These are very interesting media times in Western Australia. The Seven Network, controlled jointly by KKR and Kerry Stokes, has this week lifted its stake in West Australian Newspapers to almost 20% after seemingly being rebuffed by the board in its request for two board seats.

Billionaire Stokes, now surpassed as Perth’s richest citizen by iron ore magnates Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest, is playing a curious game. After Seven first become the largest WAN shareholder in October last year, Stokes didn’t request a single board seat until early November, just five days before the recent AGM in Perth.

Then he went over the top in asking for two, which would give him an excessive 33% of the non-executive director spots. Whilst spending another $36 million on an additional two per cent strengthens the push, granting Seven two spots would necessitate the appointment of an additional independent.

Despite only being supported by 18% of the directed proxies at the November 9 AGM, I’m available to balance the Seven influence and even have the perfect candidate in mind to replace The West Australian’s editor, Brian Burke supporter Paul Armstrong.

I gave Armstrong an enormous spray at the AGM as can be seen in this 2000-word account of what happened. Lo and behold, WA Premier Alan Carpenter came out last week citing the AGM attacks on Armstrong as further evidence as to why he should be sacked.

The specific criticism is that he has been captured by the Brian Burke forces and waged a patently unfair campaign against Burke’s factional rival, Attorney General and Health Minister Jim McGinty.

Exhibit A in the evidence was the coverage after the CCC inquiry report came out earlier this year when The West Australian used the word “winners” on its front page to describe the treatment of Burke and Julian Grill, in stark treatment to most of the other press reports.

As it turned out, Grill was charged on the day of the AGM, but Armstrong went back to the office from the meeting and buried this story on page 6, whilst another massive spray at Jim McGinty for being soft on a paedophile murderer was plastered on page one.

Talk about giving a two-fingered salute to critics. Armstrong is seemingly proud of being a Burke backer. The talk in media circles is that the first thing Kerry Stokes wants to do on getting board representation is flick Armstrong. It would be the right move.

The real deal Mayne Report finally went live overnight. Check out the $20,000 opening animation over a fresh Murdoch video.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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