As of today, the era of
the bombastic, bullying, bludgeoning Australian media baron is almost
over. Although Rupert Murdoch still remains, he’s no longer an
Australian and is ensconced in the US preoccupied with issues of
control of his global empire. Meanwhile, the Fairfax dynasty has
drifted apart and all the other remaining media owners, like Kerry
Stokes, are essentially businessmen rather than influence brokers.
Packer was the last great Australian media ogre. He was, as his
biographer Paul Barry described him on ABC Radio today, “extremely
scary.” He was also immensely rich, and it was the combination of those
two characteristics – fear and wealth – that made Packer such an
influential figure in the corridors of Australian power for three
Being on the receiving end of one of the famous KP “I
will bury you” speeches was regarded as the worst occupational hazard
of being in the media, politics or business in Australia, although in
recent years it was son James who mainly delivered them, often starting
with the words “Dad has told me to tell you …” followed by an
outburst of Packer family vitriol.
At the same time there was
never any doubt about the underpinning motivation of Kerry Packer’s
working life – making money. Financial power was always the fulcrum of
his political and societal power, and no-one who worked for or with
Packer was ever in any doubt about the supremacy of profit in his
The death of the Last Australian Mogul is another big
step on the road to the commercial commoditisation of this country’s
media, and therefore a big step in depersonalising the ownership of the
most influential levers in society. Politicians and academics who talk
about media policy being “mogul specific” now have one less mogul to be
Packer may have been, at times, rude, arrogant, mean or belligerent. But he also loved the media and revelled in its uniqueness.
passing of Kerry Packer could prove to be the inflection point at which
the instincts and proclivities of the individual media proprietor will
finally be erased, to be replaced by shareholder-driven decision-making
executed by grey managers who produce media widgets.
Without Kerry Packer, warts and all, the media and journalism in Australia could be about to become just another business.