Nick Cater, editor of The Weekend Australian, is one of the lesser known Murdoch editorial heavyweights in Australia.
But, by jingo, hasn’t the former BBC correspondent been doing his bit to establish public fealty to the Murdoch family during their time of need.
Cater’s attempt to discredit The AFR’s pay-TV piracy series across various sections of Saturday’s paper was masochistic and sycophantic.
There was a news story across the top of page one complete with a large out-of-date picture of The AFR’s resident Murdoch expert, Neil Chenoweth.
We then had a two-page feature in the Inquirer section attacking Chenoweth and a full-length editorial which was more focused on defending News Corp and Rupert Murdoch. Cater himself produced a comment piece attacking the BBC, his mate Brendan O’Neil backed up with a savage sledge of the Leveson inquiry and there was also another page one story suggesting moral equivalence with The Age accessing the ALP’s Victorian data base.
With the likes of John Durie and Mark Day refusing to defend a lost cause, it was left to the relatively junior business reporter Anthony Klan to plough through 4000 stolen emails from NDS published on AFR.com.
Miraculously, with complete independence and no conflict of interest, Klan concluded on page one that Chenoweth was a beat-up merchant who had over-reached.
After years of battering critics into submission by sheer force and repetition, News Corp’s thuggish operators have still not adjusted to the new reality. Politicians, regulators and competitors aren’t going to be stood over any longer. They will fight back.
It doesn’t matter how many Cut & Paste attacks, cartoons or pictures of Chenoweth and his editor, Michael Stutchbury, are run, the current leadership at Fairfax seems robust and forthright. Stutchbury produced another editorial today defending The AFR’s coverage of News Corp.
When the various emailed questions from The Australian started coming through last week, The AFR could have curled up into a ball. Instead, it decided to open a new front.
Saturday’s paper included another stunning Chenoweth feature, this time detailing how the pay-TV piracy shenanigans unfolded in the US.
And unlike The Australian, which has suffered a slump in online readership since erecting its paywall, The AFR published Chenoweth’s feature free online and it is already the most popular story on AFR.com for the past week as thousands of readers globally poured over the detail. Well done, Mr Cater.
When you are up against a bloke who has already written a 100,000-word manuscript for publication in a book later this year after following a story for 10 years, did Cater seriously think a half-baked analysis of one element — the NDS emails — by a junior reporter would do the job?
Cater wrote this piece for Brendan O’Neil’s UK ezine Spiked shortly after the BBC aired its original Panorama piece on the NDS dirty tricks campaign against News Corp’s global competitors.
He described the Panorama journalists and Lee Gibling, the hacker that News Corp recruited to run the notorious THOIC.com piracy website on its behalf, as follows:
A team of so-called respectable journalists used secretly recorded private conversations and stolen correspondence to make damaging allegations that have since been comprehensively denied. Their threadbare case relied on the testimony of a chain-smoking, whisky-drinking pirate who has been living in exile from the UK for nearly 10 years and was corroborated with information furnished by a convicted criminal.
OK, so let’s just take one excerpt from Klan’s feature on Saturday as he attempted to claim Chenoweth was selectively quoting from various NDS emails:
“But the rest of the email makes clear there were sound commercial reasons for de-linking the signals since Irdeto could be hacked:
An independent assessment of the issues with Irdeto, security failings, can be professionally and independently put in by ADSR. This will be totally convincing. We do not want simulcrypt in our lives.”
The Australian doesn’t seem to realise that ADSR is Oliver Kommerling’s company. Oliver was the German super-hacker hired by NDS to train an Israeli-based team of pirates to crack rival codes. We can believe Oliver because The Weekend Australian tells us he’s professional and independent, not some chain-smoking, whisky-drinking pirate on the run. And that’s why Chenoweth quotes him so extensively explaining the nefarious things he did for NDS to destroy its competitors.
Unsurprisingly, Cater and his wife Rebecca Weisser, The Australian’s opinion page editor, were working hard yesterday dedicating all of today’s Cut & Paste to Chenoweth’s Saturday feature.
The professional and independent Kommerling was back to being someone whose case can be dismissed as the “unsubstantiated word of hackers”.
I would love to hear Rupert Murdoch and long-serving NDS chairman Abe Peled comprehensively rebut everything that Oliver Kommerling has alleged.
Similarly, what is the official News Corp response — not the anonymous Cater-Weisser effort in Cut & Paste, to Chenoweth’s piece in The AFR on Saturday, which explained how the statute of limitations helped News Corp fend off the Echostar piracy court case in California.
Then again, this was Rupert in year five of News Corp’s comprehensive denial strategy with phone hacking at the AGM in October 2010:
Rupert Murdoch: we have very very strict rules. There was an incident more than 5 years ago. The person who bought a bugged phone conversation was immediately fired and in fact he subsequently went to jail. There has been two parliamentary inquiries, which have found no further evidence or any other thing at all. If anything was to come to light, we challenge people to give us evidence, and no one has been able to. If any evidence comes to light, we will take immediate action like we took before.
Shareholder question: did you read the 5000-word piece in The New York Times claiming they had spoken to no less than 12 former editors and reporters for the News of the World, confirming that the practice was wide spread?
Shareholder question: The actual committee said in its report, there was “deliberate obfuscation” by our executives, there was “collective amnesia” by the executives and you’ve just demonstrated this again, and this point ….
Rupert Murdoch: I’m sorry. Journalists who have been fired, who are unhappy, or work for other organisations — I don’t take them as an authority, and least of all I don’t take The New York Times as authority which is the most motivated of all.
Which is precisely why the laughable drivel published in The Weekend Australian on Saturday should be filed away for future reference when we look back and reflect on the rise and fall of a rogue Australian media mogul.