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The revolt against Murdochracy

July 10th, 2011

Continuing on the theme of #newscorpfail, the ever-expanding scandal surrounding hacking, bribery, perjury and obstruction of justice by News Corporation in England has already brought about the closure of the venerable (at least in years) News of the World newspaper, but looks likely to go much further, with significant implications for the Murdoch press in Australia.

The scandal over hacking and other criminal behavior has now become an all-out revolt of UK politicians against Murdoch’s immense political power , which has had successive Prime Ministers dancing attendance on him, and rushing to confer lucrative favors on his News Corporation. Those, like Labour leader Ed Miliband, who are relative cleanskins, are making the running, while PM David Cameron, very close to the most corrupt elements of News, is scrambling to cover himself.

The hacking and bribery scandals appear (as far as we know) to be confined to the UK, but the greater scandal of Murdoch’s corruption of the political process and misuse of press power is even worse in Australia. The Australian and other Murdoch publications filled with lies and politically slanted reporting aimed at furthering both Murdoch’s political agenda and his commercial interests. Whereas there is still lively competition in the British Press, Murdoch has a print monopoly in major cities like Brisbane.

It seems likely that News International will be refused permission for its impending takeover of BSkyB on the grounds that it is not “fit and proper” for such a role. That would have important implications for Australia.

Regardless of how the current scandal plays out, we need to remember that while the productions of News Corporation be papers, what they print is certainly not news.

Categories: #NewsCorpFail, #Ozfail, Media Tags:
  1. ken n
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:13 | #1

    The NOW stuff is disgraceful and all those who knowingly allowed it to happen should be jailed.
    I think it very unlikely that the News Corp papers here are guilty of similar behavior.
    To those on the centre left who object so violently to The Australian, I give pretty much the comment that I make to those on the right fulminating about ABC.
    Sure, it’s biased and it gives comfort to those who agree and annoys those who don’t. But I doubt that either of them alter anyone’s opinion about anything.
    The degree of control News has over Australian newspapers is a separate question. but that is becoming far less important as newspapers fade and as there is a much wider choice of sources of news and opinion.
    I will bet the Murdoch in the medium term is much more worried about how his papers will survive and how he will get a successful online strategy than he is about the NOW scandal.

  2. Jill Rush
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:13 | #2

    If Australians were reading Pravda there would be serious concerns expressed about brain washing. However we are effectively in a similar situation with a corporation which owns a great number of Australian papers. If there is a journalist or employee misusing their position to gain favours for their parent organisation or themselves how would this become news where there is no other owner?

    The pressure placed on Simon Overland by the press which looks to be as a result of his complaint that The Australian potentially jeopardised a police investigation is a recent event. The Melbourne Storm sage is one where the parent organisation excaped without penalty based on a similar claim to that made at the NOTW of a rogue employee.

    Meantime we have a program like Insiders this morning which had three panellists from the wider press. Nikki Savas and Glen Milne are both from The Australian with clear political agendas and Laura Tingle from the Financial Review was the lone reasonable voice. Why were two members of the Murdoch press necessary when the Australian is read by so few people?

    Australia doesn’t need to look to Britain to see if the Murcoch Press should be given greater powers particularly in relation to reporting on Australian matters to the wider world. There are too many in the organisation who are ethically compromised to ensure a proper service would be delivered.

  3. Jill Rush
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:15 | #3


  4. ken n
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:21 | #4

    And if someone will give me odds – preferably 3/1 but I’d go for 5/2 – I’ll bet that the BSkyB deal will go ahead after an interval.
    I don’t think there is any chance that M will be declared not a fit and proper person and as i read the UK law, there isn’t much of a ground to refuse the deal.
    To make it quite clear, I am not saying that I think this is a good thing.

  5. John Brookes
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:46 | #5

    I jump at any chance to sing the boot into The Australian. Deltoid has an ongoing series on The Australian’s war on science. Here is the latest entry:


    What is hilarious is how the Oz see themselves as the good guys.

  6. ken n
    July 10th, 2011 at 13:50 | #6

    And many on the right jump at any chance to sling the boot into the ABC.
    Fun, perhaps, but does either achieve anything?

  7. Jill Rush
    July 10th, 2011 at 14:22 | #7

    Sadly I agree with ken n that it does seem that the BSkyB will go ahead. The government could have scuttled it easily this week but kept the door open until September. This is no doubt to get the public’s mind onto another topic. Perhaps that new nice “Princess”.

