Was Sam Chisholm the source of Telstra’s boardroom leak?  The
Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann has been a staunch defender of Chisholm, but
is this his real opinion or his he simply supporting News Corp’s
commercial agenda.  After all, the leak was in the commercial
interest of PBL and News Corp.

McCrann on Chisholm and Telstra

Sealed Section – February 26

Sam Chisholm was taking calls about his double-lung transplant on Sky
News on Tuesday night, but once again the punters, just like the
journalists at Sunday’s launch of the David Hookes foundation, missed
the opportunity to quiz him about the Telstra bunfight.

Chisholm continues to emphatically deny leaking the Telstra-Sensis
proposal to Ross Greenwood. In fact, we’re told that Sam has never met
Greenwood, the Packer reporter who received the leak and ran the story
big on Channel Nine and in The Bulletin last week.

Crikey has previously reported that Chisholm was instrumental in the
hiring of Greenwood and Alan Kohler reported that they are “friends” so
we might both be wrong, although Crikey has lots of relationships with
people we’ve never met. It’s all over the phone and on email.

The most popular theory on the leak remains that the information may have got from Chisholm to Greenwood via an intermediary.

However, Terry McCann had an interesting, albeit predictable, column in
the Herald Sun today calling on journalists to leave Sam alone and
suggesting the leak probably came out of Canberra as several
politicians had been briefed on the deal. The problem with this theory
is that Greenwood had great detail on which directors supported and
opposed the deal, something no-one in Canberra would have known.

“Too much waxing indignant about the leaking”, screamed the McCrann
head-line as the bearded Murdoch confidante attacked Fairfax columnists
Alan Kohler and John Durie, without naming them, for leaping on their
high horse about leaking.

“I can’t recall the two journalists in particular ever previously – in
long and distinguished careers – mounting a high horse to lecture on
the evils of leaks and leakers,” McCrann wrote.

He then equated the Telstra board leaker to a “whistleblower”,
conjuring up images of some brave public servant risking all to expose
a corrupt politician.

McCrann is right that journalists should not criticise leakers as we
all rely on them. However, in this case we’re talking about a leak
which is in the commercial interest of PBL and News Corp, controlled by
Australia’s two richest and most powerful families, both of whom have
long connections with Sam Chisholm.

Murdoch and Packer would hate to see Sensis and Fairfax come together.
The fact that a Telstra director who is close to Murdoch and Packer led
the campaign against the proposal is bad enough. The subsequent leak to
a Packer employee is even worse because it kicked off a campaign by the
likes of Terry McCrann for Telstra chairman Bob Mansfield and CEO Ziggy
Switkowski to be sacked.

Their sin appears to be proposing a deal which is not in the interests
of Murdoch and Packer. If a News Corp director leaked against Rupert
Murdoch he would be sacked immediately. And if the leak revealed that
Murdoch was proposing a breathtaking merger you can rest assured that
McCrann wouldn’t be calling for his head.

Once again, it is clear that media commentary in Australia is usually
self-serving, conflicted rubbish and McCrann’s reputation takes a knock
every time he slavishly supports the News Corp commercial agenda.

The campaign to save Sam Chisholm

Sealed Section – February 27

Terry McCrann’s “lay off Sam Chisholm” line about the Ross Greenwood
exclusive on the Telstra-Sensis proposal is starting to look like a
coordinated Channel Nine and Business Sunday spin offensive.

After all, McCrann collects about $30,000 a year for his 60 second spot
on Business Sunday and his line that the leak might have come from
Canberra is apparently precisely what his Business Sunday colleague
Greenwood is pushing when asked privately.

Think about this proposition for a moment. Canberra has an incestuous
press gallery, which crawls all over Parliament and the pollies 24
hours a day doing all sorts of favours and deals. Then we’re expected
to believe a finance reporter who’s been out of the country for the
past few years and has never been known for Canberra connections is the
lucky one that gets the call. Yeah, sure.

The McCrann-Greenwood spin beggars belief when you also consider that
The Bulletin piece detailed the inner workings of the Telstra boardroom
battle, which no “Canberra” source could possibly have been across.

Meanwhile, check out this interesting Liz Knight column on the Telstra
bunfight in yesterday’s SMH.

It has been reported before that the Telstra board wanted cost-cutter
extraordinaire Peter Shore as Frank Blount’s replacement but were
instead given Ziggy at the insistence of his Melbourne neighbour
Richard Alston.

Now Liz Knight claims that the Telstra board wanted John Ralph to
become chairman but were instead force-fed John Howard’s great mate Bob
Mansfield.

So when it comes to crazy takeovers of media companies, the Howard
government sits back and says “we don’t interfere with commercial
decisions”, but when it comes to senior board and management
appointments at Telstra, the Government meddles as if it is a public
service appointment.

John Howard is the ultimate boardroom kingmaker at Telstra and he needs
to make a choice between supporting his old mate Bob Mansfield or
offending Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer and Alan Jones by throwing Sam
Chisholm off the board.

Surely the Man of Steel is tough enough to make such a decision.


Terry McCrann – his master’s voice


Sealed Section – February 29

Terry McCrann was at it again in The Weekend Australian, adopting a
line which suits his proprietor – that the Telstra chairman who
advocated giving News Ltd competitor John Fairfax a leg up should be
sacked.

However, there was a wonderful irony in the argument McCrann ran which began as follows:

“Bob Mansfield cannot continue as Telstra chairman. He should resign
immediately or failing that his fellow directors should move to sack
him.”

 

McCrann then went on talk about how inappropriate it was for Mansfield
to have contacted John Howard over the Sensis-Fairfax proposition.

Consider these comments from McCrann but then also think about the
unhealthy relationship that McCrann, a supposedly independent
commentator, has with the Murdoch management at News Corp.

“The much bigger issue is Mansfield talking to Howard at all. To me
it’s clear, it was precisely the wrong – inappropriate – thing to do,
and makes it untenable for Mansfield to remain as chairman.”

How can McCrann lecture anyone about inappropriate communication when
he is regularly talking to the Murdoch management machine and then
producing lines that suit their agenda?

The next time McCrann gets a call from a Murdoch operative, we look
forward to him saying “sorry, this is an inappropriate communication
and given my Bob Mansfield position, I have to hang up now.”

Peter Fray

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