the University of Queensland’s actions against me following my research on racial attitudes in Brisbane. I first raised these breaches late 2013, but they were never addressed, with lots of new ones added to them as the case dragged on. The VC of the university was also personally informed of these breaches in April 2014, publicly denying there was anything wrong about UQ’s action in February 2015. He was again informed in March 2015, consistently failing to rectify breaches of procedure brought to his attention. I wish to bring an Adverse Action case to claim back my considerable costs.


I expect the case to be worth at least a few hundred thousand dollars in terms of damages (legal cost, value of my time, etc.), and for it to be potentially one of many others because the FW case uncovered widespread breaches of procedures in UQ’s handling of misconduct cases. So there might well be many others who are now looking to bring Adverse Action cases against UQ.

I offer a pay-for-success contract wherein the first part of any awarded damages would go to the lawyer, but after a threshold payment I want 50% to go to the successful lawyer and 50% towards Vanavil, which is a school for orphaned victims of the 2004 Tsunami flood in India. I feel that helping the poorest Indians will go some way to nullify the damage that the managers of UQ did when they suppressed evidence of adverse treatments of Indians (and Indigenous peoples) in Brisbane and made it harder to research these things in general. And I want to feel that I haven’t wasted my time these last three years on fighting mindless bureaucracies, but that my efforts ended up helping people in need.

Negotiations on the offered contract are possible. Please contact me on email if you are interested or have a good suggestion for a good adverse action lawyer ( p dot frijters AT uq dot edu dot au).

[Ps. The VC of UQ was still making inappropriate claims last week on the UQ media about his lack of involvement and has refused to retract his claims this last week when I pointed his errors out to him.]

Journalists, it is time to break free and become media owners

As I read it, there is much concern in Australia about Fairfax’s owners becoming more active editorially. But I wonder if this really exposes potentially the lack of value in owning media.

In the world were media paths — newspapers, TV channels, radio stations — were bottlenecks in gaining public attention, someone could buy a media outlet, direct it towards their own private interests, and the lack of options may distort the information people were receiving. But equally, there were considerable commercial pressures for different media outlets to occupy different spaces. Many worry about Fox News and MSNBC in the US but I must admit that I see them more as positioning in product market space than the expensive delight of their owners in influencing the political process. I don’t doubt that they have some influence but I doubt it is worth paying a large commercial cost for.

For newspapers in Australia, we have one that clearly positions itself on the right even if it is hard to extract that in the data. And now we have the other that potentially may want to do the same. That has upset Fairfax employees and may upset its consumers. But that level of distress belies the fact that these groups have options.

Because you do not need to buy printing presses and a distribution network, if you want to get the news out with a certain degree of independence, you can today. To be sure, getting attention still requires investment but it is hard to describe this as an insurmountable bottleneck any more. The case of Business Spectator illustrates that. The Conversation provides an even stronger case. The point is that you do not need nearly as much revenue to cover the costs of providing an independent voice any more.

To editors and journalists worried that their lives are about to be controlled in a way they do not like, collectively you have bargaining power. It is not bargaining power in the ‘strike’ sense; someone who doesn’t value you isn’t going to bow to that kind of pressure. No, it is bargaining power in the competitive entry sense. There are named, respected journalists in Australia that do not need the upper layer of management to have a voice and earn a living. It won’t be easy in the short-run but look at where the world is heading. It is time to move.

In this regard, the ABC is actually in a unique place to assist in the transition. The ABC could be a news outlet but it could also provide a path for our best journalists. They could work for the ABC part-time to obtain a less risky salary and then for the rest of their time build an independent venture. After all, who said that the ABC’s role in providing an independent voice required it to provide that voice. Instead, it could act more like an incubator to usher journalists from the old and into the new world. For those who want a media freer of commercial imperatives, this is the type of thing we need to be encouraging.