  8. smiths
    July 10th, 2011 at 20:25 | #8

    rubbish, bskyb will not go ahead,

    the deadwood here doesnt seem to understand whats going on as usual,
    there is a fullscale uprising occurring and murdoch will be lucky if he hangs onto his 39%

    i will offer to you ken the same assessment i always offer in the face of remarks like yours,
    you are either epically ignorant or purposefully disingenuous with your comment that murdoch doesnt affect opinions,
    every day i hear murdoch opinions coming out of ordinary folks mouthes who think they formed those ideas themselves

    good riddance, i hope he rots in a jail cell ith his entire family

  9. Freelander
    July 10th, 2011 at 21:58 | #9

    I would like to see a Royal Commission inquire into News Corp and whether News Corp is ‘fit and proper’ to be owning media in Australia. I don’t think the inquiry should be limited to examining the activities of News Corp holdings within Australia in determining whether they are ‘fit and proper’. And I would expect one outcome of such an inquiry to be News Corp being forced to divest all its media holdings in Australia.

    People seem to be upset with the Queen, the nominal head of state, not being an Australian. Maybe they ought to be more concerned about Rupert Murdoch, an American (he gave up his Australian citizenship long ago), owning such large tracts of Australia’s media and the uses that ownership is put to.

    In the interim, I hope advertisers follow the lead provided in the UK in relation to ‘News of the World’ and start withdrawing advertising from all News Corp holdings. It may not happen, but here is a chance to get rid of this media baron once and for all.

  10. rog
    July 10th, 2011 at 22:44 | #10

    Whilst The Australian claims that NOW style if activities won’t happen here they are busy giving that fraud Monckton plenty of coverage.

    The idea that Murdoch was unaware of NOW antics is ludicrous – Murdoch knows everything about anything that happens in his rags. He is directly responsible for their criminal behavior.

  11. Freelander
    July 11th, 2011 at 01:43 | #11

    Murdoch being unaware of what was going on at NOW when he seems to be able to fire any underling, no matter how small, if they do anything that doesn’t follow his line, or otherwise displeases him, can only be called another example of ‘implausible deniability’; like spin, something that has become extremely fashionable among CEOs, politicians and others.

    Apparently Murdoch is a papal knight. (Yes. On the Vatician fantasy island, where they think they are a fully fledged state, they even confer knighthoods.) Don’t hold your breath in expectation that he will be stripped of that honour.

  12. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 07:47 | #12

    smiths: are the opinions coming out of your mouth and keyboard those of media outlets, or are they the results of your own thoughts and analysis of the facts and issues?
    And if the latter, why are you different to people on the other side of politics to you?
    If the former, which media outlets produce the opinions you express?

  13. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 07:59 | #13

    I have no idea whether Murdoch knew of what was going on at NOW. If he was, the UK enquiries will almost certainly discover it and he should be punished like the rest of them.
    I do think it strange that people assume that he controls everything that happens at News. He has not fired or caused to be fired anyone outside the very senior management group for many years.
    He isn’t and cannot be in control of that much detail.
    He manages, like any other chief executive, by appointing people to senior management who he believes will run things broadly the way he wants.

    Those who think Murdoch or any other head of a very large business knows every time a sparrow falls anywhere in the organisation has had no experience of working for a large business.

    Now, you can say that Murdoch is responsible because he established the climate that allowed these things to happen but if that is the measure, few heads of companies, universities, government or churches would go unhung.

  14. Ikonoclast
    July 11th, 2011 at 08:03 | #14

    Murdoch’s sudden rush to end News of the World is intriguing to say the least. Of course, breaking up the organisation allows mass shredding, mass scrubbing of hard drives, servers etc. etc. and sends staff to the four winds. All of this makes any enquiry that much harder and serves to scrub the evidence trail right up to… well, whom exactly?

    The broader point is that a social democracy needs to limit the power that gets into any individual’s hands. There are limits on formal political power and there should be much greater limits on individual wealth and individual corporate power. Nobody should be allowed to own so much nor to exclusively command and control such an extent of resources. Corporate power is anti-democratic.

  15. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 08:19 | #15

    Ik – there will be no destruction of evidence. That would be a serious crime and, whatever crimes have already been committed, it won’t happen. Betcha.
    As I read it, there will be no mass sacking. A figure of 200 NOW employees has been mentioned and they will be offered jobs in the company. If there are people who know about senior management’s guilt, the company would be foolish to fire them and make them unhappy.

    On your broader point, I am inclined to agree. That is also why I am instinctively a believer in small government. Murdoch has a lot of power to express his opinions and push his line, but he does not have policie, courts, jails and armies or the ability to make laws.

