Former Fairfax and Optus CEO and current PBL director Chris Anderson made some very interesting comments during The AFR’s
annual panel discussion about the most powerful people in Australia,
which was released in the monthly magazine inside Friday’s paper.

After voting the anonymous woman who was allegedly pack-raped by those
Canterbury Bulldogs players in Coffs Harbour as the most important
cultural figure in Australia last year, the panel this year elected to
give the cultural significance prize to, wait for it, “digitalised
communications technology.”

Anderson, who is a very important figure on the PBL board overseeing
investments such as Seek and Foxtel, was quoted as follows about this
cultural phenomenon:

“It’s a huge cultural change. It’s destroying the mass media, no doubt
about that and it’s changing the way anyone probably under 35 now gets
their information. Look at what Google and Yahoo and MSN are do the
media, at how important blogging really is whether we like it or not.
It’s wrecking empires.”

Hmmm, don’t expect this particular PBL director to vote in favour of a
$5 billion bid for Fairfax once the great media free-for-all arrives.

Whilst Graham Morris was talking up his old bosses at News Ltd,
Anderson was having none of it. “I’m a huge admirer of Murdoch and he
may well be in the top 10, but if he is the second most important
person to the average Australian, then I’m a Dutchman.”

The average Australian might not realise it Chris, but Australia’s
support for the Iraq war and George Bush was very much a Murdoch-backed
event. If Murdoch’s media outlets around the world had taken an
anti-war line similar to The Daily Mirror in the UK, Australian
troops would probably not be in Iraq today. The invasion would probably
not have happened at all, because Tony Blair would have been under huge
pressure from The Sun not to support the war and it is unlikely Bush would have completely gone it alone.

Similarly, if Australia’s foreign policy position was like New
Zealand’s, as Mark Latham would have liked it to be, Saturday night’s
second Bali bombings are less likely to have happened. Australians are
the most populous tourists in Bali, although we’ll probably now go
through another round of political semantics about whether our
involvement in Iraq increases the risks of such bombings. Of course it
does. You can never know for sure, but the probability of Australians
being killed rose with the support of the Iraq invasion.

For some strange reason, Chris Anderson doesn’t seem to be able to
comprehend all of this as he assesses Rupert Murdoch’s power in
Australia.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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