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.

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.


Journos challenged by one of their own


By Barry Tucker                    28 September, 2014

In a rare article — written at the end of a strange week — The Guardian’s Deputy Political Editor, Katharine Murphy, illustrated some failings of the news media.

Some might say it’s a timely article. Others might say it’s long overdue.

It was triggered by the news media’s handling of a national security alert that began a week earlier and culminated a few days later in the death of Abdul Numan Haider. Haider was shot by a policeman after Haider attacked him and a colleague with a knife outside a Melbourne suburban police station.

Murphy takes the media to task for its reporting and misreporting of the incident and its handling of aspects of the national security alert.

During the week, the Australian parliament began accepting — rather than debating — wide-ranging and extraordinary new powers granted to security agencies in dealing with internet material.

The proposed laws allow for journalists and whistle blowers to be jailed for revealing details of security matters.

Murphy is critical of the news media for having little or nothing to say about how the legislation will affect their ability to do their job.

On a broader front, social media in particular has had a lot to say about what it sees as a fraudulent security scare, conceived to boost support for Australia’s re-engagement in Iraq while distracting people from intransigent opinion poll figures for the LNP government and its harsh and unpopular budget.

Read all about it.

Murphy’s 26 September tweet:

A love letter to my profession

began an argumentative exchange with News Corp journalists Miranda Devine and Samantha Maiden over the fact that Murphy had named News Corp papers The Courier-Mail and The Daily Telegraph, but not The Sydney Morning Herald, which headlined Haider as “teen jihad” in advance of any police or coronial findings.

Murphy responded by saying The Sydney Morning Herald was covered by her use of “we” and tweeted that “we” included herself. She did not seek to exclude herself from making errors.


Fairfax Media stuffed up badly by publishing the picture of a young man wearing a suit (see above) and identifying him as Haider. The young man and his father were outraged and severely embarrassed, with the man’s father saying his son’s future prospects have been severely damaged.

The photograph was lifted off a Facebook page. People who read widely know that the social media world can be a dangerous place, for various reasons. Nigel Phair, director of the Centre for Internet Safety, University of Canberra, commented on the incident and the dangers in an article for

Myles McGuire studied journalism because he thought he wanted to be one. He writes about that and what happened next in a thoughtful reaction to Catherine Murphy’s article, titled: Why I’m not a journalist.

Daily Telegraph slips up in sleazy stunt

By Barry Tucker                    19 September, 2014

The Daily Telegraph’s gossip columnist Annette Sharp sought unflattering pictures of TV presenter Samantha Armytage.

The pictures were published in the paper’s Sydney Confidential, accompanying an article on channel 7’s Bringing Sexy Back, which Armytage presents and which is low in the ratings. The article was critical of Armytage’s style off-screen, showing her off duty and in casual clothes.

The incident has caused outrage in newspaper articles and on social media.

Sharri Markson, Media Editor for News Corp sister publication The Australian, published this email that was circulated to picture agencies:

“Looking for sam armytage looking scruffy/too casual/not sexy/bad for asap please — OK to go back and send older pics — dates on them would be good

Thanks v much


The email was sent by Amanda Wynne-Williams, Nationwide News’ Network Picture Editor, on behalf of Sharp, for an article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph today.

Markson wrote a story about the incident for The Australian (see here and here) and was critical of Sharp on her Twitter account.

Sharp responded to some of the criticism with these tweets:

Sharp tweets

Later in the day Tweeters began to make comparisons with the social media bullying of TV presenter Charlotte Dawson, who took her own life last February. Dawson had been prominent in a campaign against social media bullying.

You can follow versions of the story in this Google search result.

Annette Sharp on Twitter  |  Sharri Markson on Twitter  |  Samantha Armytage on Twitter

News media hammers the Scots


By Barry Tucker                   18 September, 2014

The role of the news media, the printed Press in particular, in reporting, interpreting and commenting on news events and in shaping public opinion are common themes in this blog.

The behaviour of the Press, the MSM generally and even the entertainment media during the six-year term of Australia’s federal Labor government was extraordinary for its anti-government bias.

The build-up to Scotland’s referendum on independence provides another outstanding example of the bias of the commercially-owned news media. The Guardian’s George Monbiot comments.

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, and

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