  16. Ikonoclast
    July 11th, 2011 at 09:58 | #16

    @ken n

    The small government line is fallacious. If a government is properly democratic why should it be small? Why weaken the one power that the ordinary working citizen has? The small government line is pushed by the right wing and the oligarchy like Murdoch . If democratic government is thus weakened, corporate power fills the vacuum. Don’t fall for the small government line. It is deliberately pushed by the Murdochracy types to make the mass of ordinary citizens weak.

    Ordinary citizens need a strong, active democratic government willing to keep a strong public sector going, willing to nationalise on a case by case basis, willing to plan the economy strategically and in a dirigisme manner. Small government is manna from heaven for the corporate capitalists. Don’t be conned by them.

    Remember, in a constitutional democracy, Small Government Weakens Democracy!

    Why would you want to weaken democracy?

  17. Ken Nielsen
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:03 | #17

    Ik. I believed in small government long before I ever read a Murdoch paper.
    I think what you have just written about planning and dirigisme is what JQ would call a zombie belief.
    But that is not why I entered this discussion . I was just trying to inject a few facts into the Murdoch Hunt. I am inclined to agree that he has too much power but, as with most things (as the great Ben Goldacre says) I think you will find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

  18. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:05 | #18

    @ken n

    I think it very unlikely that the News Corp papers here are guilty of similar behavior.

    There’s simply no basis for you to draw such an inference. It could well be true, but we have no data, and a thorough investigation is warranted. If it proves they haven’ty done this, that’s fabulous, but in the meantime, defensive handwaving is not apt.

    To those on the centre left who object so violently to The Australian, I give pretty much the comment that I make to those on the right fulminating about ABC.

    The passion with which people “fulminate” is not a measure of their accuracy. Loud voices on two sides of a claim do not cancle each other out. Such examinations as have taken place into ABC “bias” have shown a clear tilt towards the coalition. Of late, it has been very clear that their default position is well mapped to the positions being led by News Limited

    That said, I regard squabbles over “bias” as far less important than squabbles over intellectual rigour. If the ABC made it its business to confine itself to reporting what is accurate & salient to a matter, and used what space or time it had to give comprehensive coverage, then I could scarcely care less whether on this or that day its coverage seemed to tilt left or right. The most serious problems at the ABC involve its failure to take seriously its responsibility to keep itself at arms’ length from the argy bargy of the two parties and the Murdochracy and give us the material we need to come to terms with an issue. Its persistent blurring of the lines between news and entertainment, its mad race to be “first with the news” even at the risk of being wrong has led it into the same repulsive charnel house as the Murdochracy and in effect, rendered it one of that instition’s echo-chambers.

    Sure, it’s biased and it gives comfort to those who agree and annoys those who don’t. But I doubt that either of them alter anyone’s opinion about anything.

    Again, what you “doubt” is moot unless you actually have some sound basis for it. Absent that, it’s a handwave, especially while you labour under the misapprehension that the ABC is somehow balancing the Murdochracy. One need not change one’s opinion about a matter if one changes the context within which one forms opinions. The Murdochracy utterly dominates the context within which discussion takes place. Courts of law do not allow people to hold demonstrations in favour of or against the accused within the courtroom, not because they conclude that this might change anyone’s opinions on the matters of fact (though clearly they might), but rather because it makes thinking a lot harder and people may come to believe that one position is “not what most people want” — merely on the basis of the noise of a handful of people.

    We have just seen a schem to price CO2 that is quite modest in its short term ambition and gives out massive handouts ($1.2 bn to coal, $300m to steel) to precisely those who can and presumably will appeal to the Murdochracy in protest. Most people who favour mitigation are holding their noses at this as the political price to get the architecture in place, but it does underline the key point — that regardless of people’s opinions on the rights and wrongs, the Murdochracy has clearly shifted policy in ways contrary to the public interest in cost-effective industrial scale abatement. Tony Abbott can’t “unleash” anything without the support of the Murdochracy. Without the noise from them, we could have a calm discussion of what was apt and the vehicles needed to get us there.

    Murdoch has a lot of power to express his opinions and push his line, but he does not have police, courts, jails and armies or the ability to make laws.

    That’s unclear. Cameron has admitted that he “turned a blind eye” to these matters in order to curry favour with the Murdochracy. Tony Blair didn’t move on Iraq until he’d consulted Murdoch for his likely response. Murdoch at the time believed that Brent Crude and Texas Intermediate might fall back from over $30 per barrel to about $20 if Saddam were toppled. Blair, having got the tip, went ahead and encouraged Bush to jump. Australia followed. Murdoch has armies on three continents it seems. He shaped the politics of the world’s most powerful nation and its principal ally in Europe for most of a decade and arguably still is.

