Hands off the ABC – Turnbull should resign his commission

June 25, 2015

The Abbott government’s political interference into public broadcasting has just got serious.

Very serious.

Heads should roll

Not content with going beyond his ministerial brief and ringing Mark Scott in the middle of the night to demand answers, the Duke of Double Bay has now decided to politicise his department by demanding senior officers conduct an inquiry into the ABC’s editorial decision-making.

The ego of this merchant wanker seemingly knows no bounds.

Everybody who ever watched Play School or an ABC news bulletin should be outraged and demanding Malcolm Turnbully resign his commission.

Turnbull has breached his ministerial guidelines with this move, but he’s gloating about it.

The jumped-up, smug little Napoleon has gone well beyond what is acceptable in a system that relies on the separation of powers.

Turnbull’s inquiry is blatant political interference.

How else can you explain his “instruction” to his department — which we can presume knows little to nothing of news judgment and editorial decision-making.

Turnbully's instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

Turnbully’s instruction: fuck-up the ABC, but make it look like an accident

And the reason he thinks he can get away with it is that he did the last time.

Read the rest of this entry »


Zaky Mallah, bluster and bullshit from the PM and his #Newscorpse drones

June 24, 2015
Don't apologise to me, unless it's for your craven backflip

Don’t apologise to me, unless it’s for your craven backflip

Seriously, what is the fucking fuss?

A fomer jihadi wannabe, who says he now hates ISIS, goes on one late night talk show and confronts a Liberal politician who is desperately trying to keep his head in the sand and “La, La, La” his way to the next election.

Liberal MP Steve Ciobo would rather be on television  shouting “Look over there, a #TERRORISMs” instead of confronting difficult questions about the disasterous policy porridge that his Dear Leader is foisting on the country.

But, an outrage such as a Minister being confronted by a young articulate Muslim asking embarrassing questions cannot go unpunished.

Read the rest of this entry »


Journalists and conflicts of interest: A difficult fault line

June 20, 2015

Journalists declaring conflicts of interest sounds simple, but …

When it comes to conflicts of interest in journalism – whether real, potential or perceived – the rules are usually simple. They’re framed around the principle that audiences (and management) need to know if a reporter, presenter or editor might be influenced by any commercial or personal relationship with another individual or organisation.

But what happens when the protocols of disclosure are not met? Well, as a couple of recent Canadian cases highlight, non-disclosure can rapidly lead to non-employment.

The recent sacking of two high-profile Canadian journalists highlights the difficulties media employees face in navigating the tricky terrain of conflicts of interest.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) dismissed the host of its premiere television political show Power & Politics, Evan Solomon, for allegedly using his journalist’s position to broker sales for an art dealer friend.

Solomon’s sacking followed a Toronto Star newspaper report on the journalist’s contract with art dealer, Bruce Bailey.

Solomon has admitted he received commissions, said to total around CAD$300,000, for his role in the sale of artworks, including to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, but added it was “all disclosed to CBC”.

Carney had previously been a guest on Power and Politics, which Solomon hosted until his dismissal.

On the face of it, this might seem a reasonable decision by the CBC.

Solomon, who was said to be a rising star at the government-owned network, was contractually bound by the station’s editorial policies.

In a statement defending its decision on Solomon, the CBC said the anchor had acted in a way “inconsistent with the organisation’s conflict of interest and ethics policy, as well as journalistic standards and practices”.

While Mark Carney and another of Solomon’s journalistic contacts, Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie, were also clients in Solomon’s art brokerage business, there has been no evidence that any of his editorial decisions were influenced by his sideline in art dealing.

 

The swift action by the CBC has been criticised as hasty and perhaps out of proportion to Solomon’s alleged “crime”.

Solomon’s union, the Canadian Media Guild, also called CBC’s actions “excessively harsh”.

Solomon is the second high-profile presenter sacked by a Canadian broadcaster after allegations of conflict of interest surfaced.

In January this year a Global TV news presenter, Leslie Roberts, resigned from the Toronto-based network after it was disclosed that he was also involved with a PR agency whose clients appeared regularly on Roberts’s program.

Ironically, it was another Toronto Star investigation that revealed Roberts’s undisclosed affiliation with Buzz PR.

Roberts said he did not receive a salary from Buzz PR, but he had not alerted his bosses to the connection.

