Advertising and editorial bans are stupid and counter-productive so
we’re putting together a list of all the companies, governments and
people who have stooped this low. Send in your examples of
childish advertising and editorial bans to [email protected] crikey.com.au

How CBA’s David Murray punished BRW

Fresh from counting his $4.4 million for the year to June, and
delighting in the smaller board and new chairman, Commonwealth Bank
chief David Murray has had time to ‘punish’ BRW magazine for daring to
publish an article critical of the bank and which questioned his
performance, especially in retaining senior executives.

Apparently Big Dave took the BRW article all very personally and went
and banned advertising in it and in The Australian Financial Review.
Both come under the Fairfax business media empire of publisher Michael
Gill, who is not a man who is pushed around.

Murray is arguably the worst CEO in Australia when it comes to churlish
bans on advertising. He tried it with The Daily Telegraph in 1998 but
all was resolved after a peace meeting with Col Allan, John Hartigan,
Roger Coombs, Ian Moore, Brett McCarthy and your editor, who had
contributed to Murray’s ban by fronting the AGM and asking questions
from the floor.

But CBA isn’t alone when it comes to editorial and advertising bans.

Here are some other famous examples of churlish advertising and
editorial bans:

Westpac: the Commonwealth Bank is not the first bank to black
ban BRW Magazine. Westpac was also a member of the “black ban
club” when the Board voted to ban any advertising in BRW at the time
Stuart Fowler was CEO about 15 years ago. The board was overly
sensitive to criticism and thought the only way to stop it was by
exercising control over the advertising dollar. Fortunately,
Stuart Fowler and his troops made sure the ban was short-lived, but
moves like this give you an insight as to how directors of our public
companies exercise their power.

Fairfax: immediately pulled ads from Crikey and sacked its
buyer, when one of their advertising buyers booked some towers and
banners on Crikey through an intermediary. It’s the same old
story about thin-skinned hacks. Fairfax will no doubt run a noble
argument about free speech and editorial independence as it fights back
against the CBA ban, but they’ve done exactly the same thing themselves
in the past.

News Ltd: briefly banned advertising in Ad News in the
late 1990s after the magazine ran a feature headed “Newspapers in
crisis”. It carried criticisms from media buyers that newspapers were
complacent and taking the p*ss with, if I remember correctly, 7-8 per
cent advertising rate increases each year. I think it was Lachlan
Murdoch who instigated it and the Newspaper Advertising Bureau was
asked (or told!) to analyse the story, which an executive later
admitted was, although critical, balanced.

Carr Government: cast your mind back to the early days of the
Carr Government. Carr was dirty at Fairfax so he pulled all ads
(especially Public service employment ads) from the SMH in favour of The Daily Telegraph.
(Not that the NSW machine lacks a history of helping Rupert make more
money a la Botany Bay, Fox Studios and the like.) However,
it was a bit hard to get senior executive service type applicants from
The Tele though – most of them have a higher IQ than its average
reading age of 13.

Gunns Ltd: the world leading old growth tree slaughterer and its
CEO John Gay doesn’t just flex the old logging muscles in the forest
(and everywhere else in Gunnsmania ). It is not adverse to suggesting
to the local Launceston rag, The Examiner, that if it gets bad press
regarding its activites it will pull all its advertising associated
with its retail arm Gunns Mitre10. The best line so far is “Vote
1 John Gay and cut out the middle man”.

Jeff Kennett: refused to speak to The 7.30 Report or 4 Corners for his entire seven years as Victorian Premier.

Coles Myer: threatened to pull advertising and print contracts from News Ltd during Solly Lew’s Yannon scandal.

Neville Wran: for his ban on Fairfax classifieds. And did he ever strike a good rate deal when he came back.

Peter Garrett: refused to speak to the Herald Sun for over a
decade when lead singer of Midnight Oil. They also refused to play on
Countdown. They also refused to play on Countdown.

Cold Chisel: had a Countdown ban going on until the last show
when they got drunk, played very badly, and smashed a Strat through the
hurriedly dropping curtain.

Send in your examples of childish advertising and editorial bans to [email protected] crikey.com.au

Peter Fray

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