    This lumbering behemoth needs to be dismembered in the interest of free speech and intellectually rigorous public culture.

  19. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:19 | #19

    And just to add to my point about #theirABC and its descent into vacuous commentary, take a look at this piece here. The writer clearly assumes that the audience has no more wit than typical Murdochracy readers.

  20. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:28 | #20

    Fran, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I won’t attempt a line by line answer because I do not have very firm opinions either way on much of this.
    I am, though, pretty sure that News in Australia has not done the kind of thing that NOW did. If it had, I’m pretty sure that some of those journalists who have been fired over the years would have come out and told us.
    And I don’t understand the meaning of “hand waving”. What is the origin?

    I would not break up News in Australia. That would almost certainly lead to the death os some papers. Like Murdoch or loath him, he has ink in his veins and is pretty well the only person in the field who really believes in newspapers in the age of the internet. Though he has not got long to go and I understand his family does not share his beliefs.

  21. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:44 | #21

    @ken n

    Handwaving refers to the disingenuous or reckless making of claims for or against some proposition. The classic in this country is “she’ll be right” with an earnest look in the eye and a sinking feeling in the pit of the proposer’s stomach. Often, the appeal to incredulity follows closely.

    I would not break up News in Australia. That would almost certainly lead to the death of some papers.

    You say that almost as if it’d be a bad thing. Newspapers are of doubtful use in the modern age and they have a huge ecological footprint. In the case of the Murdochracy, which controls 62% of QLD circulation, less is most definitely more. FTR, I don’t personally loathe Murdoch. I find his institution to be a painful and inhibiting carbuncle on the face of humanity, or perhaps more aptly, a malign tumour on human consciousness. Some combination of invasive surgery, and other therapy is needed.

  22. Ian Milliss
    July 11th, 2011 at 10:46 | #22

    I know this is a bit ad hominem but ken n reminds me oh so much of the nuclear apologists a few months back who kept on chanting that fukushima was a non event, nothing to see there folks, just move along. The real give away is in #1 where the left think Murdoch is right biased and the right think the ABC is left biased (but apparently both are wrong from his moderate and considered position) when my guess is as Fran says that here at least most would think both the ABC and Murdoch media are right wing and more importantly that has come about because Murdoch media has effectively shifted the Overton window to limit and distort what is even debatable at all.

  23. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:04 | #23

    Thanks Fran. I don’t think that is what i was doing. I said that I don’t think News in this country has been guilty of that stuff. We will find out, I am sure. Is that still hand waving?
    I do think it would be a bad thing for many more newspapers to die. Personal opinion.
    And I don’t think Murdoch and his organisation are an unmitigated evil.
    As we have both made our opinion clear, thee is probably no great reason to go on…

  24. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:07 | #24

    I am glad I remind you of someone Ian.
    Where you think Murdoch and ABC stand on the spectrum depends on where you stand. Of course, for many they are both on the right.
    What is the Overton window?

  25. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:13 | #25

    And by the way, Fran, see if you can get a copy of the Oz today and read the leader. And Peter van Onselen’s oped.
    Doesn’t prove anything of course but does show the the paper is not as totally biased on AGW as it has been painted.

  26. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:39 | #26

    @ken n

    The Overton Window is a concept in which one party makes political “ambit claims” and, if these calims gain currency, the frame of debate shifts in that direction so that the “moderate” position (which is always placed midway between the ostensible “extremes”) also moves in that direction.

    There’s a discussion here

  27. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:41 | #27

    delete: last post if it appears …

    @ken n

    The Overton Window (google Joseph P Overton) a concept in which one party makes political “ambit claims” and, if these claims gain currency, the frame of debate shifts in that direction so that the “moderate” position (which is always placed midway between the ostensible “extremes”) also moves in that direction.

  28. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:46 | #28

    @Ian Milliss

    I know this is a bit ad hominem but ken n reminds me oh so much of the n*clear apologists a few months back who kept on chanting that f*kushima was a non event, nothing to see there folks, just move along.

    In order not to go OTT I’m merely going to point out that this mischaracterises the position of those advocating n*clear energy on F*kushima and leave it at that.

