Not one of the lucky few 100,000 viewers nationally to catch Meet The Press on Channel Ten yesterday morning? Let us provide a synopsis …

There was a scintillating discussion on the latest federal polling numbers with Martin O’Shannessy from Newspoll (owned by News Ltd) and David Briggs of Galaxy Research (which supplies News Ltd tabloids). Political journalist Stefanie Balogh (from News Ltd’s The Australian) joined the discussion. There was an important consumer segment on getting a better deal on your health insurance via One Big Switch (a News Ltd-backed campaign) with Lachlan Harris (a former News Ltd columnist) and journalist John Rolfe (from News Ltd’s Daily Telegraph). And there was an “exclusive” interview with jockey Mitchell Beadman (published in News Ltd papers that morning) by Jessica Halloran (a journalist at News Ltd’s Sunday Telegraph).

If you don’t want to watch a TV version of News Ltd newspapers (Ten “outsourced” production of the program this year) you don’t have to tune in, of course. Most didn’t. But the weekly News Ltd infomercial is indicative of a widening and worrying influence the Murdoch family has on the beleaguered TV network.

Late on Friday Ten dumped another CEO and installed Hamish McLennan — a former News Corporation executive and chairman of News Limited real estate arm REA — into a very hot seat to turn the network around. Remember: News Corp director Lachlan Murdoch chairs the company and owns 9% of shares, and much of the network’s programming is delivered by News Corp entities Fox and Shine.

But the choice of chief poses the same question more strongly: should Australia’s most powerful media family effectively control one of three free-to-air TV networks given their dominance of the print and pay TV sector (not to mention Lachlan’s ownership of the Nova FM radio network)? That the federal government is now apparently showing concern will be seen as part of a no doubt concerted move against a company whose editors regularly rail against the government. But if it’s serious about media diversity it must start asking the question publicly.

That Channel Ten is a corporate basketcase is a matter for shareholders. That it is increasingly a Murdoch family plaything is a matter of public interest — perhaps one for corporate regulators.

Peter Fray

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