Online distribution hits magazine prices

Electronic distribution is impacting magazine prices. Below is a table of prices for a sample of popular magazines. Data were obtained for printed magazines delivered to your doorstep from and compared to prices from Zinio, which sells electronic magazines viewable on your  computer, ipad or other device. Annual subscription prices were normalized by dividing by the number of issues per year included in the subscription.

You can download the spreadsheet here.

The Dead Tree Premium

It generally costs much more per issue to subscribe to printed magazines than to the electronic version of the same magazine. For example, a printed issue of Macworld Australia costs AUD7.33, which is 1.6 times more expensive than the electronic version costing AUD4.47. This “dead tree” premium ranges from a low of 1.3 for National Geographic to an astronomical 44.8 for Elle. A single printed issue of Elle costs the same as 3.7 years worth of electronic issues! Moreover the electronic subscription arrives immediately while the printed version may take days or weeks to be delivered, especially for overseas magazines.

Printed magazines may continue to sell as an “impulse purchase” at supermarket checkouts and news stands, or to collectors. However, I cannot imagine that the annual subscription model is sustainable at such high premiums for the general public.

US versus Australian Electronic Pricing

An interesting pattern arises when comparing the prices of electronic magazines in the Australian Zinio store with that of the same company’s US store. Some online retailers have been known to discriminate on pricing for their Australian stores. However, for the most part magazine prices are the same whether you buy them from the US or Australian Zinio store. For those of us Down Under, there has never been a better time to consume such media.

Notable exceptions are New Scientist, The Economist and National Geographic, which cost 1.85 times, 2.23 times  and 2.36 times more in the Australian online store than in the US store, respectively.

National Geographic and The Economist

National Geographic and The Economist are both attempting to price discriminate. They are asking the highest amount for an Australian electronic subscription relative to the US one (AUD44.25 versus USD19.99 per year for National Geographic, and AUD266 versus USD126.99 per year for The Economist). Both are still cheaper than the printed versions, but not by very much (AUD 59 for the Geographic and USD365 for The Economist).

I wonder if they will continue to be able to extract additional surplus from Australian consumers. In both cases, the magazines are relatively unique, so perhaps there subscribers are less likely to switch to something else. Or perhaps their high pricing is temporary… there are lots of inexpensive magazines to read and a ton of websites and blogs to visit that offer interesting free content. One difficulty both firms will face is that their audience is relatively sophisticated and will become increasingly annoyed when they click the “renew” button to find that their subscription does not qualify for the much cheaper US price (sample screenshot). It was easier to justify higher Australian prices for printed magazines as being due to transportation and distribution costs. But in this case, they are distributing exactly the same electronic file, and via the same distributor. Too much of a gap between the US and Australian prices will lead to a temptation to find workarounds, as has been the case with other online retailers.


Videos now available for “Who Owns The News?” seminar

Click Image for Video Album

Last week MBS hosted a public seminar on “Who Owns the News?” exploring the impact of the internet on the news industry. The event was organized by IPRIA, CMCL and MBS CITE. It serves to clarify the key issues and lays the groundwork for a discussion of these issues. I had fun and hope that the 110+ people who attended it did too.

Sam Ricketson, Professor at Melbourne Law School, chaired the event and did a great job orchestrating the Q&A session. Mark Davison from Monash spoke about changes in copyright law and expressed concerns over the “Hot News” doctrine, an approach currently being proposed by news organizations in the US to prevent others from copying their content. Stephen King outlined the economic issues and has posted his very thoughtful comments at

As the discussant, I described what I had learnt from Mark and Stephen and also tried to consider various options faced by a CEO in this industry. My pdf slides are at While my comments might have been perceived as pessimistic by Stephen and others, I am actually quite optimistic about the future of the industry, but mainly for individuals and  firms trying out innovative ways of gathering and delivering the news. I am however pessimistic about existing firms: if history has taught us anything, it is that many of them will struggle to adapt with these drastic changes.