  29. Ian Milliss
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:47 | #29

    Overton window is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

    The constant misrepresentation of the Greens as unspeakable rabid left wing extremists (when most of their actual policies are rather conservative in a retro Labor sort of way) is an example of a tactic specifically designed to limit the Overton widow to a narrow range between extreme right and right. In mainstream media world even a conservative centrist social democratic position is now beyond the pale although it is probably still where much of general public attitudes lie. Anything genuinely leftist is never even mentioned outside of a few blogs. To say “Where you think Murdoch and ABC stand on the spectrum depends on where you stand.” is simply risible unless your whole scale of values has been shifted in this way or you are parroting ancient prejudices from decades ago or you define it as left regardless of its actions but rather simply because it is government funded. In reality the ABC now simply parrots a Murdoch derived agenda and can’t even be described as the left wing of the right wing, it is more like a de facto franchise of the Murdoch media.

  30. ken n
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:53 | #30

    To say “Where you think Murdoch and ABC stand on the spectrum depends on where you stand.” is simply risible…
    Why? If you are somewhere between the two, one is to the left and one to the right.
    Left and right are after all relative terms, even in politics.

    “In reality the ABC now simply parrots a Murdoch derived agenda and can’t even be described as the left wing of the right wing, it is more like a de facto franchise of the Murdoch media.”
    Gawd, I can’t begin to answer that. Even Mr Adams? Wow!

  31. Ian Milliss
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:55 | #31

    Fran @ 27 It’s OK, I separate your advocacy of nuclear power as an AGW solution from the position of those apologists who repeatedly tried to deny that there was any problem there at all even as the the position grew obviously worse by the hour – hence the parallel with Murdoch’s situation. I disagree with your advocacy of nuclear power but I happily acknowledge that it is honest and respect it.

  32. Ian Milliss
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:59 | #32

    Isn’t the Adams blimp retained just for occasions like this?

  33. Fran Barlow
    July 11th, 2011 at 13:21 | #33

    @ken n

    The fact that Phillip Adams (who IIRC also writes for The Oz) is on #theirABC says little about the contemporary culture of the ABC. Fox runs episodes of The Simpsons that lampoon Fox as an evil empire.

    The heavy lifting on public opinion at #theirABC is done in their 24 hour radio and TV news and to some extent in current affairs … Adams doesn’t get a look in there, even if he were some sort of quasi-articulate centre-left radical.

  34. Donald Oats
    July 11th, 2011 at 23:11 | #34

    @Fran Barlow

    Fox runs episodes of The Simpsons that lampoon Fox as an evil empire.

    You sure that it is actually lampooning?

  35. Jill Rush
    July 11th, 2011 at 23:58 | #35

    Ian Millis – It used to be said that Socialism was a good form of government. It did after all provide us with a people’s bank which gave a yardstick to measure the other banks; it also gave the nation qantas which whilst it has seemed in decline since privatisation does have professional staff; and yet it is now used in a way which implies it is something like fascism. In recent years money has aggragated to those in the top 1% of the population, who are often those with the greatest carbon footprint. If socialism makes them pay their fair share of the pollution tax and the ninety percent who worry about the bills get some relief then perhaps we need more socialism not less.

  36. Freelander
    July 12th, 2011 at 03:38 | #36

    @Jill Rush

    Modern capitalism is simply socialism for the top one percent.

    From each according to their ability, to each according to their greed.

  37. John Brookes
    July 12th, 2011 at 23:18 | #37

    What is clear is that Murdoch’s employees fear him. On the 7:30 report tonight, they showed footage where a Fox reporter interviewed Murdoch. The level of obsequiousness was off the scale. When Murdoch said he wouldn’t talk about the NOW scandal, the Fox reporter virtually apologised for asking – when the obvious response was, “Why don’t you want to talk about it?”.

    When there is that level of fear, it seems obvious to conclude that the people in the organisation know what Rupert wants, and do it. So whether Rupert knew what was happening at NOW or not, you can be pretty sure that the NOW people thought that he would approve. Not just NOW of course, The Sun and his other tabloids too. In other words, while he may not have told anyone to do it, and may personally disapprove of the behaviour, he has created a culture which made it happen.

  38. Scott
    July 13th, 2011 at 07:25 | #38

    From my limited experience with the Australian media (which was television based, not print), and in light of the UK experience, there’s good reason to suspect that the ‘dark arts’ are practiced by News Ltd papers in Australia. As a general guide, if you think the worst of News Corp and its practices, events seem to prove you pretty close to the mark.

    I would just like to point out that senior News personalities work all over the News Corp empire- so the values of one arm of the company spread over the whole. Look at how News Ltd Australian papers are increasingly pumping what you could call ‘tea party’ values. Australian employees spend time in the UK and the USA.

    So claims that the values of the News International (UK) division of the company have nothing to do with News Ltd (Australia)’s operations should be treated with some caution.

