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.

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The view from Disneyland — you can see the Newscorpse bunkers from here

February 8, 2015

There have been two important speeches at the National Press Club in the past week or so. One of them got bucket loads of media coverage and has turned into a national story of gargantuan significance. EM covered it here.

The second NPC speech received some coverage, but there have been few ripples across the pond and the story has died. However, EM can’t let it go because it is a subject dear to our heart — Freedom of the Press.

Just two days after Two Punch delivered his wooden and self-wounding speech on Monday, perhaps fatally injuring his own prime ministership and his political party in the process, the chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Julian Disney, gave an address to the gathered scribes and interested onlookers.

Disney’s speech won’t kill off the Press Council, but he is leaving soon anyway and his replacement has been announced, Professor David Weisbrot; so, in some ways, the address was a valedictory.

Disney also used the speech to make some thinly-veiled comments about the role of destabilisation and undermining of the Council’s authority by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorpse.

newscorpse log

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Australia celebrating today: Liberals mortally wounded; workers finding their voice

February 1, 2015

If you’re a progressive in Australia this has been a good weekend and much more fun than the official “Australia Day” of last week.

The Soceroos beat South Korea 2-1 to win the Asian Cup in soccer.

Soceroos celebrating CanDo Newman's own goal last night.

Soceroos celebrating Campbell Newman’s own goal last night.

But even better, Campbell “Can Do” Newman got smashed in the Queensland state election and the knives are being sharpened in the Liberal caucus to stab Two Punch Tony Abbott in the back, the ribs, stomach and the neck.

In fact, by the end of the week he is likely to have more punctures than a balloon after a fight with a porcupine.

To top it off, the kool-aid slurping columnists on Rupert Murdoch’s Aussie rags are beside themselves with hubris and confusion.

So forget the soccer and the tennis; this weekend has been all about the politics.

After backing Two Punch Tony all the way for the past 16 months the NewsCorpse minions are now falling over each other in an attempt to explain away Abbott’s obvious failings and to shift the blame elsewhere.

Even the rusted-on Liberal editbot Chris Kenny is getting twitchy about Abbott’s chances.

It’s no surprise really because Rupert himself has been Twittering his thoughts to all and sundry; his editors could hardly miss the point:

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Once more on groupthink: Repeat after me “We’re all individuals”

May 29, 2012

Accusations of bias and groupthink at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are not new.
What is new is the intensity and ferocity of the attacks being mounted in the national broadsheet.
The Weekend Australian‘s double-barrel blast across the bows of the ABC is a good example. That it was followed up with an editorial is either overkill or hubris.

All this from a news organisation that in 2003 successfully resisted groupthink in its line on the Iraq invasion. Only 175 of Murdoch’s newspapers world-wide backed the invasion editorially. It would be churlish to mention that this was 100 per cent of his mastheads at the time.

The latest complaint about the ABC also throws into stark relief the lack of self-reflection within the national broadsheet.

The Australian has been at war with the ABC for many years and a quick search of the paper’s own database shows a remarkable tendency to launch broadsides at the ABC and its staff for perceived bias or alleged breaches of some unwritten code of balance.

(I’m not talking about breaches of the ABC’s editorial guidelines which are rare; but an unwritten code set by The Australian in a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”.)

A more cynical person might wonder if this is not just a little bit pots calling kettles.

“I know you are, but what am I?”

“Oho!’ said the pot to the kettle; “You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, Except when you’re given a crack.”

“Not so! not so! kettle said to the pot; “‘Tis your own dirty image you see; For I am so clean -without blemish or blot- That your blackness is mirrored in me” [Wikipedia]

At the moment the fixation of the national broadsheet is focused on the Media Watch program and the ABC’s coverage of climate change.

Accusations of misreporting (deliberate or otherwise) have been flying between the two for weeks now and frankly, despite my intense interest, I find it hard to pick a winner.

It has become a “he said, she said” war of words that has seen both sides try to overwhelm their opponent with tactics of attrition and endless arcane paper trails involving emails, an exchange of unanswered questions and perhaps deliberate distortion of timelines and events.