The video recordings for “Who Owns the News?” are now available. I have posted them at Portions were removed to protect the identity of audience members. We thank the speakers for permission to share their insights online. Enjoy the show 😉

Lara Bingle and the cost of privacy

photographerMy colleagues at the Law School have just written an interesting analysis of the Lara Bingle nude photo case. They think she doesn’t have a strong legal case based on either privacy law or defamation law. Lara appears to be earning a tidy sum from the publicity generated, so I suppose its not an entirely bad strategy. The Bingle incident is one of an increasing number of clashes among conflicting goals to maintain privacy, copyright protection, and freedom. It is tempting to blame the technology (cellphones, cameras, iphones, etc.), and to suggest that people should not be allowed to take photographs or videos unless permitted. Countries like the UK and USA now have strict but vague rules on what you can photograph. The problem is that it is difficult to articulate what these parameters would be in a way that is generally acceptable. This creates high enforcement costs and generates unfortunate incidents where people are stopped for doing seemingly legitimate things. Blanket bans do not work well and lead to a climate of censorship and fear. Instead of focusing on the creation of images, a better solution is to concentrate on managing how images are used. Allow people to take photos and videos unfettered. There are so many photos and videos being taken these days that most of these will never see the light of day anyways. Meanwhile establish clearer guidelines on what kinds of images may not be used for various applications: the arts, news, online blogs, commercial advertising and education (also, in each case be clear whether permission is needed from those in the image). While this suggestion may not entirely solve the problem, it will at least take us partways there. Social and legal systems have some ways to go before catching up with the reality of living in a media-rich world.

Hot tip: bet one Aussie dollar each way.

At the one extreme we have exotic financial derivatives that no-one knows how to value as well as opaque bundles of high risk loans and low risk bonds that no-one knew how to value either. At the other extreme, we have the simplistic nonsense known as technical analysis that anyone can understand, but happens to be bollocks. No wonder the world financial system is such a ferrel beast.

[DDET Read More]

Age write Lucy Battersby has produce this gem of an article, that spruiks the sage thoughts of Paul Ash, president of the Victorian chapter of the Australian Technical Analysts Association. It is all about the much-buffeted AUD.

It turns out that the Aussie went down for a while, then up, then down, then up a little bit, then down a tiny bit. This is clearly big news. But not one to take things at face value, Ms. Battersby notes that the Aussie is

at a moment of indecision that could see it continue downwards or climb and break though resistance.

Let’s rush straight out and put some money on it to……go up?… go down..? Hell, let’s just buy a Tatts ticket.

But it gets more specific (and consequently more wrong) as the article progresses. Mr. Ash claims that for the next day “it is critical if the AUD can spend 24 hours above 90 cents.” Like Uri Geller and John Edwards though, he never actually completes the prediction of what might happen after that. But he is clearly saying that Tuesday Feb 23 is critical. Forget any notion of EMH or martingales. The claim is that the value Vt of the aussie dollar satisfies the condition

 if inf{Vt:t ε Feb 23} > 0.90

then ∂EVt/∂t>0 ….. or perhaps ∂EVt/∂t<0. Take your pick.

Ms. Battersby then chimes in to describe technical analysis as

a search for patterns which not only “provides a theoretical basis” for traders but “removes sentiment and gut feeling” from trading.

The straw man strikes again. The only possible trading strategies apparently are pattern searching or gut feeling. Forget any research on the company you want to own. Someone tell Warren Buffet and his acolytes.

But I have been a little unfair to Mr. Ash in claiming that he never makes a prediction. He does actually come out with one towards the end. He says that if the AUD gets above the “non-confirmed resistance line” of 91.7 cents “then we would say with confidence that the AUD is on an upward trend.”

Anyone heard of a tautology? Since it is below 91.7 now, if it gets to 91.7 it will be on an upward trend. Gentlemen. Place your bets!

Hat tip to Mike Smith for slipping this article under my door.


