Unlike previous flying visits by Rupert Murdoch round this time of the year, this time he has hung around for more than a week to give us the benefit of his thinking on Australian affairs, the economy, technology and — very close to his heart — family succession at the “old firm”.

And he was allowed to get away with his some of his more outrageous commentary, riddled with self-interest, because he was talking to himself: the various interviewees were all either employees or employees of an arm of News, directly or indirectly.

Only the ABC took a contrary view, giving the visit and the interviews some context.

News Corporation’s media mogul Rupert Murdoch has been in town and he has had a lot to get off his chest, opening up on everything from the treatment of asylum seekers to Kevin Rudd’s personality.

Mr Murdoch gave expansive and remarkably candid interviews with The Australian and Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

The 78-year-old also sat down for a 40-minute interview with Sky News, partly owned by News Corporation.

No one asked if it was appropriate for a Murdoch scion to replace him at the company, especially when the Murdochs are minority shareholders confronting a majority of non-Murdochs who might want to have a say in things such as future management.

But why do we treat the musings of an elderly US citizen on whether Australia is doing the right thing with the stimulus, the economy (these criticisms from a man who forecast $US20 a barrel oil after the 2003 invasion of Iraq), refugees and boat people, Prime Minster Rudd, the ABC, the NBN …

There’s a form of cultural cringe here, that the Murdoch view on everything under the sun is somehow vital and we have to read every utterance from the Dirty Digger.

At least he revealed the true reason for his attack on the National Broadband Network. He wants to buy Telstra out of Foxtel, if the telco has to sell. If Telstra reaches an agreement with the federal government on structural separation, then the NBN gets a boost and Telstra gets to keep Foxtel and Murdoch is locked out. Yet another example of the way the man shamelessly rides self-interest and tries to pitch it as fair comment.

Kerry Stokes wants it as well. Kerry has hosted Prime Minister Rudd at Broome in WA at the billionaire’s luxury retreat. Rupert comes out here and calls the PM “delusional’ with the help of the likes of Terry McCrann. That’s a very sound business tactic.

So will this attack on the NBN and Rudd backfire on Foxtel? The pay-TV group, 25% owned by News and managed by its team, want the federal government to loosen the sports anti-siphoning rules to enable it to better compete with the emerging digital channels of the FTA TV networks.

What odds Stephen Conroy and Kevie Rudd giving Rupert and Foxtel a poke in the eye in return for the ageing mogul’s gratuitous criticisms?

The beauty of Rudd and Conroy doing that would be that Rupert only has himself to blame.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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