Andrew Bolt is misunderstood. While he wages ideological war in print (and now on radio) each day, it turns out it’s the affairs and heartbreak of Hollywood families that really moves the Herald Sun opinion maker.

On an op-ed page that includes some hard-hitting analysis on the woman barred from Disneyland for dressing like a princess, Bolt splashes with his take on the jailing of Michael Douglas’ son on drug charges. It’s a heart-wrenching account on the “rich parents poor in skills”. Our favourite Wankley-worthy moments:

Michael Douglas has just given the performance of his life, but not in any film you’ll ever see. Pity, since this Oscar winner summed up our hollowed times far better than he did in even his “greed is good” role in Wall Street

… In this tragedy, Douglas was cast, by both choice and his sins, as the parent who’d once thought that merely to love his child, or sort of, was enough. He played the modern I’ll-be-there-for-you father who, along with his then flighty wife, Diandra Douglas, “forgot” that the harder and maybe greater half of a parent’s duty was not to love but to care. He played the man of fashion who’d devoted prime-time attention to saving the abstract world, rather than his sobbing son, winning applause for his seeming heart that was loud enough to drown any doubts at its sham. And, in a final twist to match that of Fatal Attraction, he played the guilt-lite parent who still shirked his responsibility for the tragedy that followed …

… We cannot excuse, perhaps, or even repair. But we can and must learn. I hope Michael Douglas, in his finest and most troubling role, will now show many what they dare not repeat in a culture that urges them so cruelly to forget. And to repeat.

No mollycoddling at The Australian, meanwhile, which is battle-ready with reports Sky News — part-owned by parent News Limited — is “at war” with the ABC. Aunty stands “accused”; tensions have “escalated”; the broadcaster was “unethical” and “unprofessional”. Sky News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos called it a “breach of all ethical standards”; another example of the ABC’s increasingly “desperate measures”.

So why all the fuss? The 7:30 Report took some footage from a Sky interview with Kevin Rudd and put it to air without attribution. Something it acknowledges, with a corporate spokesperson telling Crikey: “The ABC concedes it inadvertently failed to seek Sky’s permission before airing a short extract from an interview with Prime Minister Rudd.”

The Oz follows up today with more case-cracking explanation: “The ABC was able to obtain the footage because the raw feed of live interviews from the Prime Minister’s office goes through a central hub called the Sound and Vision Office at Parliament House in Canberra. ABC technicians picked it up and recorded the feed from there.”

Sneaky, perhaps, but a war? By any objective measure the only “desperate measures” deployed here are The Australian’s blatant bidding for a Sky News clearly alert and very alarmed by the looming competition of ABC’s 24/7 news channel.

The Australian has willingly acted as Sky’s spinner in its attacks on Aunty, and its attempts to win the lucrative federal government grant on offer to run the Asia-Pacific broadcasting service currently managed by the ABC. Frangopoulos couldn’t ask for a better lobbyist.

Media Monitors counts 10 negative mentions of the ABC in stories involving Sky News in The Australia over the past few months: Tim Wilson wrote the ABC news channel will “cripple diversity” on February 1; on February 8 the paper speculated ABC boss Mark Scott was “likely to face questions” about funding the service (he did, to little outrage); the following day the paper was more interested in how the ABC “may” have pulled a documentary on China in the interests of relations (it will actually screen next month); media writers Mark Day and Errol Simper questioned the scope of the national broadcaster on May 1; the paper reported on Sky’s plans to broadcast Australian politics to the US (“another shot in its battle with the ABC”) on March 15; and gave Foxtel boss Kim Williams a platform to rant at the ABC on March 22. The “stolen” Rudd footage this week was simply more ammunition.

For its services to shameless protection of its company’s interests, The Australian takes out the Wankley this week.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey