Was there really no editorial interference under Kerry?
Stephen Feneley writes:
A question out of the blue: did Kerry Packer support the independence of news and current affairs at Nine? Did he support the principle of editorial independence at any of his media outlets?
I believe there's strong evidence that he didn't but, hey, that's just me, and everyone knows I'm just a disgruntled ex-Nine minion. If, indeed, it were true that Packer was completely disinterested in the editorial approach taken by his various programs and publications, it's a wonder why politicians, both Liberal and Labor, were prepared to go through all manner of legislative contortions so as not to incite his wrath.
If it were true that his editorial executives were unaffected by their boss's prejudices, then Kezza's falling out with Paul Keating before the '96 election would have been of no consequence. We would simply have to accept that it was a complete coincidence that Nine developed such an intense interest in Paul's piggery and that the Bulletin devoted so much space to dismantling the Keating legacy.
Previously I have cited my own examples of where Packer has directly intervened in editorial matters or where editorial executives have self-censored in accordance with their understanding of what he might want.
In late 1990, during the American troop deployment in Saudi Arabia ahead of the first Gulf War, I was reprimanded for a report I filed from Washington which my boss deemed to be overly critical of the US. I was instructed not to do "anything that questioned the US presence in the Gulf". In a separate conversation with another producer I was told that Packer had complained that National Nine News had become too analytical and that it wasn't "everyman enough".
Some months later, a Today show producer was in the control room putting the program to air when he received an irate call from the proprietor. Packer complained about a story that had just gone to air in which psychologists were discussing the impact on children of television coverage of the war.
A few months after that I was carpeted for a report I did from Las Vegas in which I detailed the shabby treatment Jeff Fenech was receiving from fight promoter Don King ahead of Fenech's fight with Azuma Nelson. My boss accused me of belittling a national hero because I had said Fenech was being treated like a nobody. As it turned out Fenech later backed up my version of events when he spat the dummy after the judges made the scandalous decision to declare the fight with Nelson a draw.