Commercial grab of media assets begins

By Barry Tucker                  8 November, 2014

We have what seems to be the opening shot in the commercial news and entertainment media’s campaign for consolidation of outlets.

It came in a statement to the annual general meeting by Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett on Thursday, 6 November, 2014.

The Right wing “think tank” Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), in reality the policy-forming arm of the Liberal party, supports the move. See M Media, item 27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

Further media consolidation (buying up, merging, selling off excess assets, increasing market share, eliminating costs, competition and diversity) is the newspaper industry’s solution to a failing business model.

It has been failing mainly because advertising has moved from newspapers to the interwebs, to manufacturer’s and retailer’s websites and other forms of web advertising. Newspapers were too slow to follow the shift, although some set up sectional advertising (like job vacancies, used cars or real estate), with mixed success. Online versions of newspapers still struggle to get readers to buy subscriptions or pay to read.

The answer is to get the law changed so they can buy up what they can and flog the bits they don’t want. Existing laws prevent a newspaper having more than 75 percent of readers, or any company having a newspaper, TV and radio outlet in the same city.

If they get their way (and under the present regime and “opposition” in Canberra they will) the loss will be to jobs, variety and diversity.

Federal “Liberal” government ministers (Attorney-General George Brandis and communication minister Malcolm Turnbull) say further consolidation is justified because the interwebs have provided greater diversity.

This is a shallow lie because an internet edition of a newspaper is not more diverse than its parent and it is not a second newspaper. While potentially it may be available to millions around the world, its circulation is limited to those who use the interwebs to read their daily paper.

Radio and TV stations are also on the interwebs, and the same principles apply.

Where the internet has made things more diverse is in a product like Youtube (which did not exist before and has no commercial equivalent anywhere else) and the usually privately-owned, not very profitable and limited readership newspaper magazines and blogs of the Fifth Estate.

It’s ironic then (or perhaps it is just another lie) that News Corp joint chairman Rupert Murdoch’s main argument for more consolidation is that it will allow companies to be more diversified — to the public’s benefit.

At the same time he argues that the BBC in the UK and the ABC/SBS complex in Australia should be privatised because the taxpayer should not be supporting media and entertainment outlets. The reality is they compete with his business and you don’t have to be too bright to figure that out.

It will be a tragedy if the ABC/SBS complex is ever privatised because the commercial operators would not bother to provide the type and variety of program that these outlets provide. They also provide the main alternative point of view to the very obvious, biased, materialistic and opinion-forming and moulding of private enterprise. Honesty, I would go mad if I had to watch commercial TV and listen to rowdy commercial radio day and night. They might be to blame for the madness that seems to surround us today.

Those who think you are easily fooled continue to claim that the ABC, in particular, is a rat’s nest of Left wing loonies but — in a spectacular fail — they struggle to name one or two. They just go on repeating the lie in the hope that eventually it will be accepted as the truth. Honesty, if you had a stick you could wear yourself out poking it at all the Right wingers who infest ABC radio interview and talk shows, news presenters and interviewers and panel show hosts and their guests.

I could name a bunch of apparent Right-leaning ABC radio and TV journos and presenters but — frankly — they can surprise you at times. I’ll name one: the boss Mark Scott — a died in the wool, true blue Liberal — and, frankly, he sometimes surprises me too. See: Dangers for public debate in media war — Mark Scott.

The ABC producers are a more obscure bunch and their opinions and attitudes are not so easy to determine.

The new federal “Liberal” government has lost no time implementing its traditional fear, law and order, public control program — even finding itself a real shooting war to get involved in.

Rupert Murdoch’s co-chairman and son Lachlan has spoken out against the government’s new security legislation, which raises the possibility that whistleblowers and journalists could be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing details of “special security operations”. Attorney-General Brandis says it is not likely to happen and he would have to authorise it in any case (I am not reassured because Brandis is a dissembler in the Liberal mould).

It seems odd to me that Lachlan has criticised a program of the government that his father had a big hand in installing. Anyway, Lachlan has done a better job than any media outlet or even the Labor opposition, which merely waved the legislation through, followed by a belated “Hey, hang on a bit”.

Some may remember the howls of protest that greeted the former Labor government’s clumsy bid to change some aspects of news media regulation early in 2013. The government wanted to introduce a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA). This person (independent of government) would oversee the codes of conduct the newspapers had already agree to. The PIMA would also rule on the advisability of further media consolidation.

I was fascinated, but not fooled, by the newspaper barons’ screams of Freedom of the Press [barons]. “Censorship!” Accompanied by Photoshopped pictures of Labor government ministers as dictators or Nazis. There was no censorship or further control, in effect, than already existed.

There’s plenty more in this blog under Newspapers and Inside Journalism. See: Labor too gutless to fight media laws.

The real fear, which the newspaper proprietors and their cowering journalists failed to mention, was the PIMA’s oversight and ruling on media consolidation.

