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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.

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It’s lonely crying “wolf”: Terrorism 101 – lesson for the Herald Sun

January 2, 2015

Ah, so the new year starts as the last one ended with a fact-free front-page EXCLUSIVE, but this time, the culprit is not The Australian, but its sister paper, the Herald Sun published in Melbourne.

According to today’s front-page splash “EXCLUSIVE TERROR SIEGE TWIST”, the Hun makes the bold claim that Sydney siege killer Man Haron Monis is “NO LONE WOLF“.

Don't worry, its bark is worse than its bite

Don’t worry, its bark is worse than its bite

It really is like taking cheese from a mouse to pick on this sad excuse for a birdcage liner, but when it get as silly as this, I must call out the editor because, surely, it is his call to put such garbage on the front page. Take this for a lead (and remember the root word in “news” is new):

Sydney siege terrorist Man Haron Monis delivered a chilling lecture calling for an “Islamic society” to a packed prayer hall in 2009 — the same year he dropped off security watch lists.

Did you catch the date? It was five or six years ago, give or take a New Year holiday. And, wow, a Muslim who believes in an “Islamic society”; I bet there are not more than, Oh, I don’t know, let’s guess 1.6 billion people who might fit that description.

But, hey, Muslims; they’re dangerous, right? Yes, they are; not like the world’s estimated 2.2 billion Christians who go to church every week and listen to crazed men in long frocks calling for a “Christian society”.

A list of the world's scariest religions from worst to least worser

A list of the world’s scariest religions from worst to least worser

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Black and white and Reds all over: My last 2014 post about The Australian

December 29, 2014

It must be some sort of ignorant bliss to be a columnist or leader writer with The Australian and to live in the certain knowledge that Chris Mitchell’shair is always right about everything.

Not having to think abstractly or go outside the rectangular box of its pages to find something as subtle as flux, contradiction and 50 shades of grey must make for an easy life of absolutes without the worrying niggles of nuance and self-doubt.

Mitchell's hair

The superbly talented and all-round whisky-loving cartoonish genius, Mr Onthemoon drew this.

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Back to the future? Red scare alarmism shakes the Murdoch empire over G20 shirtfront

November 13, 2014

What a strange bunch of headlines today on Murdoch’s Australian tabloid newspapers.

It’s almost as if the last 25 years never happened. In the week that the world is celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall — the most potent symbol of the end of the Cold War — Murdoch’s crazy liquid modern tabloid editors have raised the spectre of a ‘Red Scare’.

You couldn’t make this stuff up, but Murdoch’s minions apparently can and will.

The Russian boats are not even close to Australia’s territorial waters (see below), but the editors — juiced up on Rupert’s kool-aid — cannot resist a good old RED SCARE front page.

Without a moment’s hesitation the claxon sounds and it’s all hands on deck as the plucky crew of HMAS NutsandBolts rally ’round the flag to repel all boarders and STOP THE BOATS.

Yes, even that classic, elastic, all-purpose, sea-going three-word slogan gets another run and is put to good secondary dog-whistle use.

As if thing aren’t already bad enough in the #CityofFear as it locks down in anticipation of the visigoth horde of visiting G20 dignitaries, the good burghers of Brisbane will have to contend with most of the city’s CBD being closed to ordinary folk, lest they wander into the view of the snout-in-trough great and good.

And, as the CuriouS Mell has been reminding THE ENTIRE NATION for months, marauding anarchists are also sneaking into the country to wreak havoc on unsuspecting civilians and to wage jihad on 20,000 heavily armed police mobilised to instil THE RULE OF LAW into anyone stupid enough to think about protesting injustice, criminal tax fraud, the fleecing of the world’s poor to fund extravagant global orgies of greed (like the G20) or demanding serious action on climate change not the weak DIRECT ACTION proposed by TWO PUNCH TONY.

