You have to admire Rupert Murdoch
for his cheek.

There he was being named by the
Packer-owned Bulletin magazine as Australia’s most influential
Australian of all time and he’s slagging the hosts and urging a media free-for-all;
contrary to PBL’s policies.

It was quite amazing, though, that an
Australian who became an American citizen simply to get his hands on US TV
stations would be named as the most influential Australian. Former Builders
Labourer’s Federation head, Jack Mundey, thought so as
well; he voiced his protest during the lunch.

Murdoch was “gonged” by The Bulletin
at the PBL staff canteen, Machiavelli’s Restaurant in Sydney, where pictures
of influential PBL employees and corporate mates have been hung on the walls:

Murdoch’s naming raises the
question: influential to whom? And does this indicate a positive or negative
influence?

Don Bradman, for instance, would be a more popular and more
influential Australian to many Australians; Lord Florey was a man of far more influence on the course of
human life because of his work on penicillin.

Rupert Murdoch’s influence is
marginal in comparison when compared to them. What has Murdoch done for
Australia other than desert it at his
convenience?

But the Bulletin needs a boost:
circulation is not good, the editor is leaving for the unsettled stablemate, the Nine Network, and it could only muster up a
consumer product in Nivea cream for Men as the main
sponsor.

But the list of 100 most influential Australians is a good talking
point, which is the purpose of the exercise: getting the brand name
(The Bulletin) mentioned as many times as possible.

But the irony of the lunch was
sweet. Murdoch urged the Federal Government to expand its overhaul of media
ownership rules or dump planned changes altogether

He
said the Howard Government should use its cross- and foreign media ownership
reforms to make Australia’s media industry a more open playing field, otherwise
the proposed changes should not go ahead.

That was the line pushed in the News
Ltd submission.

News Ltd said in its submission that
while it supported removing cross and foreign ownership restrictions, it could
not support the other proposed reforms.

It urged the government to increase
the number of free-to-air commercial TV licences,
which is something PBL has urged the government not to
do.

But the reality is that Murdoch’s News Ltd is partners with PBL in Foxtel
where they own 25% each, and they own 50% each of Premier Media group:
the company that makes more money out of Pay TV than any other media
group in the country.

Peter Fray

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