While the power, credibility and audience of Andrew Bolt has clearly declined from last year’s peak after the damaging Federal Court judgment against him, Australia’s greatest public inflamer of community friction is still causing plenty of grief.

His three items in the Herald Sun today included plenty of predictable attacks on everyone from Graeme Wood, Bob Brown, all ABC journalists, leftist Age/SMH journalists and even yours truly, who was dismissed as “some clown in the Fairfax papers” after writing this piece about Gina Rinehart for The Sunday Age.

Despite normally being a family values man, Bolt is still yet to reflect on the extraordinary Rinehart family situation. Personally, I’m just appalled at the way Rinehart has treated her children and don’t believe she deserves to be protected from a solid Bolt spray just because she’s a director of Network Ten, which pays him more than $100,000 a year.

One of the biggest problems with Bolt — and his best mate Terry McCrann for that matter — is that they see a complicated world full of shades of grey as pure black and white. McCrann used to privately make the same criticism of Rupert Murdoch to me back in the 1990s, not realising that he was cut from the same cloth.

Perhaps the best example of this overweening tendency for extreme positions is the basic Bolt-McCrann theme that “climate change is a crock being promoted by Greenies and all Fairfax and ABC journalists are biased lefties”.

The lads seem to forget that each spent many years working for Fairfax and have appeared on the ABC hundreds of times. Indeed, there are just as many former ABC journalists who have become Coalition MPs as Labor MPs.

McCrann and Bolt are pretty gutless too when it comes to attacking certain protected species who believe in climate change. Sure, Wood is an obvious target given his ill-considered $1.6 million donation to the Greens but why don’t Bolt and McCrann launch big personal attacks on the members of the Murdoch family who have poured more than $10 million into the Climate Institute?

Why isn’t Dame Elisabeth Murdoch attacked for calling for more action on climate change?

The biggest and most troubling media ownership issue in Australia is not Gina Rinehart — it is the extending power of the ethically challenged Murdoch family, even after the phone-hacking scandal. After quite deliberately allowing the perception that Rinehart delivered him The  Bolt Report to hang around for many months, the great inflamer finally put the issue to bed when he wrote the following in today’s Herald Sun:

“I’m not sure what Rinehart plans with Fairfax, but a score of grim journalists has warned that she’s got shocking form. Didn’t she force Channel 10 to give me my own show when she joined its board?

“What tosh. I worked with Ten before Rinehart bought into it, and was signed up for The Bolt Report by then acting CEO Lachlan Murdoch, once my chairman here at News Ltd.”

Now that James Warburton has arrived at Ten, Lachlan Murdoch is back to being a 9% shareholder and non-executive director but the influence of himself and Rinehart is clearly reflected by the failure to axe Bolt’s low-rating program, especially after his reputation was severely damaged by last year’s damning Federal Court judgment, which News Ltd was too embarrassed to appeal.

Perhaps the most striking recent example of Australia’s supine cross-media ownership laws was the decision by ACMA to allow Lachlan Murdoch to remain as a director of News Corp while clearly influencing Network Ten. The argument presented was that Lachlan was exerting no management influence over News Ltd in Australia where John Hartigan was an independent executive chairman.

If you believe Mark Day’s column in The Australian on Monday, it was Lachlan Murdoch who engineered the appointment of his mate Kim Williams as News Ltd CEO. Similarly, Day claimed that Rupert’s appointment as non-executive chair of News Ltd is just keeping the warm chair for Lachlan.

Given that Lachlan also personally controls 50% of radio company DMG, it is clearly unlawful for him to simultaneously exert management influence over Network Ten and News Ltd.

Thanks to these useful disclosures by long-time Murdoch loyalists Andrew Bolt and Mark Day, ACMA has the material to now intervene and extract Lachlan’s resignation from either the News Corp of Network Ten boards. ACMA did precisely that with David Evans in 2009, where he was forced to resign  from the Fairfax board.

Let’s hope a different standard is not applied by ACMA to the Murdochs, just because there is no more powerful family anywhere in the world.

Peter Fray

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