Perhaps in Roberts’s case the alleged conflict of interest is more clear cut. Most journalists would be horrified at any suggestion that a senior colleague was also working for “dark side”.

It’s also clear that the potential for a very lucrative “revolving door” between the PR agency and Roberts’s news studio is ethically dubious, to say the least.

Is the perception of a conflict evidence enough?

Neither Solomon nor Roberts appear to have broken any Canadian laws. There is no allegation against them of criminal or corrupt behaviour.

So, is it enough then for there to be a perception of conflict for a media employer to take action?

It seems the answer is “yes” in the Canadian context, and the argument about reputational damage is a strong one.

We seem to hold media personalities to a higher standard than mere mortals, and within the realm of public broadcasting – funded by taxpayers – accountability must be observed and be seen to be observed.

To my knowledge there have been no similar recent cases in the Australian media, but that does not mean that allegations of conflict of interest don’t surface from time to time.

Most often the allegations are raised against ABC employees, and usually by journalists or commentators working for rival networks or publishers.

Lateline host, Tony Jones, is regularly in the firing line.

In March this year, Herald Sun columnist and Channel 10 presenter, Andrew Bolt, accused Jones of a conflict of interest when he was MC of Carbon Expo in 2012.

Carbon Expo is an annual conference focused on sustainability issues and the generation of a market for carbon credits.

According to Bolt, Jones has a conflict because of his role at the ABC, which requires him to be impartial in the presentation of news and opinion.

Bolt believes Jones is too close to what he calls the “warmist” view of climate change and cites his hosting of Carbon Expo as proof. But the ABC has never taken any action against Jones and his participation in forums such as Carbon Expo occurs with the explicit approval of ABC management.

Jones is represented by two speakers’ agencies, and charges – according to the Ovations website – a minimum of A$5,000 per engagement.

Is that a conflict of interest? The argument in Jones’ case seems to rest on political rather than ethical grounds. Bolt is a well-known critic of both the ABC and the science of climate change. Jones’ monetary value as facilitator and MC is predicated on his ABC profile, rather than the other way around and his relationship with speakers’ bureaux is known to ABC management and to any curious member of the public who cares to Google his name.

Perhaps it is the declaration that clears Tony Jones. In the Solomon and Roberts’ cases it seems that it was secrecy – and sudden exposure – that sunk them. Though one could argue the cases are different.

Being connected to a PR agency that solicits airtime on your network for its clients seems a greater offence than pocketing a kick-back from making introductions to an art dealer. Hosting corporate events and conferences also seems, on the face of it, to be fairly innocuous.

Any conflict of interest in the newsroom is a potential problem if it impacts on the veracity and honesty of reporting and editorial decision-making, but the standards of proof need to be very high.

The Conversation

Martin Hirst is Associate Professor Journalism & Media at Deakin University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


The story of the year and #Newscorpse doesn’t want to know

June 14, 2015

This week one of the biggest political stories of the year has broken, but The Weekend Australian has buried it on page 9.

 

How to pretend a story is not important...bury it on page 9

How to pretend a story is not important…bury it on page 9

This is not even original reporting. It’s a cobbled together story based on cribbing quotes from other news outlets.

It’s only in the paper because the editors know that if The Weekend Australian ignored it completely, its credibility would suffer even more.

It is an astounding example of skewed editorial judgement.

Why?

Because, the story is highly damaging to the Abbott government and the News Corp leadership has firmly nailed its flag to the mast of what is more and more looking like a pirate ship of fools.

The framing of the story — carried in the headline and lead par — set the tone: The Weekend Australian is right behind Abbott on his denials.

 

The Weekend Australian won't criticise Abbot

The Weekend Australian won’t criticise Abbot

Denialist–in-chief, Chris Kenny is leading the head-in-sand brigade on this issue.

 

Now the paper is scrambling to regain some initiative on this story, but the reporting still won’t directly accuse anyone of anything, instead promoting the continuing obfuscation, denials and no comments from senior members of the government.

However, this story is not going to die off any time soon. Indonesian officials are saying they’ve seen the wads of cash in $US bills and the people smuggler allegedly at the centre of the pay-to-return deal has been located and named.

Now the United Nations is weighing in. It is a story will a long way to run yet.

 

Watch this space, but don’t rely on The Australian for the facts.

