News Limited rebranding:

Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “Project Darwin: leaked document reveals News Ltd transformation” (yesterday, item 1). The analysis of News Limited’s rebranding omits an important element — advertising sales. Journalists tend to rabbit on and on about editorial aspects but generally fail to look across the half-height floor at what’s going on in advertising.

News Limited’s restructuring aims to synergise its advertising sales forces and this poses a real threat to independent media in Australia.

Already, independent suburban papers struggle against the synergies offered by News platforms (advertisers take out a cheap ad in the local News freebie and get scandalously cheap ads in either a metro paper or other sister News outlets). If News is getting serious about modernising its fractured sales teams, this pressure is likely to worsen and the already slim margins of independents are likely to narrow even further.

For what it’s worth, I wish the federal government’s media inquiry had included terms of reference to examine how News (and other conglomerates) could be broken up, so that no one media outlet can broadcast or publish to a national audience as well as state audiences. I fail to see how the public interest, let alone journalism, is served with the existence of these massive media organisations. We would be a lot better off by freeing up local markets to small and mid-sized competitive forces.

Michael R. James writes: Re. “Simons: what the News Ltd rebranding exercise tells us” (yesterday, item 2). As Margaret Simons says, hmmm, indeed in response to “There is one mention of ‘ownership’ as a possible issue of concern to consumers”. It is outrageous that a company incorporated in the state of Delaware in the US, headquartered in New York City and its controlling shareholder not an Australian citizen should be able to so name this company.

In the UK the use of the term “British” in commerce is tightly regulated. I recall in the early ’80s how George Harrison was refused permission to use “British” in the name of his film production company, which became Handmade Films. (Probably the authorities responsible for the decision may have been apprehensive about the association but are there films more British than Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Withnail and I and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, all Handmade films?).

Others may say it is perfectly logical because News Ltd owns 70% of print media in Australia, but just like that grotesquerie which would not be allowed in any other democracy, this name would forever remain an insult and reminder of our subservience to the degradation of our media landscape by a foreign entity. I wonder if the law about misleading advertising might apply? And as another Crikey commenter noted, misleading on both words.

On the other hand perhaps it is parent company News International’s strategy prior to spinning off this rather small beans Australian arm? One can only hope.

MP v Stilgherrian on NBN costs:

Paul Fletcher, the federal member for Bradfield, writes: Re. “NBN retail pricing neither a bargain nor an extravagance” (Tuesday, item 15). In Tuesday’s Crikey, Stilgherrian issued the following challenge:

“Meanwhile, I have a challenge for the member for Bradfield. Paul Fletcher, if you can provide a reference for where the government has ever said that the NBN would provide ‘cheaper broadband’, as you were quoted as saying in The Australian today, I’ll donate $100 to the charity of your choice. This is a myth, I believe, and the myths need to die.”

I direct him to Prime Minister Gillard’s comments in the Parliament on 18 November 2010:

“…to look at the fact that Australians pay high prices for broadband and to look at the fact that the industry is telling us — and the Tasmanian example bears it out — that by creating a model with retail price competition you get cheaper prices, because that is what competition is all about.”

And

“Do you want families in your electorate to have the benefit of more competition, better broadband products and lower prices? Then tick the National Broadband Network.”

I also direct him to Prime Minister Gillard’s comments on ABC Radio on November 25, 2010:

PM: I’m very pleased that what’s happened in the Parliament this week is a win for families. It’s a win for families who are going to get faster, cheaper broadband; a win for families; a win for hospitals; for schools that will want to use the broadband to deliver new services in different ways, so that’s been what’s coming out of the Parliament this week.

The first quote can be found in Hansard, the second in the transcript posted here.

My nominated charity is the KYDS youth counselling service in Lindfield — and the best way for Stilgherrian to donate is by clicking on www.bradfieldcomedydebate.com to order three tickets to the October 16 2011 Bradfield Comedy Debate supporting KYDS.