Targeting Technology and Advertising Markets

I’m skipping the AEA meetings at the moment but fortunately a new paper of mine is being presented. It is co-authored with Susan Athey and it is entitled “The Impact of Targeting Technology on Advertising Markets and Media Competition.” Here is the abstract:

This paper examines the impact of geographic targeting technology on local advertising markets when local and general media outlets compete for readers. In a base case, it is demonstrated that when the general outlet adopts such technologies, this does not impact on advertising prices or profits as that outlet expands ad space to meet demand. When wasted impressions are costly or there are advertiser capacity constraints that create competition between outlets for advertisers, this conclusion changes and there is a positive return to targeting. This adoption is likely to adversely impact on local outlet profits.

You can download it here. For a more readable account, here is a link to slides Susan used at a recent FTC conference on how journalism will survive the internet age; also speaking were Arianna Huffington and Rupert Murdoch. It was also webcast.

Do you see Obama as Black or White?

[Tirta Susilo is a PhD student in psychology, and a co-author of mine on a recent study, published in (appropriately enough) the Journal of Economic Psychology. Tirta has written a guest-post on some fascinating new research about skin colour and politics.]

Earlier this year Andrew Leigh and I observed that skin colour can predict vote share: in a Northern Territory election, darker-skinned candidates won more votes in predominantly darker-skinned electorates, while lighter-skinned candidates fared better in predominantly lighter-skinned electorates. Our finding argues that, in the absence of complete political information, voters might use skin colour to help them cast the ballot.

But how do voters actually perceive skin colour? Is voters’ perception of skin colour veridical? Or do political leaning biased voters’ perception of skin colour in a systematic way? This question was recently examined in a study by psychologists Eugene Caruso, Nicole Mead, and Emily Balcetis.

Continue reading “Do you see Obama as Black or White?”

Maybe Murdoch wasn’t that crazy

Last week, Rupert Murdoch gave an interview with Sky News where he repeated his claim that aggregators like Google and Microsoft were ‘stealing’ his content and that putting up a paywall will limit that. This resulted in an blogosphere frenzy as to his craziness. After all, if Google and Microsoft are driving traffic to your site why would you want to limit that?

I listened to the full interview today and while that opinion is expressed Murdoch clearly understands the implications of it. Moreover, he bends over backwards to point out that Google and others are respecting his copyright and that he has a choice as to whether his sites turn up in Google or not.

What was more interesting was his rationale for why he might want to throttle that traffic. His view was that those visitors pushed up count numbers but were not as valuable as loyal readers. He did not go into much more detail but in my recent work on this industry, I think that he might just have a point. Continue reading “Maybe Murdoch wasn’t that crazy”

Newspapers need to get a grip

That’s the message from Bill Wyman in this excellent article about why newspapers are failing. The answer is competition but the way he depicts the problems is first-rate. Here is a taste:

And some of it was useful to readers. But let’s be honest. It wasn’t the information the republic needs to govern itself. A very large percentage of it was based, one way or another, on information from press releases, either physical or de facto, from organizations with products to sell.

Press releases contain dated information, the release of which is valuable only to the companies involved; in most cases, they’d actually pay to advertise it, and in that sense it has a negative news value. But vast swaths of a typical American daily is filled with news whose primary source is a press release of one form or another, from entities governmental, political, or corporate. It was part of an unspoken but implicit agreement the papers had with advertisers—that the vast majority of what the paper printed would be complementary with the advertising. (It would be complimentary too, of course.)

The irony is that this all wasn’t as corrupt as it sounds. The primary cause of this wasn’t, paradoxically, to curry favor with advertisers, though they certainly liked it. That was just a lagniappe. The big attraction of a press release? It was safe. No one has ever canceled a newspaper subscription (and no one has ever gotten into trouble internally) because of the publication of material contained in a press release. Anyway, I argue this genetic evolution made timidity the hallmark of most daily American newspapers. It manifested itself in myriad ways.

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