At a more general level, it seems to me, the issue is really one of who do you believe. Read the rest of this entry »

More bad news for the Murdochs? Maybe Avaaz

May 18, 2012

Web activists Avaaz put Lachlan Murdoch’s media interests under the spotlight


Lachlan Murdoch’s familial and professional links with News Corporation – as well as Channel 10 and radio network DMG – are cause for concern for internet activists Avaaz.

The worldwide online activist group Avaaz, which claims over 14 million members and operations in 193 countries, has this week launched an Australian campaign against Lachlan Murdoch.

The group has written to the chair of the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), Chris Chapman, seeking an inquiry into Lachlan Murdoch’s links with News Limited, Channel 10 and radio networks DMG and Nova.

In an one-line email response to The Conversation, an ACMA spokesperson indicated that normal practice is not to comment on complaints.

According to Avaaz’s letter to ACMA, the group is alleging that Lachlan Murdoch could be in breach of the Broadcasting Services Act because he might be in a position of influence and control over three media companies that operate in the Sydney radio licence area.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rupert is safe from Australian regulators…for now

May 7, 2012

Australian media regulators would take an active interest in attempts by News Limited to increase its stake in Foxtel.

Problems facing media moguls Rupert and James Murdoch in the United Kingdom and the United States have yet to have an impact in Australia.

But if recent speculation is true that News Limited might be a buyer for James Packer’s 25% Foxtel stake, Murdoch could find himself in a forest of acronyms as various regulatory agencies – the Australian Consumer and Competition commission (ACCC), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) – take an active interest.

The continuing storm over the handling of the UK phone hacking scandal has seen a British parliamentary committee find Murdoch senior is not a fit and proper person to run a multinational media company.

The phone-hacking and police bribery scandal has led to more than 40 arrests in Britain and to a Sky news reporter admitting to hacking emails in pursuit of a story.

These revelations have also led to low-level investigations of News operations in the United States. In July last year, the FBI was reportedly opening an investigation of allegations that News reporters may have hacked the phones of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York and Washington DC.

There is no recent information to confirm that any investigation is on-going in the US. However, American politicians – always on the look out for a media opportunity – have signaled they are taking a keen interest in the British parliamentary report and the Leveson inquiry. A Washington DC ethics lobby group has also written to the US Federal Communications Commission seeking an inquiry into Murdoch’s control of the Fox network.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) want the FCC to revoke Foxtel’s broadcasting licences. A US senator has also written to the chair of the Leveson inquiry seeking any information that might suggest American laws have been broken by News journalists.

Even is there is no illegality, Murdoch does face some problems in the US. Under American law, the finding that he is not a fit and proper person to run a business in the UK can be used to trigger an inquiry in the USA.

These ongoing worries are more than an embarrassment to the octogenarian patriarch; they are a debilitating overhang that could ultimately affect the fate of News Corporation – the parent company that manages the family’s global media business interests, including News Limited in Australia and News International in the UK. For example, BSkyB shares took a hit on UK markets after the email hacking story came to light. Read the rest of this entry »

Latest News disaster completes an “annus horribilis” for Rupert Murdoch

April 1, 2012

News all a-twitter over hacking allegations; Austar deal approved by shareholders

Reading this week’s media coverage of the NDS hacking and piracy allegations the first thing that springs to mind is that this continues an ‘Annus Horribilis’ for the Murdoch clan which began with News of the World in April 2011.

So far, the Australian Federal Police are saying they are waiting for a referral to launch an investigation into the continuing claims made in the Australian Financial Review that News Corp subsidiary NDS engaged in piracy and hacking in a bid to destabilise Australia’s pay TV industry, including Austar.

The AFR promoted the story on its website with links to an archive of 14,400 emails it claimed supported its allegations. The stories have suggested that News entity NDS encouraged hackers to spread code that allowed free downloads of competitor programs, which News has denied.

It comes as the BBC defended it’s current affair program Panorama against accusations by News Corporation that the program had “grossly misrepresented” it while airing an investigation into the computer hacking of British rival ONDigital.

The AFR says it is standing by its stories and sources, including over 14,400 leaked emails.