Now that those same newspaper proprietors have got the proposed legislation squashed and the Labor government defeated (who are the censors, who are the Nazis?) the consolidation can begin.

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Civic leaders hit back at Telegraph

By Barry Tucker                    7 October, 2014

An article in last Friday’s The Daily Telegraph — describing Young as “the unofficial Muslim capital of the outback” — was contradictory, misleading and inaccurate, according to Young’s civic leaders.

Their rebuttal appeared in The Young Witness, a Fairfax Regional Media publication.

According to the mayor, John Walker, and the council’s general manager, Peter Vlatko, the story painted a very different picture of the town they know and what they see every day.

“First of all the journalist needs to understand where the outback is … then they’ve alleged we’re the capital,” Mr Vlatko said.

“What’s the story? They interview one person and paint the whole town based on that, something that’s not true.

“It’s so misleading and inaccurate it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Mr Vlatko said the Telegraph story was devoid of facts.

Mayor Walker said he spoke “favourably” about the Muslim community when he was interviewed by the Telegraph.

“Maybe that’s why they didn’t put it in,” Mr Walker said.

Read the online version of the Telegraph story and pictures.

 

The last days of newspapers

24 August, 2014

Rodney E. Lever is a former journalist, news media manager and Murdoch insider who is now a Murdoch watcher.

In an article for online magazine Independent Australia, Lever predicted that newspapers as a daily habit would be forgotten within a generation.

You can follow Lever on Twitter: @rodneyelever

News Corp wins battle against Press body boss

By Barry Tucker                   23 August, 2014

Australian Press Council chairman Professor Julian Disney has decided not to adjudicate on News Corp cases after two of its editors accused him of bias.

The APC’s executive director, John Pender, issued a statement on Disney’s decision.

You will find some history of this story on this Google search result, including News Corp’s The Australian, The Guardian, mUmBRELLA, Crikey.com and Catallaxyfiles.com.

Stories of Disney’s decision refer to him recusing himself. See here for an explanation of recuse.

 

News Corp leaks — cash that is

By Barry Tucker                    22 August, 2014

News Corp newspapers are leaking cash like a sieve, according to internal documents leaked to Crikey.com.

News Corp executives are not happy with this headline news, threatening to sue anyone who quotes from the leaked docs.

Twitter folk and Facebook fans had a field day with the news; many of them eager to hear about the last edition of Murdoch Press.

So did the opposition Fairfax Media’s Rear Window, reporting in The Australian Financial Review: The day that News went into Chernobyl mode, along with a naughty cartoon of some very exposed News Corp execs.

Crikey’s Business Editor, Paddy Manning, broke the news on Wednesday: Exclusive docs show News’ Australian papers dragging down the empire.

Crikey.com later followed up the shock horror news under the title: How The Australian was protected from the cuts.

The documents Crikey.com used related to 2012-2013 financial results and News Corp reckons things have turned around since then. But Crikey’s Business and Media Editor Glenn Dyer asks have they?

You will need a subscription or a temporary log-in to read the Crikey stories.

Update, 25 August, 2014

The ABC News website reports that, following legal pressure, Crikey.com has agreed to destroy the documents it used for the story on News Corp’s Australian newspaper losses.

In that story, media academic Associate Professor David McKnight says News Corp is being “extraordinarily hypocritical”.

“Coming from a media company that frequently publishes leaks, you really only have to imagine what News Corp would do if they had their hands on an equivalent document on Fairfax’s internal operations. It would be spread all over the front page with half a dozen gloating articles inside,” he said.

In an interview with the ABC’s Eleanor Hall this morning, ex-CEO Kim Williams, who parted company with News Corp a year ago, denied he was the source of leaked details of the company’s financial losses.

Williams’ book, Rules of Engagement, about to be serialised by News Corp competitor Fairfax Media, talks about hatred of him within News Corp. He says the company is failing to meet the challenges of the digital age.

You can listen to the interview with Williams or read the transcript.

In other news, Ian Verrender asks Is the age of the Press baron over?, with further references to Williams and News Corp.

Murdoch’s media monster

By Barry Tucker          7 January, 2013

Rupert Murdoch controls 130 newspapers, owns 50% of 16 others, has digital media sites for most of them and publishes some 30 magazine titles throughout Australia.

He also has interests in the news agency Australian Associated Press (AAP), FoxTel, Newspoll, Festival Records, film production and distribution, DVD production and a large piece of the Brisbane Broncos rugby team.

In Australia, control is exercised through News Corp Australia, wholly owned by News Corporation Limited, an international media giant completely dominated by Murdoch. His son Lachlan is a non-executive chairman of Ten Network Holdings Limited, with TV stations in five State capital cities.

Numerous reports say that in the 1972 federal elections Murdoch used his newspapers to support Gough Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party. By 1975 he had turned against Whitlam over concessions for a mining operation and his request to be appointed High Commissioner to the UK. He also supported current Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd between 2007 and 2009.

