Glenn Dyer reports on a revival in media rivalries:


When I was supervising producer of Business Sunday last century,we had a segment called Extraordinary Items which looked at unusual business developments and delivered the odd sledge.

An
occasional object of our attention was News Ltd, and often when we
stirred the beast a complaint arrived from Holt Street, with the
highest-profile complainant being the Scion himself, Lachie, via a
spinner like Kris Neil.

But that didn’t stop Rupert Murdoch from appearing on Business Sunday
in the mid 90s, and generally relations between Park Street and Holt
Street were civilised and poking News in the eye wasn’t encouraged.

Fairfax
was another target, not because of the Packer shareholding in that
company but because of its shrinking circulation and succession of
chief executives, especially in the late 90s.

So what then are
we to make of the almost daily sledging of the Packer empire and John
Alexander in the past week from Murdoch’s national daily The Australian?

It started last Thursday with the front page story by Amanda Meade
looking at the way the changes wrought at the Nine Network by JA had
fallen apart, and was followed today with a similar but harder-edged
story by Mark Day in The Australian’s Media section.

So
what’s going on? It all started when Ten threw its lot in with Seven
for the free-to-air AFL TV rights a fortnight ago. From that moment,
the tone of commentary changed and News Ltd reporters started bowling
up stories that sledged Nine in particular. For example there were
these two yarns — Fox tries for better games in AFL bid and Pay-TV gets free kick
– by Jane Schulze that looked at the AFL rights situation from the
point of view of Fox Sports (half owned by News, the other half, PBL)
and Foxtel.

Both made the point that Fox Sports and Foxtel would
be looking for a better deal from the Pay TV rights, an implication
that Nine and Ten and the AFL had not given them a fair shake when the
current rights were negotiated, and both reports played down the PBL
interest in Fox Sports (Premier Media), which is where the Packer and
News Ltd interest either mesh or grate.

But perhaps the most pointed story on the AFL rights was a small one in The Weekend Australianwhich
pointed out that the Nine Network showed the St Kilda v Brisbane Lions
match in NSW and Queensland very late, and into the early hours of
Friday morning, because of a time over run in the NRL Footy Show last Thursday night.

Then
there was the News Ltd coverage of the contretemps between buxom Anna
Nicole Smith, a tired American starlet, and Cameron Hoy, the former
advertising boss at Packer’s ACP. As you can see here, The Australian didn’t back away from reporting Hoy’s demise and Alexander’s role in the decision.

Normally
the two media giants keep their gloves in the cupboard. But they never
lock the cupboard, and when it suits them they drag out the gloves for
a few rounds of fisticuffs. Every time it happens there’s plenty of
dust flying, but people rarely get hurt. It’s all good clean fun in the
bigger game of running the Australian media industry.

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