Why are the Millionaire media moguls still demurring on donations for the tsunami victims?

Yesterday Crikey asked if Australian business was being ‘stingy’ over the various tsunami appeals.

Today that question still remains, despite some progress.

The country’s three commercial television networks have been challenged by some of their stars into donating the advertising revenue from Saturday’s joint telecasting of a fund raising concert from Sydney’s Opera House, thereby echoing the call from Crikey yesterday.

Seven Sunrise host David Koch was the one to utter the challenge according to The Sydney Morning HeraldTV chiefs refuse call to donate as sales. A gutsy call that, according to the SMH story, fell on deaf ears with the trio of networks, controlled by multi millionaires in Kerry Stokes (Seven), the Asper family of Canada (Ten) or billionaire Kerry Packer (Nine), said no.

But did they? For a story in The Australian, which quoted Ten’s Sandra Sully as joining Koch in calling for donations of ad revenue from the concert, said the matter was “being considered” by the networks.

Really? Considered! Hmmm an interesting word ‘considered’. A bit of a weasel word as it avoids a positive, yes or no answer. That’s if the issue is still live and hasn’t been killed off as suggested by the SMH.

Here’s a suggestion for Crikey subscribers, ring or email Nine, Seven and Ten and urge them to donate. After all, they have been urging Australians to donate.

And while at it, urge Nine to donate some of the advertising revenue from Monday’s one day match in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, The Australian Financial Review revealed that John Fairfax, its owner, would give $100,000 in cash and a $200,000 advertising campaign. For which organisation wasn’t disclosed.

The AFR said AXA Pacific would be donating half a million dollars and insurer, IAG $200,000. It also said St George Bank had lifted its donation from $100,000 to $250,000 a day after the Commonwealth Bank lifted its donation to a $1 million.

Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey is donating half a million dollars personally, so on a strict comparison, AXA, Fairfax, St George Bank and IAG are all in the ‘skinny’ class of donors.

They are considerably richer than Mr Godfrey (who is worth tens of millions of dollars from his Virgin Blue stake) and can afford more, especially when they look at the value of their image as sharing caring companies!

Dick Smith, who is giving $1 million, claims the $1 million Qantas is giving is not enough. But the airline has also been giving other assistance.

Where also is a donation from Sir Richard Branson. He regularly gets millions of dollars of free advertising each time he arrives in Australia, so its time to pay up Dickie and be generous.

Leighton Holdings is another company looking a bit ‘skinny’ with its $125,000 cash donation. After all it has substantial contracts in Indonesia which will earn it and its shareholders millions of dollars.

Fosters has upped its donation to $1 million from $100,000 in a lesson to the banks (except the CBA), Leighton, the media companies and John Fairfax.

Westpac remains underweight at $100,000 and matching staff donations.

According to the AFR story the Australian Shareholders Association was again having an each way bet, saying it was okay for companies to give where they had interests in the areas affected, but companies should nevertheless be careful and not give away large amounts of shareholders funds.

Certainly all donations should be disclosed. But as some companies break out their political donations and some do not, should nothing be disclosed, including charitable giving, until there’s a level playing field?

No. everything should be disclosed, especially charitable donations. More and more companies are running charitable foundations. Woolworths has just started it’s own and Macquarie has had a foundation of fairly long standing that has a good reputation (as an aside the accounts of these foundations should be disclosed in the annual reports of the sponsoring companies).

Macquarie is using both $100,000 of its own funds and the foundation to make donations, although giving the continuing flow of fees from its listed funds such as Macquarie Airports, the amount donated could safely be lifted to a much higher amount.

At least Frank Lowy and Richard Pratt have each donated $1 million through various channels. A lot of their fellow mega wealthy business peers have so far left their hands in their pockets