  39. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 09:25 | #39

    “So claims that the values of the News International (UK) division of the company have nothing to do with News Ltd (Australia)’s operations should be treated with some caution.”

    Of course, but if something like the NOW behavior had happened here, one of the many people who have left News in Australia over the years would have or will soon yell.
    NOW and the Sun are products of the London media scene (which includes The Daily Mail), which we have not has here since The Truth.
    So I doubt the Australian papers have gone to the same illegal lengths. If I am wrong, we will find out soon.

  40. Freelander
    July 13th, 2011 at 09:46 | #40

    Too bad that the ABC is now a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp. Amazing how quickly Howard managed the transformation.

    Murdoch seems to have a simple political philosophy that he has pursued by backing Thatcher, Blair, Bush and Howard – to make the world safe for unscrupulous media barons. Let’s hope that events in the UK prove that he hasn’t yet achieved his aim.

  41. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 09:54 | #41

    “Too bad that the ABC is now a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp. Amazing how quickly Howard managed the transformation”

    This, or something like it, has been said here a few times. I can’t see it.
    Can you point to some programmes that show that this has happened?

  42. gerard
  43. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 13:31 | #43

    @ken n

    You could take a look at the failedestate blog which covers this. ABC News & Current affairs has not been indepndent of the line of the #murdochracy for a long time.

    Their 24hour service while egregious, has merely been another instantiation of this process.

    Not a day goes by when #theirABC is not uncritically taking up or reiterating some Murdochratic talking point. As a simple personal exercise, try counting the times they use the term “carbon tax” to describe “carbon price” even when their interviewees don’t use the term.

    It’s very clearly Murdochratic in character and a deliberate verbal.

  44. Ian Milliss
    July 13th, 2011 at 14:21 | #44

    Jill Rush @ 35 of course, couldn’t agree more.

    One aspect that doesn’t seem to be attracting much comment is the fact that the investigation of politicians like Brown doesn’t seem to be so much about news gathering as about outright intimidation. It has always been a traditional thug’s line, “we know all about your children”. Surely that raises the bar even further in terms of criminality. Anyone who thinks that sort of snooping hasn’t been happening Australia is truly naive and so is ken n in his assertion that if it did happen here we would know about it.

    One even more heartening aspect is that there is now also some more sophisticated analysis appearing about NI’s slightly more subtle techniques of news manipulation, for instance there is a good story on alJazeera http://aje.me/pdIKlY about their treatment of palestinian stories.

  45. Freelander
    July 13th, 2011 at 15:41 | #45

    As for Rupert’s ABC…

    Even MediaWatch, which used to be one of the best ABC programs, has been neutered. Rather than addressing matters of consequence, which often are misdeeds by News Corp papers, MediaWatch might as well now be called TrivaWatch.

  46. July 13th, 2011 at 15:54 | #46

    Freelander, you have raised something that is a sore point for me, also. You can almost feel Mark Scott and co’s breath on Holmes ‘ neck, as he runs through his scripts once again, to ensure that none of the vested interests represented by the ABC board have any chance of being “offended” by some thing inadvertantly turning up in the program.
    Reading between the lines, am sometimes inclined to wonder what Holmes would do if he had the chance, with the likes of Conroy, his ABC bosses and those with power and influence elsewhere, or for that matter some of his servile current colleagues.

  47. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 16:23 | #47

    Fran – You leave me wordless. I don’t doubt that you are describing what you see but I believe it’s in your imagination.

  48. sam
    July 13th, 2011 at 16:38 | #48

    Fran, lets just agree to disagree on the question of whether “carbon tax” is a right wing smear. Do you have any other examples of the abc having a rightwing bias?

  49. Ian Milliss
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:12 | #49

    ken n, is this a classic case of thinking it’s unbiased because it conforms to your prejudices?

  50. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:18 | #50

    Ian – Nope. No one is unbiased.

  51. Ian Milliss
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:20 | #51

    Then let me rephrase the question. Is this a case of thinking the ABCs right wing bias is not an issue because it conforms to your prejudices?

  52. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:22 | #52

    Of course it’s a tax. It is imposed under the taxing power and the proceeds will go to consolidated revenue. Gillard has acknowledged that it is a tax and JQ has so referred to it.

  53. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:31 | #53

    Like just about everything else on TV Media Watch is scripted and its content and style comes from the executive producer. EPs have changed as often as presenters.
    As a presenter once said to me “you don’t expect actors to write their lines, do you?”

    For the the greatest problem with ABC TV news is the lack of much serious content. Watch tonight and you will find that they are on to the trivia about 5-7 minutes in. SBS news has better content usually.

