We now know why the Fairfax-owned Australian Financial Review was running dead on the Nine Network’s management and legal turmoil last week, while its stablemate, The Sydney Morning Herald, was furiously chasing the story.

On Page 1 today of the AFR an exclusive telephone interview with James Packer: a pay off for just burying the story on Nine last week in the Rear Window gossip column inside the paper.

Saturday’s AFR Weekend Edition had a front page story and photograph of the PBL chairman with the headline “James You’re On Your Own”.

The Weekend edition is edited by Roger Johnstone, a former journalist on the now defunct ACP magazine, Australian Business (along with PBL CEO, John Alexander). The tone of the story was set on Page One when it wondered what Kerry packer would have thought about Nine’s turmoil last week.

Well, that was a pretty clueless question: after all Kerry Packer appointed John Alexander CEO and sacked David Leckie as head of Nine and allowed all those other changes at the TV network to happen: he being Kerry Packer, could have stopped or reversed any of those changes at a single stroke.

Likewise the soft interview (by telephone) on Page one of the Monday (Glen Burge-edited paper) was equally as clueless.

“Packer backs Shake-up at Nine”. Of course he would. What else would he do: everyone at Nine, PBL and ACP is a Packer appointee (he is executive chairman!).

James Packer appointed Eddie McGuire and told him to make changes: and Eddie has acknowledged that by saying he has his ‘marching orders’ from Park Street. Part of the interview was to give the impression that James Packer was working in London (by hinting at impending deals) as well as playing.

The contrast with his father is fascinating: Kerry Packer would not have bothered to be interviewed after a week like that: but he would have been on the phone yelling at PBL and Nine executives to ‘fix the —- situation’.

Kerry Packer never saw a need to do a patsy interview, his son and successor as PBL chairman does.

AFR editor, Glen Burge is close to John Alexander: he was offered a senior job at ACP Magazines in 2004 by Alexander. Paul Bailey, a deputy editor of the AFR worked with Alexander at Fairfax and at ACP. He was moved into the Nine Newsroom in 2002 by Alexander. Bailey left several years later for the AFR

In all the soft quotes allowed James Packer, the following shows that he has no idea of where his responsibilities really lie. “I am doing my best to run Consolidated Press Holdings, of which PBL is its largest investment”.

He is chairman of Cons Press and executive chairman of PBL. He has responsibilities to PBL shareholders, of which Cons Press is just one: a big one, but just one. James Packer obviously cannot see the difference, which is the real story from this interview.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey