McCrann on Argus — compare and contract. Back in August 2009, News Limited columnist Terry McCrann said the following about outgoing BHP-Billiton chairman Don Argus:

“Argus completes one of the most illustrious careers we have seen in our corporate history. One that ran from teenage bank teller in outback Queensland to heading Australia’s biggest company. Indeed, he played the key role in making it one of the biggest in the entire world.”

Eighteen months later, McCrann produced the following comment in today’s Herald Sun:

“BHP’s takeover of the South African Billiton Group 10 years ago has turned into the greatest destruction of shareholder value ever seen in Australia and among the worst in the world. So bad, that it makes its great rival Rio Tinto’s disastrous purchase of the Canadian Alcan aluminium company look almost inspired in comparison.”

So just how does the most illustrious career in Australian corporate history include the greatest destruction of shareholder value in the world? — Stephen Mayne

A Speakeasy postscript. Crikey‘s revelations on Monday about the feral reaction of residents in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood to a small-scale cinema proposal has had an interesting postscript. Less than a week after a fiery “mediation session” to discuss the future of the Speakeasy Cinema planned for an existing arts space in Keele Street — during which unhinged residents cried foul over increases in “drug trafficking” and “child abuse” that would follow in its wake — the cinema’s temporary site in nearby Johnston Street has been raided by the local Yarra Council.

Speakeasy had planned to show a screening of North Korean documentary The Red Chapel this weekend at the temporary digs, a fledgling video art gallery. Proprietor Ghita Loebenstein (who is a friend of this author) took to Facebook yesterday to denounce the attack which resulted in an electrician being ordered off the premises and the building shut down by plain-clothes officers waving paperwork:

“On Tuesday 15th February, without warning, council workers marched in to the Johnston Street building, citing inane technical misdemeanours and a barrage of convoluted and confusing planning issues as reasons why everything must be shut down. Two days on the phone to several heads of departments, underlings and councillors reveal that the rules are so complicated, contradictory and confusing that everyone has a different interpretation.

“…I can’t ignore the glaring link between my advertised screening and the surprise visit from council’s building inspectors.”

Crikey understands the shutdown was ordered by a Yarra councillor following secret lobbying from one of the aggrieved middle-aged residents in Keele Street who had spied an opportunity to inflict more pain on the initiative, despite having nothing to do with the Johnston Street screening located several hundred metres away in a commercial precinct.

Socialist councillors Stephen Jolly and Anthony Main are up in arms and are believed to be pushing for crisis talks with Yarra CEO Andi Diamond. A spokesperson for Diamond didn’t respond to Crikey‘s requests for comment this morning. — Andrew Crook

News Corp’s BSkyB bid: Murdoch looks set to get his way

“It seems even leading critics of News Corporation’s bid for complete control of BSkyB are coming round to the hardheaded view that it is likely Rupert Murdoch will get his way despite the bitter opposition.” — The Guardian

Can Google searches predict Oscar winners?

“Google has produced a new tool that attempts to use search trends to predict the Oscar winners. Niv Efron, of Google’s Insights for Search team, says that the Best Picture winners from the last three years (The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men) have all shown an upward trend in searches for at least four weeks before the awards, along with high interest in the New York region.” — New Scientist

Google announces payment system for digital content

“A day after Apple stirred up online publishers by announcing a digital subscription plan that some called too restrictive and financially burdensome, Google on Wednesday announced its own payment service for digital content that aims to be more publisher-friendly.” — The New York Times

Is it possible to make dangerous reporting safe?

“The Lara Logan story was shocking enough that this conversation is inevitable. First, we’ll hear the questions of blame: Did CBS do enough to protect her? Did she do enough to protect herself? Who was responsible for her safety? Who’s the culprit?” — Gawker

NYU fellow quits after tweets about Logan assault

“A journalist resigned from his New York University fellowship Wednesday, one day after he posted derogatory comments on Twitter about CBS reporter Lara Logan as the news of her assault in Egypt was breaking.” — MSNBC

Whoopi Goldberg apologises to New York Times

“Whoopi Goldberg apologised to the New York Times on Wednesday for calling an article in the paper — which talked about African Americans who have won Oscars but did not mention her — ‘sloppy’ and ‘shoddy’.” — The Huffington Post

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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