For those listening to Radio National’s Breakfast program early this morning, Bob Brown made an extraordinary claim.
Breakfast was previewing a Background Briefing story on an issue dear to Crikey’s heart, lobbying. The ABC spoke to Crikey last month in researching the story.
Brown claimed that, during 2000, he was offered $1m worth of advertising for the Greens by a media company if they voted in favour of “loosening the media laws”.
Brown’s memory might be playing tricks on him as the only major broadcasting reforms in 2000 were the passage of the Howard Government’s digital television laws – which were anything but “loosening”. In fact, Alston’s laws imposed an anti-competitive straitjacket on the television industry, to the benefit of the free-to-air networks (as usual), that remains to this day.
Perhaps Brown is thinking of 2002, when Richard Alston tried unsuccessfully to get his media ownership reforms through.
Either way, this is one of the most serious political bribery allegations made in recent years and the identity of the media company should be revealed. Even if the offer was simply of free publicity or positive coverage for the Greens, it raises the possibility of a media company willing to skew its content for commercial purposes. It also makes you wonder at their judgement, given Brown and the Greens were always going to be the last people to vote in favour of the Howard Government’s approach to media regulation.
Crikey contacted Brown’s office shortly before deadline. Brown was on an aircraft. We’ll explore this further next week.