  54. Freelander
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:32 | #54

    …And, of course, there was the study which found that the ABC was the most biased toward the coalition of all the media covered, which, incidentally, surprised those who conducted the study.

  55. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:35 | #55

    Ian – still no. You might see it as right because your views are well to the left of it. That is a fair observation, from your point of view but it is still nowhere near News publications.
    And I don’t think ABC news and current affairs have changed much in political position recent years.

  56. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:36 | #56

    Freelander. I have read that study. It was mechanistic and its conclusion nonsense.

  57. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:46 | #57


    Listen to the way that Fran Kelly and Michelle Grattan speak every morning. The most salient thing in their world is the Newspoll, followed next by “the horse race” of politics. Listen to the way in which the ABC attempts “balance”, or the frequency with which the expert spokesperson on a government policy is the opposition spokesperson.

    On PM about 10 days ago the reporter described Abbott as having demolished the government’s case point by point despite the fact that Abbott was merely restating his usual slogans which now in the light of day have been refuted.

    There’s no doubt that the ABC is treating the polls as decisive and according the opposition authenticity as vox populum while holding the elected government at arm’s length. It’s in that context that their repeated use of “carbon tax” to preface commentary {verballing} is illustrative.

  58. ken n
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:47 | #58

    Folks – we are not getting anywhere with the discussion and I have some wonderful music to go and listen to, which will be much better for my soul that a worn out political argument.

  59. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 17:56 | #59

    I might add that when one or more states are at war, it’s possible for other states to adopt various grades of neutrality. One can be absolutely neutral — refusing aid to either party — adopt benign neutrality towards one party and hostiule neutrality towards the other. One allows passive support to one (e.g overflights of airspace, use of ports, normal trade) but not the other.

    #theirABC is officially neutral, but its attitude towards the LNP is one of benign neutrality. It doesn’t cross-examine their spokesmen in depth, allows them to repeat talking points unchallenged, leads with their strongest claims without preface, and conversely, is critical of government claims, juxtaposing rebuttal material that is sometimes purely an untested opposition claim. This prevents the government developing any clear and coherent case and forces them to put out often illusory spotfires.

    In an example on Sunday, Adam Bandt was asked four times in succession — but why back this scheme and knock back the CPRS? In each case Bandt’s substantive explanations were ignored, and the question rephrased and put again. That’s hectoring not neutral — still less an attempt to elicit information.

  60. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 18:00 | #60

    @ken n

    Folks – we are not getting anywhere with the discussion and I have some wonderful music to go and listen to, which will be much better for my soul that a worn out political argument.

    More accurately, you are not getting anywhere with this discussion, and so you’d sooner filter out inconvenient truth with nice sounding melodies and refrains. I’d say that tells a tale.

  61. Freelander
    July 13th, 2011 at 18:19 | #61

    @Fran Barlow

    Yes. The coverage of the coalition is quite amazing. Every utterance of Abbott, no matter how repetitious. No challenging of anything he says. They even cycle through coalition backbenchers giving them a chance to air their ‘views’. And if we’re lucky someone from the government being interviewed by some rabid attack dog like Uhlmann who doesn’t ask questions but puts forward his ‘facts’ and asks the person to comment on them, and then talks over the top of them.

    Chris Uhlmann and Tony Abbott seem like they’re in some type of mutual admiration society. Of course, Uhlmann seems to be modeling himself on Abbott. First, training to be a priest, then working as a journalist. (Even had a stint as a security guard. I suppose that is to balance Abbott’s love of boxing.) I am waiting for his next shot at politics. (He did have his earlier shot.) He probably sees himself as the next Lib PM after Abbott. The question is: When are we going to see Uhlmann in budgie-smugglers and displaying a hairy chest?

    To quote from crikey.com.au:

    ” Former Pauline Hanson adviser John Pasquarelli has defended Chris Uhlmann and Leigh Sales, describing them as “obejctive.” Youch! ”

    And, of course, Tony Abbott calls Uhlmann a “highly professional journalist”?.

    What better endorsements can you have? Tony Abbott, for example, is renowned for his fair mindedness, balance and objectivity, and strict regard for the truth.

    Yes. As long as you ignore the evidence, there is no evident slant in Rupert’s ABC, the same way there is no slant evident in Rupert’s Australian or Rupert’s FoxNews or Rupert’s now defunct News of the World.

  62. Ian Milliss
    July 13th, 2011 at 18:58 | #62

    And to add my recent favourite, Uhlmann exhuming Peter Reith to comment on Defence scandals.