[I will have more to report on this story soon, right now it’s Sunday and I’m going out for lunch]

 


The last of the old school moguls: Is Rupert on the way out?

June 12, 2015

The leaked announcement this week that Rupert Murdoch is to “relinquish” his 60-year reign at the top of the News Corporation mountain has been met with some skepticism by media insiders.

It seems that Rupert is to give up executive control of the Twenty-First Century Fox entity and hand it over to his son James.

Many, like Crikey correspondent, Stephen Mayne, feel that Murdoch’s move is a feint , which, in reality, will cement his family’s hold on the lucrative cross-media business. Mayne wrote that the Murdoch is the master of ruse when it comes to managing his family’s controlling interest in the News businesses.

…the Murdochs have made a career out of gaming media laws and bending regulators to extend their two-decade run as the world’s most powerful family.

Today’s leak to Fox News is just another step along the way in that journey for a family that is now worth about $15 billion, and carrying very little risk through either public or private debt.

Stephen Mayne, Crikey 12 June 2015

Writing on The Conversation, Brian McNair describes the succession leak as a “Game of Thrones” moment for News Corp.

And what of the future for news and journalism at News Corp? One imagines that if James and Lachlan do succeed their father, they would bring to the roles his personal commitment to investment in journalism, and a readiness to lose money in an activity with overreaching political value, here in Australia not least.

On the other hand, when Rupert does eventually depart for the great newsroom in the sky, will more mundane corporate realities come to the fore, spelling trouble for the loss-making Australian, The Times in the UK, and other outlets?

Brian McNair, The Conversation, 12 June 2015

To further complicate matters of ownership and financial regulation of News Corp, in 2013 the company was split into two wings; one—21st Century Fox—controlling film and television assets, mainly in the United States, the other—News Corp—a global network of newspapers and a publishing house (Rushe 2013). But in Australia, News Corp will hold both newspaper assets and Foxtel/Sky which is likely because of the huge losses suffered by the Australian newspaper, which could be as much as $33 million a year according to Murdoch watcher, Neil Chenoweth.
But maybe, just maybe Rupert’s time has come.
Take a look at this recent fairly bizarre tweet. We all make mistakes, but for someone who for 60 years has been a proud journalist (in his own mind at least), surely this is a gaffe too far.

Read the rest of this entry »


Politicising human rights – what a terrible thing to do

June 9, 2015

So, finally, in 2015 Australia the debate about human rights has become politicised.

 

It’s about time really, human rights should be a very political question. You know, discussing the politics of who does and who does not support universal human rights should be regular dinner time conversation in most normal families, or pub chatter for the more inebriated among us.

In any civilised country, one that prides itself on taking human rights seriously, the application or removal of those rights should be a matter of political discourse and close attention. Which, sadly, leads me to surmise that Australia today is losing some of its civility.

Our ability to have a sensible and sensitive conversation about the importance of human rights and to debate the failures (or the rare successes) of our government (of any stripe) in promoting human rights seems to be diminishing.

Instead the media thugs and government bullies are out to silence one of the last bastions of criticism of Australia’s uncivil and inhumane refugee policies and to shut down debate about the steady erosion of our rights through the over-reach of surveillance and through the fear-mongering around terrorism.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tony Abbott: Is he the “selfie” Prime Minister?

May 31, 2015

Tony Abbott has been Australia’s Prime Minister now for 630 days.

And what did he do to celebrate this Sunday?

He went on a “charity fun run“, just like he’s done for several years.

I am struggling to find evidence that even one of those long 630 days was spent in the service of the country he claims a mandate to lead.

All I have seen of our Dear Leader is a man intent on pandering to his own personal whims and the causes of moribund neoliberalism.

How many times over the past nearly two years has Tony Abbott donned the lycra, or the budgie smugglers, or the running shoes to demonstrate his Putinesque qualities and his hard-man physical prowess?

Has this man got nothing better to do than exercise

Has this man got nothing better to do than exercise

It’s been too many days in my book, and certainly enough to make it look like Abbott is a narcissist who has not really grown out of his teenage years. He still seems to live in the days of student politics, when he could ignore democratic procedures and run a student union like his own personal fiefdom.

In those days Abbott played to his loyal fanboys, the rugger buggers and college thugs. He still thinks this is his main constituency today.

This is now what Abbott is doing the the country. He plays to the fanboys, the racists and the fearful.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,000 other followers