Stilgherrian writes: Mr Fletcher, I stand corrected. I’ve actually been expecting to hear from you since about two hours after my challenge was published. A telco insider emailed me: “Conroy has made such a promise many times — and I have cringed every time I’ve heard him say it, knowing the financial constructs behind the NBN and how nigh-on impossible it would be given the cost of the project and the demand it make a return eventually.” I’m a fool for having missed it. My focus has been on policy and technical documents, not on what some goose of a prime minister might say in parliament. I’m happy to pay up. The tickets have been bought.

Guy Fawkes:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 13). Did Richard Farmer really celebrate Guy Fawkes Day and go around asking for a penny for the Guy  and reciting the remember lines?

Where did he grow up? Some enclave of Poms trapped in a historical time warp somewhere in deepest darkest Australia? As I recall while there was a strong media bias to the Proddies, there was a large Catholic cross section in Australia who saw Guy as a bit of a hero.

At the time he was sprung with the gunpowder he was trying to re-install a  monarch of the true faith back to his rightful place after the devastation done to the Rome-based franchise by Henry the Eighth. And Australians have always been ambivalent about the idea of blowing up a parliament. Not sure the strong feelings that drive Guy Fawkes Day in England have ever been at work in this country.

Now I do remember cracker night. But it was on May 24  and was called Empire Day. After due homage was paid to our Queen and all the parts of the world painted pink on our maps, we would get  a half day from school. This allowed us  to stock up on threepenny bungers, which we would use through the day to blow up letter boxes and terrorise small children. Later at night we would use them in heroic bunger fights.

The highlight of one of these for me was landing a bunger in some kid’s Qantas bag which was full  of “:ammo” and setting off  his whole stash in one glorious explosion. The site of him still attached to his bag covering his face as the bungers, jumping jacks, tom thumbs and a few sky rockets went off for what seemed like an eternity lives with me to this day. I am sure it does with him too although it still may be a little too soon for him to look  back on it and laugh.

And who can forget in Sydney how the combination of cold nights and little wind led to smoke from a million bonfires hanging so densely that the airport was shut.

He’s right the killjoys have taken the fun out of our lives.

But Guy Fawkes Day? I can’t remember it. I surely would have as my love of fireworks, especially the industrial strength threepenny bungers, was unsurpassed. When placed in a pipe with a ball bearing they could send it through several pieces of galvanised iron. In our area the use of this weapon was, under a complicated treaty arrangement nutted out over a few weeks, only for use on inanimate objects. It was bit like nuclear testing. We all had them but the policy of MAD or mutually assured destruction kept the weapon out of any battles.

I wouldn’t have knocked back the chance to do fireworks it not once but twice a year. Remember the fifth of November? Err no I can’t …

Pokies:

Scott Neylon writes: Re. “Bolt exaggerates paymaster’s anti-pokies campaign — again” (yesterday, item 18). I enjoy reading Crikey each night with a cup of Milo and my loyal dog at my feet. But I have just wasted several minutes of my night reading Stephen Mayne’s ridiculous claim (for the second time no less) that Andrew Bolt takes instructions on pokies from News Ltd, or the pokies industry.

Bolt is many things, but mouthpiece for the pokies lobby surely not. The idea of anyone strong-arming Andrew Bolt into writing a column he doesn’t believe in, especially on poker machines, which he has regularly made clear he hates, is laughable.

Crikey loses credibility publishing such rubbish.

I’d rather hear from Stephen Mayne how the mandatory pre-commitment system is going to reduce problem gambling. I have a bit of experience dealing with addiction and can’t for the life of me see how a problem gambler is going to set a realistic limit when gambling. It all seems like a waste of money to me …

Pass me my goat:

Chris Virtue writes: Re. “Rundle: recovery of 2008? What bloody recovery?“(yesterday, item 5). Guy Rundle tells us of “a (sic) ‘angoras new phase’ for the global economy”. Does this mean that because global currencies are so shot  that we have to go back bartering livestock? Is mohair the new moolah? Bring it on, but I shudder the think of the cost of the mods to ATMs.

Peter Fray

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