Murdoch’s newspapers and other Australian media became hostile towards Labor around the time of its parliamentary Caucus voting Julia Gillard into the role of leader and Prime Minister in 2010. Gillard introduced a carbon price as a first step towards a carbon trading scheme.

Murdoch advocates investment in non-renewable energy sources and is a climate change denier. His newspapers became more biased against Labor once the election date was announced months ahead of time early in 2013. Tabloid front pages ridiculed Labor MPs as cartoon characters once the election date was altered to 7 September and the five-week election campaign began.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

In the UK, News Corp’s newspaper and satellite TV interests have been damaged by revelations of a phone hacking scandal, with sackings, arrests and inquiries affecting and compromising key executives, senior police, a Prime Ministerial adviser and the Prime Minister himself. There have been 32 arrests associated with the scandal.

In the USA, it was recently revealed that Murdoch had attempted, through a senior director of his Fox News, to recruit former US Army general David Petraeus to run as a candidate in the 2012 Presidential election. Petraeus declined, accepted the position as head of the CIA and, a year later, resigned when details of a sex scandal were revealed.

Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said a taped conversation of the attempt to recruit Petraeus was “… a testament to the willingness of Murdoch to run roughshod over the American civic and political landscape”.

In Australia, prominent News Corp newspaper journalists have been openly supporting federal Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in a relentless campaign to bring down the national Labor government. On Channel Ten, the Sunday morning show The Bolt Report is clearly unbalanced and biased towards the Liberal Party. Ten’s Meet the Press (hosted by journalist and economist Kathryn Robinson), rarely manages to offset the bias of The Bolt Report. [addendum, 12/04/2014. Meet the Press was dropped in 2014 and The Bolt Report extended to one hour, including a Media Watch segment.]

Some News Corp newspapers, notably Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and the Hobart Mercury, occasionally run an article that is critical of the federal Liberal Opposition. While Murdoch claims he does not direct editorial policy, some of his former and current editors have publicly said he manages to give a clear message on the kind of story or angle that he prefers, usually adding a comment, to the effect, “you ignore these messages at your peril”.

Murdochtweet

A recent TV documentary made it clear that Murdoch offered and gave his news media support to former UK Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Australian Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, and New York Mayor Ed Koch. He has also attempted to force policy changes on two British Prime Ministers, including withdrawing from the European Union.

Rupert Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship in September 1985 so that he could buy Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, which culminated in the development of Fox Inc, a controversial TV news broadcaster. He is now 82 and reported to be suffering from prostate cancer.

Early in May this year a UK Parliamentary Committee investigated the phone hacking scandal involving Murdoch (and other) newspapers and found Murdoch not a “fit” person to run a major international company. The use of the word “fit” could have implications for Murdoch’s plans to renew his bid to completely take over BSkyB — Britain’s biggest TV and ‘phone company. Murdoch told a committee hearing his appearance before it was “the most humble day of my life”. Some months later he was recorded at a London newspaper staff meeting, heaping scorn on Parliament, its inquiry and the police force investigators. He has been called before the committee again to explain himself.

The committee report (which divided along party lines) was also critical of Murdoch’s son James, whom it described as “wilfully ignorant” regarding the size of payouts to phone hacking victims. Three other executives may be called before Parliament to apologise for misleading a Parliamentary hearing.

The question for Australia in 2013 is how much political influence should be allowed to the US citizen Rupert Murdoch through his extensive ownership of communication outlets. It should be recognised that a casual comment in a motoring magazine, a home-maker magazine, a news bulletin, a one-on-one interview or a panel discussion can influence someone’s political thinking.

The UK Guardian has a story on the committee’s findings, a video on the chairman’s statement and a link to the committee’s report.

The results of a Google search on the story: http://bit.ly/ZzisNA

Follow this link to see the enormity of the Murdoch empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_News_Corporation

Inside Story is an online publication dealing with current affairs and culture in Australia and beyond. On April 8, 2014, Inside Story ran an in-depth report on Murdoch’s media empire dealing with succession, which he has handed to eldest son Lachlan.

The story backgrounds the successes and failures of Lachlan and his brother James, details hostility between senior executives and Lachlan and refers to rivalry between Lachlan and James. Hovering in the background are the two sisters, Elisabeth and Prudence.

The overall impression is that Murdoch’s empire will pass into shaky hands when he finally decides to stand down.

I learnt today (12/04/2014) that while Murdoch’s Fox news may leak broadcasts across the USA/Canada border, or via rebroadcasts by Canadian TV stations, it has not been able to migrate into Canada as a registered broadcaster. The reason is that Canada has a law that prohibits and punishes lies in broadcast news bulletins. In February 2011, the Canadian legislature blocked a bid by the Right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal the law.

In mid-2014 Murdoch made a takeover bid for Time Warner. In an 18 July, 2014 article in The New Yorker, Ken Auletta revealed the fundamental flaw that caused the bid to fail.