Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes: The CEO of Prime TV has been in touch to say reports on Crikey (and in the ABC) that Prime TV was in a trading halt yesterday were incorrect. There were no shares traded yesterday morning but there was no official trading halt. Apologies to Prime – we may have contracted a slight dose of media market fever.

John Sparkman writes: It’s good to see that, like any conspiracy theorist, Crikey isn’t letting the facts get in the way of its paranoid musings. You spent months predicting that cross-media reform would usher in a new age of PBL domination of all of our major media companies. Now, inconveniently, James Packer has sold down his major media assets to overseas investors, so this has to be dressed up as “a brave new world where faceless men control our media.” Never mind how much Packer might interfere in HIS newsroom, it’s pretty clear that Eric Beecher has no problem with exploiting Crikey to give full vent to his paranoia.

Stephen Morris writes: I could not disagree more with Chris Pearce’s comments about Crikey’s editorials getting ridiculous. The current media changes are the most important for at least a decade with profound long term consequences. Surely Crikey as one of the few truly independent players, is entitled to participate fully in the debate (it’s certainly not going on at the media controlled by the big commercial players). The editorial points are well made and very topical. After a quick Google I would expect the comments made by Chris Pearce are by an independent Chris Pearce, and not the current Federal Liberal Member for Aston and former CEO of a company that lists over 80 communications and media companies as its clients.

Stephen Woods writes: Re: Family First and the new media rules. So here’s an interesting twist to naming your political party. If “Family First” really did put families first, then they would not have made a deal that stops families from potentially finding out truths about politics and politicians – i.e.: new media rules and the affects it will have on the availability of critical information of a government. As a secondary school Media studies teacher, I am repeatedly astounded by the lack of knowledge many of my students have of the political process in Australia. They possess much information of who was just kicked out of the latest Big Brother/Australian Idol/Survivor show, but not much knowledge of how their country is run, and by whom and for what vested interests! Family First clearly falls at the first real test of its own name by not caring for children and their access to knowledge of how to be proactive in this country. Shame on Family First for its obvious grasp for power at all costs, that is, the future of this country’s ability to be properly informed. Jesus was right about you: “Wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Shame on you!

Telstra spinner Andrew Maiden writes: Crikey yesterday carried the “unsubstantiated tip” (item 6) that Telstra plans to sack 12,000 employees. It’s hardly a secret that Telstra plans to reduce the size of its workforce by this number over the coming 3-5 years. Telstra has disclosed it to the ASX more than six times and described the process at two investor briefings and multiple press conferences. The job losses are made necessary by technology changes which, despite fewer workers, are delivering measurable improvements in customer service levels. How someone could spin this as a “rumour” or “unsubstantiated tip” is beyond me. They must have been asleep for longer than Rip van Winkle.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “White Australia embraces Aboriginal culture (when it suits)” (yesterday, item 9). Whether giving suburbs names such as Barangaroo is “Aboriginal kitsch” – the equivalent of the warrior figurine in the garden, perhaps – is debatable. But in setting himself up as the arbiter of Aboriginal culture, Chris Graham, editor of the National Indigenous Times, makes some very questionable assertions. In claiming a lack of association between Aboriginal woman, Barangaroo, and the locality, he overstates the Aborigines’ territorial exclusiveness. In fact she and her husband, Bennelong, ranged widely over Sydney Harbour (see Inga Clendinnen’s Dancing with Strangers, for example). Further, Graham argues “it’s grossly offensive to Aboriginal people to name someone who is deceased”. Besides the fact that he has just done this himself, the traditional Aboriginal caution against calling the dead applies to any dead person, not just Aborigines. And he is wrong to add that places have rarely been named after Aboriginal people – take Bennelong Point or the new Sydney suburb of Pemulwuy. Finally, he portrays Bennelong as a quisling, while the reality is far more complex, Bennelong being originally a captive. To sum up, Graham appears to be grasping for things to complain about. This is hardly necessary in indigenous affairs.

