The Australian’s Media section has been coming out each
week since the late 1990s, but today’s effort is the most
shameless edition of biased and spun articles to suit the Murdoch
commercial interests that we’ve ever seen. So much for providing objective analysis of the media.

Check out the front page. The feature picture and interview
is with
News Ltd executive chairman John Hartigan by the recently installed
media writer with no business experience, John Lehmann. Whilst you’re never going to sledge your own
boss, Lehmann could have probed more thoroughly on life after Lachlan,
but it was still worth reading as Hartigan warned the Federal
Government of his master’s
discontent with the planned changes to media laws.

Then we have the media writer, Amanda Meade,
ripping into Aunty over the Latham interview squabble across the top of
page one and Mark Day, who owns a farm with John Hartigan, doing
likewise in his column
on the back page. It was all thoroughly predictable News Ltd pap and
now almost a week old. The paper ran the same slanted views in a piece
by Nick Leys, who ironically used to work on the ABC’s Media Watch,
last Saturday.
Nothing has really changed since then but News Ltd is still using its
mastheads to bang the same drum after failing in their court bid to
injunct the Denton interview.

Both today’s pieces argue the indefensible, that somehow the ABC news and current
affairs division is some sort of Mount Olympus of journalism in
Australia and that it’s somehow wrong for ABC
management to make decisions that in anyway discriminate against the
interests of ABC NewsCaf, even though Lateline had the chance to show
its Latham interview last Thursday night around 11.15pm, a time when
the program has been aired three times this year.

Meade skates over the fact that Lateline management made the decision
not to air on Thursday night after Denton, and avoids the point that if
they had done so, there would have been no argument. What seems to be at point here is the unspoken wish by Lateline
to have aired its program at 10.30pm last Thursday night, when ABC
management approved Denton’s program.

Meade and Day both avoid the point that viewers have voted on this
issue: Denton’s audience doubled on Monday night when the Latham
interview was repeated. The audience numbers total more than 1.4
million for Denton and 366,000 for Lateline, a good result.

The attacks on Denton, his producers and program verge on the juvenile:
if anyone from a News Ltd publication is to mention conflict of
interest and media in the same breath then they are just hypocrites. As
the Media section shows, conflict of interest and News Ltd are not
strange bedfellows.

For instance, the third story on page one today is another John Lehmann effort looking at Kerry Stokes’
track record in pay TV and legal action in the SportsVision case from a
decade ago. It portrays Stokes (who appears in the C7 case
on Monday in Sydney) in a poor light and naturally bolsters the
case for News Ltd, one of the respondents.
No self interest there, of course.

Even parts of Amanda Meade’s Diary is a joke. We’re told that a
News Ltd journalist has had a baby – put it in the staff newsletter.
There’s also an attempt to smooth over relations with Paul Kelly after
The Latham Diaries outed him as a critic of John Hartigan and Lachlan
Murdoch. After 52 years of paranoid unspoken rules requiring News Corp
journalists to praise their dear leaders, suddenly we get the
following from Hartigan:

We as a company really want people to take strong views about issues because
that’s an important part of journalism. The suggestion that Paul
or someone else has said things that are critical of management frankly doesn’t
concern me in the least. I would be concerned if people all aligned behind me or
someone else and all nodded their heads. Frankly I don’t think he said that, but
who cares.

What next? Terry McCrann saying Rupert’s lost his touch and should retire!

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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