Many forests will be destroyed covering what the politicians say in this election campaign so Crikey will be focusing on advising voters what to do and also keeping the media accountable for what they say and do.

For way too long Australian elections have been decided by deals with media moguls such as Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.

And Crikey has been waiting for years for someone to give it to Alan Jones on air so full marks to Kim Beazley for calling The Parrot a “liar” last week after he completely concocted an allegation about ALP policies no longer being on the party’s website.

But Jones hit back with his line about “that’s really heavy stuff coming from a bloke who said his daughter was sort of thrown out of the hospital.”

At this point, Beazley should have responded with something like: “Yeah but weren’t you once rather spectacularly thrown out of a London toilet block, you Parrot.”

Beazley is absolutely right to start turning on the media. We all know that Packer is backing Howard after getting his way over digital policy and last week we had The Today Show running an empty chair after Beazley knocked them back for an interview.

On Sunday last week you had 60 Minutes running a big community forum on refugees which the government’s pollsters would have loved even if Phillip Ruddock looked a tad uncomfortable.

And then you had Alan Jones, a regular on the Today Show and someone who has received many millions from the Packers over the years, giving it to Beazley with both barrels such that he eventually snapped.

Laurie Oakes gave Peter Costello a relatively easy interview on Sunday last week and naturally the Liberal Party are insisting that their favourite debate moderator Ray Martin gets the gig whilst Red Kerry on the ABC continues to pay for his pro-Keating bias in 1993.

With John Howard having cosy dinners with Murdoch in Washington recently, Beazley is right to be on the watch for a hostile media pack.

Speaking of Jones, can you believe that Southern Cross Broadcasting have censored my platform and refused to tell their shareholders that I’m running for their board on an anti-cash for comment platform.

Southern Cross showed appalling pro-Kennett bias in the 1990s and it looks like they might just be repeating the dose this time around. Afterall, their recently retired long-time chairman Peter Nixon is a former National Party Agriculture Minister.

And company founder John Dahlsen was the man Jeff Kennett called in to help neuter the Victorian auditor general, Ches Baragwanath. Thankfully, the only person it neutered in the end was Jeff Kennett.

Who will appear on Burke’s Backyard?

Former Kennett spindoctor Jon Richards reported on RRR’s program The Spin last week that the Libs have decided to boycott Don Burke this election because he gave Kim Beazley such an easy run during the 1998 poll.

If this is the case, the Libs would appear to have forgotten the two very soft runs that Don Burke gave Jeff Kennett during the 1999 Victorian election.

With Packer firmly onside with Howard for the third straight election, you would expect that the Libs would be lining up to appear tendering their gardens during prime time.

Will Kerry Stokes and Seven blatantly back the Libs

Kerry Stokes has profited very nicely from the Liberal government and is a major beneficiary of the digital decision which enhanced the value of his free-to-air licences in all the major cities.

Stokes was appointed to the National Gallery board by that pragmatic dealmaker of a communications minister Richard Alston, as was mini-mogul Cameron O’Reilly.

Seven’s chief political reporter in Canberra Glenn Milne is the most high profile major supporter of Howard and regularly gets fed his lines by the PM’s spin doctors for his column in The Australian each Monday.

Howard so likes Milne that he twice offered him jobs as one of his spin doctors.

Is News Ltd back on side

Ever the pragmatist, it looks like Rupert is back in bed with John Howard having forgiven and forgotten losing the digital decision when the Liberals locked out new competition in the television market until 2006 and created unworkable datacasting laws that entrenched the free-to-air incumbents.

Howard knows that Packer’s support is a given and has worked hard to win back Murdoch with a long dinner in Washington recently that the media managed to gate crash.

It was Howard who suggested the dinner and Murdoch was quick to fly from New York to Washington.

Howard rang then Daily Telegraph editor Col Allan after the 1998 poll and said the Telegraph’s infamous “Labor set to seize power” reverse psychology splash on election day helped them hold onto a number of key NSW marginal seats and therefore win the election.

It is difficult for Howard to deliver something to Murdoch whilst keeping Packer and Stokes happy. Tax breaks for movies like Moulin Rouge and some prodding of Telstra to give ground on Foxtel might count for something but free to air television is the big ticket item for News Corp so Rupert will be looking for some changes to the cross-media ownership laws that would allow him to buy Channel 10 or Channel 7. Alston has already announced a review of the laws but every time this comes up it founders in the Senate and on the backbench and given that Australia already has close to the most concentrated media ownership in the world it is hard to imagine this going through.

But with Murdoch being ideologically to the right, maybe he just thinks his $2 billion a year Australian business will do better under John Howard.

The Murdochs have also invested heavily in Peter Costello political career and might end up pushing for a leadership change shortly after the election if Howard doesn’t deliver whatever it is they want.

This is only a first take on our media analysis and we’re keen for you to send in copious amounts of emails to [email protected] pointing out things in the media that we might miss.

* Crikey has 1780 subscribers who for $55 get a tee-shirt, 5 sealed section emails a week with this sort of material and access to our 800,000 word searchable archive so why not join the Crikey army by clicking here to read the daily email updates with breaking news and analysis.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.