Robert Merkel writes: Re. “Drought is caused by a lack of rainfall: Minchin” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer might want to look a bit more carefully at the maps he’s touting as evidence that the drought isn’t that severe. Aside from the fact that the real problem has been the succession of dry years (and also note that much of Australia is getting a below-average year, if not the exceptionally low rainfalls of the areas on the map), he might want to consider where that blob of severe drought in eastern Victoria and southern New South Wales actually lies. It’s pretty much directly over the Great Dividing Range, including the catchments of every significant dam that supplies the summer irrigation flow to the Murray River. So drought there matters a lot more than the comparatively small areas would indicate. What’s worse, the dams were already very low from the succession of dry years we’ve had. Conversely, much of the area of Western Australia getting above-average rainfall is not even farmed. Not all of Australia is in severe drought, certainly. It’s just that most of the agriculturally significant bits in southern Australia are.

Hugh Halloran writes: Re. “New editorial policies will save the ABC from bias and boredom” (yesterday, item 18). David Flint has no sense of irony, at least in the eyes of this squatter. “‘When it comes to politics, whether it be in current affairs, Media Watch or even comedy – those paid by the ABC remain concentrated in one part of the political spectrum”, he wrote yesterday. Let’s consider a slightly different perspective. “When it comes to criticising the ABC, whether it be through their weekly columns, speeches to like-minded souls, or letters to editors, those who do so remain concentrated in one part of the political spectrum.” Tell us David, which part of the political spectrum would that be?

Ian Yates writes: David Flint applauds the “conservative voice” on the ABC’s Insiders program but laments it is only 25% of the panel. I for one wouldn’t object if the panel was 50-50 but do we really have to have utter loonies of the right? There are plenty of intelligent conservatives without pandering to the shout-down-anyone-who-disagrees variety.

Michael de Angelos writes: Are Rudi Michelson’s attacks on the ABC via the Australian and Crikey (yesterday, comments), without once disclosing his Liberal Party connections, an example of the bias that would be ferreted out by Mark Scott’s new Stalinist style bureau? He goes so far as to accuse the hosts of The Movie Show as being lefties. What planet is he living on? At every stage of The Movie Show Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton are quite obviously giving us their personal views of films. That’s actually the whole idea of the show. And does anyone really think Phillip Adams is really going foment a revolution from his lonely perch at Radio National? The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Alex White writes: In response to Rudi Michelson’s comments regarding ABC bias: Rudi you asked Margaret to identify right wingers in the ABC. Let me answer that – the Board. The ABC doesn’t need right wingers because conservative views are held and voiced by News Ltd and 99% of talkback radio (with the exception of Mike Carlton). One of the reasons the ABC exists is to create diversity in Australian media – to shut down Dave Hughes, Media Watch or other ABC icons is to further homogenise the Australian media.

Ryan Heath writes: Nahum Ayliffe (yesterday, comments) misses the point in criticising the suspension (not the dismissal, as claimed) of Aishah Azmi, an English teaching assistant banned from wearing a full Islamic veil in the classroom. The issue isn’t about religious tolerance – it’s about whether small children needing to learn English at school can do that when they can’t see their teacher’s lips and facial expressions. Azmi was permitted to wear the niqab everywhere else but the classroom. Her obstinacy puts herself ahead of her pupils and it does so on the false premise that her faith requires her to dress in this way. The Koran says nothing of the sort and not even the Muslim Council of Britain supports her position.

Jay Walker, former Australian correspondent for High Times magazine, writes: What a shocking surprise in yesterday’s “unsubstantiated tips and rumours” that people at dance parties use illicit “pills and powder”, given their non-herbal roots in Acid House/rave culture. Who would have guessed? Perhaps the dobber might think twice about calling in the sniffer dogs if they knew the findings of the recent NSW Ombudsman’s report into the dogs’ effectiveness indicated that they get it wrong 75% of the time. So whenever you hear about people being publicly embarrassed, lined up outside a club, on the footpath, at the entrance to a Big Day Out, and subjected to a strip search and/or aggressive and sarcastic police interrogation on the basis of a guilty verdict already made by a sniffer dog, bear in mind that three out of four are not carrying any drugs.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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