For months the CuriouS Mell has been warning of anarcho-terror threats to the #CityofFear

For months the CuriouS Mell has been warning of anarcho-terror threats to the #CityofFear

Today the CuriouS Mell has been reinforced by the other titles in Murdoch’s stable — THE HUN, THE AGONISER & THE DAILY TERROR — to remind us JUST HOW VULNERABLE Australia is to maritime attack by a ‘fleet’ of Russian naval vessels which is somewhere well away from us, but possibly heading into international waters ‘somewhere off Queensland’.

Even the NORMALLY RELIABLE Australian got in on the act. With a news story, an opinion piece by Abbott’s court jester and food-taster Greg Sheridan and an editorial. Talk about OPERATION OVERKILL, if that doesn’t have the Russian admirals quaking into their seaboots, nothing will.

OPERATION OVERKILL: meaningless graphics, Greg Sheridan and a tub-thumping editorial.

OPERATION OVERKILL: meaningless graphics, Greg Sheridan and a tub-thumping editorial.

 So is there a ‘sovereignty’ issue here?

Well the Russian ships are still over 200 nautical miles outside Australia’s extensive Exclusive Economic Zone — so at least 400 nautical miles away; it’s unlikely they’ll come much closer. If you were Bougainville, you might have reason to worry, but not us.

CALM THE FUCK DOWN! The fleet is not even close.

CALM THE FUCK DOWN! The fleet is not even close.

Territorial Seas

Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,[1] is a belt of coastal waters extending at most 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (both military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it; this sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below. Adjustment of these boundaries is called, in international law, maritime delimitation.

The term “territorial waters” is also sometimes used informally to describe any area of water over which a state has jurisdiction, including internal waters, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and potentially the continental shelf.

(Yes, this is from Wikipedia)

So really, what’s the problem?

Well, if Russia wants to sail its ships into our region it is free to do so. It has full rights in all international waters and also the right of ‘innocent passage’ all the way into Australia’s territorial seas. This means they can come within 12 nautical miles of the mean low water mark.

That’s pretty close! But it is unlikely that the Russians will want to do that.

However, it would be very funny if they did. The Murdoch papers would go apeshit and they’d probably want to mount a DUNKIRK style flotilla. Maybe Rupert could lead them out in one of his superyachts. He could ram the Russian flagship and go down all guns blazing.

No doubt, Abbott would give him a state funeral and he might even get that knighthood that’s eluded him for sixty years.

Shirtfront! This is a shirtfront!

When our Prime Minister threatens to “shirtfront” the leader of another nation it should not be a surprise if that nation then decides to use its far superior naval power to return the gesture.

The alarmist headlines and Cold War rhetoric of the Murdoch papers is just stupid under the circumstances.

It is propaganda aimed at the readers of the Terrorgraph, the Hun, the CuriouS Mell and the Agonizer to keep them worried and alarmed.

It is the generation of what philosopher Zygmunt Bauman calls ‘liquid fear’. Whipping up irrational scare tactics in order to hide the true purpose — social and political control of the population.

Given the MURDOCH EMPIRE’s great love of our own DEAR LEADER, it is natural that they would generate a moral panic involving imaginary SOVIET MILITARY HARDWARE and that they would use a ‘hammer and sickle’ motif to illustrate their RED SCARE stories, even though the old Soviet regime has been dead and buried for more than a quarter of a century.

The RED FLAG is way more frightening than the RED, WHITE & BLUE of the Russian Federation and it has the added advantage of associating the approaching Russian fleet with communism and THE LEFT, which is, as we know so well, the real enemy of the NEWSCORPSE mercenaries.

There really is only one response…ridicule

EXCLUSIVE or ‘EXCUSIVE’? The Australian’s war against logic

January 12, 2014

I gave up my subscription to The Australian just over a year ago. It was the one resolution from New Year 2012-13 that I made and kept.

I drafted a post on it at the time, but decided not to bother publishing it, thereby depriving Murdoch of oxygen. This is what I wrote on 30 December 2012:

It’s not about the money. By my back of the envelope calculations every six-day delivery plus digital access subscription is actually losing money for News Limited. At $8.95 a week for the newspaper and the paywalled online content I was actually paying less than the price for home delivery alone and each daily paper was costing me less than the advertised cover price. Besides, I can afford it, so cost was not a factor.

