Rupert Murdoch separately gave an hour of his time to two journalists yesterday morning – The Australian‘s deputy business editor Nic Hopkins and The AFR’s Chanticleer columnist John Durie – surrounded only by a couple of photographs of Wendi and their two young daughters, and the former James Hardie spin doctor now with News Ltd, Greg Baxter.

Both reporters have dealt with Murdoch many times over the years, although it was the first formal sit-down interview for Hopkins, who spent five years on The Times in London, whereas Durie has had about a dozen formal interviews and sometimes would speak to Rupert on a daily basis during his four year stint on The New York Post in the early 1990s.

In terms of interview yield, Hopkins had the disadvantage of going first but emerged the clear winner as he managed to eke out the following six stories from his hour in Rupert’s dedicated fifth floor office at News Ltd’s Australian head office in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills:

Investors should sue S&P over index decision
Murdoch’s quit advice to Blair
US TV stations to go in Malone deal
PCCW’s TV unit attracts Murdoch
Murdoch pushes for competition across spectrum
I won’t give it away like Gates and Buffett, says selfish Rupert (not online, of course, and apols for the editorial licence)

While the call for investors to sue S&P for not allowing News Corp to double-dip in the indices of two countries was brazen, the classic Murdoch quote was: “We would like to see at least a year to 18 months’ stand-off between Gordon Brown and (Conservative Party leader) David Cameron so we can decide which of those most coincides with our views.”

Of course, the public interest and Britain’s national interest is not a factor here – it’s a case of who will sign up to an American foreign policy agenda, smaller government, media deregulation, tough anti-terror policies and a sceptical eye to Europe.

The AFR
confined its coverage to Durie’s regular Chanticleer column and a front page splash with a large spill, but there was plenty of copy focusing on the pending Malone deal, PCCW, MySpace and Telstra.

However, The Australian is getting far more credit around the world because of The AFR’s Luddite approach to the internet in giving nothing away. The “Blair should go soon” comments certainly attracted plenty of attention in London, but the “Malone deal soon” has gone global.

Peter Fray

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