Sam Chisholm is arguably the most conflicted media player in Australia but we never thought he would also be someone who actively tries to supress news. Occasional Crikey contributor Chanel Nine makes a persuasive case against the Murdoch and Packer loyalist.

If any illustration was needed on the conflicts of interest Telstra director Sam Chisholm has in the Australian business community at the moment, it is the the Media Watch run-in with Macquarie Radio Network (MRN) over the draft report on the Alan Jones ‘Cash for Comment” case at Sydney’s 2GB.

Chisholm is chairman of Macquarie Radio Network, a company which has as its 20 per cent shareholder, Alan Jones. The cash for comment claims relate to Telstra and Alan Jones’ advocacy of otherwise of that company’s point of view to the exclusion of other points of view.

MRN tried to block the Media Watch broadcast about an interim report from ABA staff that found against Jones and MRN. It was not supported by the ABA board which made no finding against Jones or MRN.

But here we have Macquarie, with a radio news service, actively trying to supress news. Yes it is about itself, but the licence MRN has from the ABA does not allow for any form of supression of news.

Here isw a chairman of a company involved in the media actively involved in an attempt to supress news? A curious state of affairs and makes you wonder why Sam Chisholm opposed the Bob Mansfield deal to buy Fairfax. After all he would have the chance then to try and supress quite a bit of news about quite a few companies.

Macquarie buys its business news from Channel 9. If by chance a report criticial of one of Chisholm’s companies was broadcast, would that be supressed?

John Singelton is deeply involved in media and advertising. Does he advocate the supression of inconvenient facts about his businesses?
Even though the ‘fit and proper’ test has gone in broadcasting licensing matters, it’s times like this, than you wish for its availability to test the understanding of people like Sam Chisholm and John Singleton to the concept of news and current affairs and their free dissemination.

If Macquarie, Singleton or Chisholm didn’t like the Media Watch attack, surely they could have appeared to make their point? I’m sure David Marr would have liked to given them equal time. If not, then he would have been extremely foolish.

Sam Chisholm has been widely named as causing the leak of the information from the Telstra board to the Bulletin about the Fairfax deal. If that is true, there’s a large dose of hypocrisy here. Leaking of private and confidential information is good if it benefits Sam’s interests, but bad if it’s adverse to Sam.

Like in his days at Channel 9, Sam Chisholm loves working the phones and the backrooms. No public exposure in an industry whose stock in trade is public exposure and claims for the public’s right to know.

Well, the public in this case has a right to know whether Sam Chisholm, as a director of companies involved in the media – remember Foxtel does carry Sky News and foreign news services – believes in the public’s right to know.

For Telstra shareholders that’s another important point that they would like to hear about from Mr Chisholm.
From all media accounts Mr Chisholm didn’t like the plans Mansfield and Ziggy Switkowski had for growing Telstra. These haven’t worked, and Mansfield has walked the plank.

According to some of the breathless media types, Sam Chisholm is now the ‘kingmaker’ on the Telstra board, backing Catherine Livingstone for Mansfield’s slot. Well, what’s his agenda, what’s his policies?

Sam Chisholm’s views on Telstra’s future are now very germaine to the whole debate about the company’s future . Or is he really saying that growth is not an option any more for Telstra, it’s really a utility, a cash flow-rich annuity stock that should lay back, think of Australia and allow itself to be pillaged by the competition and ostensible business partners like the Murdoch and Packer empires, and the ambitions of the Singleton-Chisholm Macquarie group?

Or does he have ideas of his own for the company’s future direction that are so private, he cannot share them with anyone? Come on down Sam Chisholm, don’t supress, confess. Or is the public spotlight too much? Are there any thoughts on Telstra’s options and the need for a free and open media?

Peter Fray

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