What finally prompted me to stop my sub was the fact that I am increasingly agitated by the tone of The Australian’s coverage of politics and the shrill and incessant screaming directed at anything slightly left of the paper’s far-right conservatism.

For The Australian’s coterie of conservative commentators everything proposed by the Gillard Labor government represents a threat to civilisation and only the gathering forces of the libertarian right can overcome the descent into socialist Hell that the Gillard regime represents.

That this scenario is the product of fevered imaginations in the ranks of The Australian’s editorial leadership does not matter. Even the most debatable and opinion-laden piece of reportorial dross is labelled ‘Exclusive’ on the front page of the national daily and the paper’s columnists are uniformly opposed to anything progressive or ‘liberal’.

I am sick of it and I’m sure that my mental state is also polluted by the junk that is published relentlessly in pursuit of Murdoch’s regime-change agenda.

The Australian is not a newspaper in the sense of reporting items of public interest with a veneer of objectivity, it is nothing more than a cheer squad for Tony Abbott’s Liberal party.

Well, we all know what happened in 2013. The Australian and its stablemates The Herald Sun in Melbourne and The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, waged incessant war on Gillard and Rudd and the Labor Party and slavishly praised the Abbott-led coalition right up until the 7 September election date.

Since then, The Australian has championed all the causes, crusades and bullying, braying arrogance of the Abbott government.

All this hard work has not gone unrewarded. Several things have happened recently that make me think that the hotline between News Limited’s increasingly shrill coterie of senior shills and the government’s spinmeisters is always busy.

The two phenomena I wish to comment on today are evidence of this special relationship between the world’s greatest newspaper and the prime minister we had to have.

It’s simple really; the pay-off for The Australian’s loyalty and aggression has been inside information and news tips to feed the front page beast and a handsome payday for a coterie of eccentric, but suitably rightwing commentators who were being warehoused in the News Limited corridors until they could be dusted off for a suitable public purpose.

The elusive, EXCLUSIVE excusive

An “exclusive” in the newspaper world was always something that a reporter could be proud of and that an editor would get juicy over because it had the potential to increase sales and generate ‘buzz’ about the paper and the story. For a journalist, an exclusive meant free drinks at the bar, a pat on the back and a chance of promotion.

But, today at The Australian the EXCLUSIVE has become devalued to the point of worthlessness and over-used to the point of terminal boredom and cynicism on the part of the reader. More disturbingly it has morphed into what I am calling the EXCUSIVE, a story that provides political cover and excuses for the actions of the Abbott government. The Australian is now a mouthpiece and a megaphone for pro-Abbott propaganda.

Let me tender a few exhibits as evidence:

THE AUSTRALIAN, Thursday January 9, 2014

The front page of the 9 January paper had seven separate stories; six of them were badged EXCLUSIVE.

The lead “Labor, Greens end the affair” was written by Tasmania correspondent, Matthew Denholm. The exclusive was based on several “understands”:

The Australian understands the Tasmanian ALP is preparing to sever its four-year power-sharing alliance with the Greens…

While final decisions on the details of the Tasmanian split are yet to be made, The Australian understands a consensus has emerged in Labor ranks…

There is ongoing debate about whether, how and when to dump the two Greens minister — Australia’s first — from state cabinet, but The Australian understands this is the most likely outcome in the next few weeks.

There is not one source quoted in the eleven pars of this story on page one. It continues on page four for another nine pars before there is a quote from a living, breathing human being, if you can call a paraphrase with one word in “quotation” marks a quote quote unquote:

She [Lara Giddings, not the cat’s mother] became a staunch defender of it and her Greens ministers, and in March last year said she would “absolutely” have Greens back in cabinet after the next election.

That’s 20 pars into the story before a source is supplied and then it’s a source negative to the intent of the story. But it is also at least 10 months old.

The first recent quote comes in par 22, and it’s another long paraphrase with only two pretty inconsequential words in quote marks:

Yesterday, Ms Giddings refused to say whether Labor would rule out future power-sharing with the Greens, instead confirming a decision would be made in “coming weeks”.

