Was Carlton targetted? AJN editor insists there’s no conspiracy. Former (as of this morning) Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton told Crikey he had no doubt there was a coordinated campaign to oust him by the Australian Jewish lobby, helped along by News Corp. It’s an allegation others have also made. On 2UE today, Mornings presenter Stuart Bocking pushed Australian Jewish News’ editor Zeddy Lawrence on whether there’d been a coordinated push to oust Carlton. “Never underestimate the power of the Jewish lobby,” Bocking said, prompting Lawrence to ask whether Bocking had any evidence for what he was saying. Frankly he was offended by the suggestion, Lawrence said.

But readers don’t all approach the Oz “willy nilly,” Bocking insisted, referring to the multiple abusive letters Carlton sent to readers that were printed in The Australian this morning. “The comments to readers were collated – gathered together… to see him done in”.

“It does appear part of a campaign,” Bocking said, repeatedly.

But it wasn’t, Lawrence insisted. “If someone does something like [what Carlton did]… people are aware of it.” Jewish community groups are merely responding to concerns in their community, he added. — Myriam Robin

Baz v The Australian. You’d have to say the humour of fake Barrie Cassidy twitter account @BazCassidyABC was pretty lo-fi, if not a little stalky. Tweets that Cassidy could actually write — “Back on #Insiders next week”, mingle with the mildly demented — “I sometimes wonder what side Paul Sheehan bats for.” It was certainly flying too low for whatever poor workie was doing Rebecca Weisser’s old job at Cut ‘n’ Paste yesterday. Going the tonk on Mike Carlton again, they thought’d they got a bonus, with Barrie Cassidy allegedly tweeting his support for the SMH columnist — “There’s nothing like a bit of shameless hypocrisy.” Alas, it was Baz not Barrie, who doesn’t tweet. Does he sue? Cut ‘n’ Paste’s juxtaposition of the headline — “Sorry? Hell no! Mike Carlton continues to support the indoctrination of children in Gaza” — and fake quote look like slam-dunk libel to me, but I iz no law-talking guy.

@BazCassidyABC then became a Twitter handle for some of the best and worst jokes about the brouhaha (“Hook, line, plonker” — ABC News Intern) and Baz actually got funny:

Fun times. The workie was fed to dogs, and they’ve apologised today. Back to slaving over hot cuttings, Rebecca? — Guy Rundle

Surprise withdrawal from Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch has withdrawn the US$80 billion (US$85 a share in cash and shares) offer for rival broadcast content group Time Warner. Instead of charging off and doing the mega-deal to cement his reputation as the buccaneering media mogul, Murdoch has shown uncharacteristic financial caution. The market loved the decision: shares of Fox jumped 8% in after-hours trading, while Time Warner shares fell more than 11%. It’s a vote of confidence in Murdoch and his surprise decision to abandon the bid for a company he first tried to buy back in the early 1980s. The decision came 12 hours before Time Warner was due to report its second-quarter earnings (before 10pm Australian time today) and hours before 21st Century Fox was due to report its quarterly and financial year numbers. Instead of spending billions of dollars on Time Warner, Fox will spend a much smaller amount — $US6 billion — on a share buyback, which will help tighten the Murdoch clan’s control over the company.

The original bid was widely seen as being crafted by Fox’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey, while the withdrawal statement was in Murdoch’s name. Will this be the start of a separation between Carey and Fox, to allow son James to take that job, while son Lachlan shares the chairmanship of the company (and News Corp) with his father? Carey extended his contract by a year in June, and can quit at the end of this year, giving six months’ notice.

Murdoch said in the statement announcing the abandonment of the bid that “the reaction in our share price since our proposal was made undervalues our stock and makes the transaction unattractive to Fox shareholders”. Murdoch can always return to do a deal with Time Warner, if its shareholders pressure the company into it. After all, having seen shares hit US$85.23 — the highest they have been for more than 10 days (they fell to less than US$77 this morning) — shareholders (including a flock of hedge funds) will want to see their profits. — Glenn Dyer

Weak publishing assets set free. The Financial Times‘ Lex column this morning nicely but cruelly described the moves by media companies to spin off their weakening publishing assets as a milder version of the “good bank/bad bank” method of sorting out the strong and weak assets of a failing bank. It’s brutal, but protects the good assets of the media companies (TV and online) from being dragged down by the fading print operations. Gannett, America’s biggest newspaper owner, is following its peers in setting free its newspaper businesses and concentrating on TV and digital properties. Gannett announced the move overnight at the same time it confirmed it would spend US$1.8 billion in buying 73% of digital site, Cars.com (America’s second biggest online cars site). Details of the split have yet to be finalised, but it will include USA Today, the paper with the largest analog/digital circulation in the country (according to America’s flexible rules on what consists circulation).

Gannett’s remaining business will contain 46 TV stations, making it the largest independent owner of NBC and CBS affiliates, as well the fourth largest owner of ABC stations. The paper business will be called Gannett and will be led by USA Today, as well as 81 local US daily publications and UK’s Newsquest group of local papers, as well as 200 weekly print products, magazines and trade publications. Gannett and Tribune Co will basically be TV broadcasters with some online properties. Fox and Time Warner (provided they remain separate), are a mixture of broadcast and cable companies, and a lot of content creating businesses. They will have better futures than Gannett and Tribune Co’s TV broadcast operations.

Gannett’s accounts reveal the reason for the split — publishing contributed 60% of revenues in Gannett’s June quarter, but broadcasting accounted for 70% of operating profit. And the outlook for newspaper advertising is grim — US newspaper ad spending is forecast to decline 2.6% this year as shrinking print advertising outweighs a growing online business, according to forecasts from eMarketer. That was after an 8.6% fall to US$17.3 billion in 2013, the lowest level of ad revenues for America’s newspapers since 1950. — Glenn Dyer

John McCain’s book club: Given that a previous book — The Accidental Terrorist — had him accused of being a seditionist (in that last burst of Liberal commitment to free speech, Philip Ruddock’s sedition laws), Richard Flanagan will be pleased, maybe, to get this approbation for his latest work:

Even better are the replies underneath. “I highly recommend a nap.”; “Are you running for first lady?”; and, from Jesus, “I highly recommend the Bible …”  Ah, Republicans and books … — Guy Rundle

Front page of the day. New York’s competing tabloids certainly know how to start a panic …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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