  63. sam
    July 13th, 2011 at 19:07 | #63

    I listen to Kelly most mornings. I think she does a pretty professional job. I wouldn’t characterise her as having a conservative leaning. My main problem is that she tries to project a false balance, as though both parties’ broad ideological position had some intrinsic merit that needs to be responded to by the other side. In effect, her bias is to assume that she is interviewing grownups. Not surprisingly, this helps the coalition a lot more at the moment, as their positions are childish and unhinged.

    The other problem I have with her is that she seems to have more focus on politics than policy than I like. I think this is because politics is essentially easy to understand; humans are hardwired to be good at the zero-sum business of power and social relationships. Policy is complicated, with lots of graphs and long explanations. I’m not sure how much economics training she or other ABC journalists actually have.

    I think the newspoll is a fairly important indicator of current opinion though. I wouldn’t like to see it removed.

  64. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 20:17 | #64


    Apart from anything else Kelly and Grattan give the impression of people who turn up on time and simply start talking. They give no evidence of having prepared for interviews or even for flapping their gums, beyond having read the headlines in The Oz.

    I often feel insulted — not merely at the way this vacuity and want of professional practice serves the LNP — but at the assumption that we who listen are all as disengaged and vacuous as they are.

  65. Fran Barlow
    July 13th, 2011 at 20:30 | #65


    I should add that there have been two honourable exceptions to this rule within the ABC. On the handful of occasions that I’ve heard Tikki Fullarton (sp?) she has impressed me as having done her homework and as being able not merely to ask her first question, but to ask sensible follo-up questions that surely anticipated the answers she was likely to get. I saw her give Barnaby Joyce a complete going over in one interview and he was clearly rattled by the end of it.

    Stephen Long also seems a thoughtful and intrepid character. He’s had a couple of minor stumbles but trivialities aside, he has always done a professional job, in my estimation.

  66. Freelander
    July 13th, 2011 at 23:50 | #66

    @Fran Barlow

    Yes. I agree. New ABC journalists are characterised by their laziness, in not doing their homework, in not finding out the easily findoutable facts, and instead relying on different opinions, many of which are complete and obvious lies, and they are also characterised in their ignorance, lack of comprehension, lack of education, manners and breeding. But, perhaps, I am being not harsh enough.

    On NewsRadio, daily broadcasts have now become a catalogue of mistakes. Even if there wasn’t the continuous bias which makes it sound like one long party political broadcast, mistake after mistake has made it far too painful to listen to any more.

    The most outrageous aspect is despite their myriad failings, these journalists seem to have unbelievably exalted views of themselves. This is exemplified in the delight with which they spend half their time interviewing each other. And then characterise their extemporising and banal banter and gossipy chit chat and speculation as ‘analysis’.

    As they are equally inept in every department and ignorant on every subject, they seem to have concluded that that uniform lack of capability has made them Renaissance men and women. Were they not living on the taxpayers tab it would be simply mirth making, although so old now is the joke, one can no longer laugh.

    Truly, ABC NewsRadio should be retitled FoxNewsRadio and the ABC is getting toward earning the title FoxNews Down Under.

    Yeah! Rupert has been forced to withdraw his bid in the UK for BSkyB.

  67. Ian Milliss
    July 14th, 2011 at 00:13 | #67

    They’ve thrown the BSkyB bid to the wolves. Panic must be setting in.

  68. John Quiggin
    July 14th, 2011 at 05:40 | #68

    Ken N and Fran – please remember not to flood the thread. I will open a new sandpit shortly.

  69. smiths
    July 14th, 2011 at 14:32 | #69

    And if someone will give me odds – preferably 3/1 but I’d go for 5/2 – I’ll bet that the BSkyB deal will go ahead after an interval.Ken n
    as i said, bskyb will not go ahead
    Rupert Murdoch gives up BSkyB takeover bid
    this is not primarily about hacking phones, and its not primarily about corrupt police,
    this is about the way democracy is a sham in a corporatist state where powerful news companies buy politicians, the stooges scurry to meet with him,
    doesnt anyone remeber Rudd meeting him about two weeks before the Ruddslide election

    contrary to ken N’s ill informed commentary, every important issue of the last three decades has been affected by what rupert wanted,
    rupert sold the iraq war, rupert poisoned the well on climate change in this country,
    rupert defends a criminal political class that conspires to sell out the people,
    rupert misreported the financial crisis so that it it didnt look like the biggest bank robbery in history (which it was),

    and Rupert is in deep poo, anyone who cant see this is reading the wrong (Murdoch) papers

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