The full Giddings quote is then repeated two pars further down:

“You can wait and see what we have got to say over the coming weeks and months as we head to the election and where we are heading as the Labor Party,” she said.

You might think that by now, the plucky Mr Denholm would give up, but no for that is not the way at the nation’s finest broadsheet. When you don’t have a story and the on-the-record statement from the key source hoses down your speculation. Don’t give up, make it up.

Matthew ploughs ahead with the main theme of the story, despite the fact that he has got no on the record response from sources that back up his understandings.

A complete reversal by Giddings-led Labor follows similar stances against deals with the Greens taken by the party’s leadership in other states and territories.

Hang on. What “complete reversal”. All the paper has is a coy wait and see from Lara Giddings.

This EXCLUSIVE is a beat-up and it wouldn’t pass muster in my first year journalism tutorials. We insist on two real live interviews in most news stories our students write for us and normally we expect to see a strong supporting quote in the first four pars, not buried in the spill-over to page four. The headline might more honestly have been “Giddings says ‘wait and see’ on possible split with Greens”

If Matthew were in my class I would suggest he rewrite this as a story about Lara Giddings saying any decision on a split with the Greens is still weeks or months away. In other words, it is a non-story.

Why then is it on the front page as the lead in The Australian?

You’d have to ask Chris Mitchell for the real answer, but here’s one I made up earlier.

The story fits the ongoing narrative running through News Limited newspapers that the Greens are really communists in disguise, are bad for the country, are crackpots and fuckwits and part of the reason that Labor is so unpopular. Any EXCUSIVE that promotes the party line and has a bash at both Labor and the Greens has a deserved place on the front page.

The front page of The Australian is the front line in Murdoch’s war on logic.

My favourite front page EXCUSIVE in this particular edition of The Australian was a story about the tow-back of asylum-seeker boats to Indonesia. You might recall (by way of background) that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and other senior Liberals, including Abbott, are maintaining a horrible secrecy on this issue and most of our information is courtesy of reporters in Jakarta, not Canberra.

Navy now ‘towing’ back the boats


Brendan Nicholson, Defence editor

The lead par on this story is a statement of the bleeding obvious:

The Abbott government is implementing a radical policy of towing asylum boats back to Indonesian waters.

Yeah, we know that Brendan, it was on the news last night and all over the web all day yesterday. An exclusive is supposed to be new and a story that nobody else has got hold of yet.

The cat is out of the bag on the exclusivity of this story in the long second par:

The Jakarta Post reported yesterday that…

After noting (without comment) that Morrison is refusing to speak, we are exclusively told in The Australian that “last night” an asylum-seeker spoke to “the Seven Network” about the tow-back. I didn’t see that interview, but I did see it on the ABC and the SBS.

There goes the EXCLUSIVE and the story tips over into being an EXCUSIVE again.

In this case the excusing is inserted by republishing a quote from Tony Abbott from his visit to Jakarta in October last year when he flatly denied that towing back boats would be Coalition policy.

During his first visit to Indonesia as Prime Minister, in October [2013], Tony Abbott told a media conference in Jakarta: “Can I just scotch this idea that the Coalition’s policy is or ever has been tow-backs.”

The faithful stenographic chimp who occupies the chair reserved for the ‘Defence Editor’, dutifully repeats the lies as a way of hosing down the seriousness of this story:

During the election campaign, Mr Morrison said the Coalition never had a policy of towing boats back to Indonesia. He said that position had been misrepresented in the media over a long period.

You see, weasel words and dissembling are enough to convince The Australian that it is right. The coalition policy is “turnaround, not strictly tow-backs” according to Abbott, so that is how it is reported in the Murdoch press.

This is not an exclusive in any sense of the word. All the information contained in the story was already on the public record. What is EXCLUSIVE to this story is the EXCUSIVE pro-government spin imparted by the paper itself.

Four more EXCLUSIVEs appeared between pages two and five of The Australian on 9 January, some of them might be legitimate — ie stories that are first reported in the paper and not elsewhere, but at least one of them is exclusive because no one else would touch it. It is another EXCUSIVE based on the prejudices of The Australian, rather than any merit.

In this context EXCUSIVE is about campaigning in the dog whistle political style of The Australian — attacking targets in the sights of the Abbott government as a way of currying favour and displaying fealty to the Liberal conservative social agenda.

Uni defends audience with Assad


Christian Kerr

This is a follow-up story to other coverage of the visit to Syria and audience with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus by a group claiming some connection with the Australian Wikileaks party.

For the record, I think the visit was a stupid and disgusting mistake on behalf of those who went. It lends legitimacy to the Assad regime and also to claims that the Syrian opposition is mostly made up of al Qaida-style extremists.

I have publicly disagreed with Tim Anderson before about this and a year ago defriended him on Facebook after he continually posted pro-Assad comments and images to his timeline. I am a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition, but do not countenance jihadist sentiment. I support the secular revolutionaries and those who wish to bring down the Assad regime, rather than those who wish to establish a caliphate in the region.

Anyway, back to the story. The Australian had been pestering the University of Sydney (Anderson’s employer) to dissociate itself from his visit to Damascus and to condemn or even sanction him for his actions.

Despite this pressure, the university stood by Anderson on the grounds of academic freedom and it was right to do so. This is reported in the first par of Christian Kerr’s story, but it is just not good enough, as he goes on to explain (at great length)

The University of Sydney has defended as an exercise in academic freedom the visit of senior lecturer Tim Anderson to Syria as part of a delegation that met dictator Bashar al-Assad.

But the comments have not satisfied Education Minister Christopher Pyne or a group of federal MPs who wrote to the university earlier this week expressing concerns…

Then we move back into the murky territory of who understands what — can you hear the whistle boys and girls? This is Kerr’s stock-in-trade and a tried and true modus operandi at The Australian. Ethical Martini understands that this method is used because the stenographic chimps can learn it by rote and apply the formula to any story and any situation.

The Australian understands there is concern among the university’s top governing body, the senate, that Dr Anderson’s visit will compound concerns caused by the boycott of Israeli institutions and academics by its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

This is the real nub. The Australian has been campaigning for months against the BDS campaign boycott being implemented by the CPCS because the paper is pro-Israel and pro-Zionist thanks to Murdoch’s business interests in the country, including possible covert hacking and spying on competitors in the pay-TV industry. [See Neil Chenoweth’s exposure for the full story]

This brings us nicely to the appointment of Donelly and Wiltshire to head up a review of the national school curriculum. Both of these neanderthal hacks are favourites of Murdoch and Mitchell. They frequently opine in The Australian on education and other issues and they are both reliably rightwing to the point that they walk with a limp.

I have plenty more to say on that, but it is Sunday afternoon and I’m going off for a massage.

Tomorrow I am having surgery on my hand and I won’t be typing for a while, so this is the last post, so to speak, for at least two weeks.











The Daily Telegraph has no credibility on journalism standards

December 15, 2013

It is simultaneously amusing and sickening to see News Limited newspapers attempting to lecture the ABC on standards in journalism.

Coming from the organisation that brought you the Abbott government, whether you wanted it, or not, it is a bit rich to complain of un-Australian, left-wing bias at the national broadcaster.

The chief stenographer at the Daily Telegraph is gainfully employed re-writing press releases and disguising advertising as news and the columnists are at the bar dictating their arid thoughts to the keyboard chimps.

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The ABC is right to pursue the Snowden documents; The Australian is so predictable

November 24, 2013

Oh dear, the predictability and monotony of The Australian‘s whining about the ABC was taken to new heights this week on two fronts: firstly, the revelation that the national broadcaster has to pay market rates for its premier on-air talent and, secondly, feigned moral outrage that the ABC would cover the very newsworthy disclosure that the Defence Signals Directorate wanted to listen-in on the phone calls of the Indonesian President and his wife.

Any reasonably briefed chimpanzee would be able to write the coverage of these issues for the News Limited papers. There’s a template, a formula and a draw full of boilerplate copy that oozes vitriol, arsewipe and stinking double standards.

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