Yesterday Rupert Murdoch hit back on Twitter, saying the allegations are completely untrue and hinting that he might sue.

Murdoch’s tweet defence seemed a bit bizarre and the tweets that followed it became even more obscure. Perhaps there’s something to this, or maybe Mr Murdoch is showing his age and lack of social media savvy.

Here is the order in which Murdoch’s tweets appeared on Thursday afternoon Australian time:

In the space of 15 minutes Murdoch had moved from a plea for sympathy and understanding to issuing a cryptic war cry about freedom of thought and freedom of the market. He then attacked the Fairfax news media as a home for crazies.

It is no surprise that this provoked a backlash of tweeted derision against the 80 year-old. Many detractors pointed out that Murdoch has used his own media monopolies to gain and garner political favour and influence on four continents.

RT @AJLemP: @rupertmurdoch:‘Choice, freedom of thought and markets’. Says the man who profits from information control.

@rupertmurdoch Dude, just cause you seem ever so slightly paranoid today, does not mean, they are not out to get you. #Leveson #Kharma

If the allegations – that the News-owned NDS encouraged and promoted hackers and pirates to attack their Australian competitors – prove to be true, it could be the smoking gun that leads to the unravelling of the Murdoch brand in Australia.

That’s about the only certain thing we can say at moment, but it is worth observing that media inquiries into the allegations are uncovering some interesting links between the Murdoch empire and a whole platoon of retired senior military personnel and former spooks.

However, it is wise to be cautious here. There is no doubt these are serious allegations of potentially criminal behavior that will certainly attract police and regulator attention, but it is not directly linked to the UK phone-hacking scandal, nor to the News Limited newspapers in Australia.

This is a separate series of allegations about the pay TV operations that are at more than arms length from the daily management of The Australian, The Herald-Sun, The Telegraph, the Adelaide Advertiser and the Courier-Mail.

We should also remember that the alleged hacking and piracy happened more than a decade ago and such actions were not illegal under the Australian laws of the time. However, it is not a good look as Foxtel seeks to buy its competitor Austar.

News Limited and senior News Corp figures such as Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey have joined Murdoch in denouncing the allegations.

The company at the centre of the scandal, the UK-based NDS, has also issued strong denials. NDS is 49% owned by News Corporation and there has been speculation the piracy allegations could sour a deal under way to sell NDS to Cisco Systems for $5 billion.

Austar chief executive John Porter has also vigorously denied allegations in the AFR article, calling them “completely unjustified”. He’s been at the helm of Austar since 1995, so his views are worth noting.

On Friday, Austar shareholders voted to approve the $2.5 billion planned takeover of Austar by Foxtel (which is 25% owned by News Limited) even though the corporate regulator has yet to approve the deal. Foxtel has not been alleged to have been involved in hacking.

This story has a long way to go before it fully unwinds and there’s lots of loose ends, including questions about the role of several former Israeli, US and British spies with links to Mossad and a shadowy “black hat” hacking operation based in Haifa, Israel.

But does it, as some of the more extreme and vocal of News Corp’s critics suggest, indicate a mafia-like culture in senior management circles at News, where a disregard for the law and a “We won’t get caught” attitude stands in for the hubris and certainty of being part of the seemingly invincible empire of the Sun God?

We’ll have to wait and see, but the scandal has the potential to damage Murdoch financially.

On Thursday, News Limited’s share price fell 1.8% and closed at $19.12. On Friday it again finished slightly down, at $19.05.

Unfortunately for the News Corp family the allegations come on top of bad news in other share markets; the resignation of heir apparent James from News International as his role in the NOTW scandal came under scrutiny; ongoing allegations of criminal behaviour by News employees in the UK and calls for the British regulators to now examine this latest set of piracy claims.

The AFR’s investigation was linked to the BBC’s Panorama program so the allegations are likely to continue to get plenty of oxygen in Britain where BSkyB is also in merger talks with a pay TV rival. Murdoch could also be a victim of the relentless 24-hour news cycle he and Foxtel helped to create as this story begins to play in the US and other markets too.


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