The keys to the new media plan are Rupert Murdoch
and James Packer. One will not let the other become dominant, so if one
moves then, as night follows day, the other will follow. It won’t be a
question of one of them gaining more power, because both will increase
their power.

The death of Kerry Packer doesn’t make one iota of
difference. James Packer is just as paranoid about power as his father
was. And James has a lot of chips to play in this game – gaming, TV,
internet, magazines – so he can do it in a way that doesn’t increase
his exposure to media but keeps control of it.

As for the issue
of diversity and the number of entrants in a market, the government’s
position misunderstands the role of the media in the community and
shows a lack of understanding of the power of certain voices. Quite
simply, if Packer and Murdoch increase their holdings this will create
the greatest concentration of media ownership in the western world. The
notion of them dividing the spoils across the country is appalling.

I’m
not sure that people fully understand how they already control the
agenda and how they set the agenda to suit their own commercial
interests. As for Rupert Murdoch’s role in the debate about the new
laws, he is the master of misinformation and his aim in all this debate
is to reduce anxiety.

Helen Coonan has produced some good policy
and some clever compromises. As a good barrister she has weaved her way
through the interests of certain players. But in the end you have to
judge it in terms of real outcomes, not policy outcomes.

Peter Fray

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