News Corp 1, Press Council 0. Press Council chair Julian Disney will no longer adjudicate Press Council complaints involving News Corp.

The decision by the print media’s chief press standards arbitrator was announced late on Friday, and after News Corp asked Disney to recuse himself from two complaints on which it claimed he had a conflict of interest. In response, the council sought the advice of its vice-chair, John Doyle QC, on whether here was a need for Disney to recuse himself from these complaints. Doyle ruled in the negative, but perhaps Disney has had enough. He decided to step down from all News Corp complaints regardless. Press Council executive director John Pender said in a statement:

“Doyle considered that the demands for Prof Disney to withdraw were not justified, and I was of the same view.”

“Prof Disney has advised me, however, that he will withdraw. Although he agrees with the view of the Vice Chair and myself, he believes the Council cannot afford to have its complaints work subjected to the further severe disruption which would flow from resisting the newspapers’ demands and related misrepresentations.

“The Chair [Julian Disney] regrets that his decision may be interpreted as indicating that he would no longer be able to chair adjudications with sufficient independence from News Corp pressures.

“On the other hand, he is aware that concerns have already been expressed by a complainant that recent criticism in The Australian’s reports and editorials may cause him to be unduly responsive to such pressures when chairing adjudications.”

Disney’s term atop the Press Council ends in January. He’s widely been seen as one of the more activist Press Council chairs — which has drawn the ire of News Corp’s editors. The Australian, in particular, has been conducting a campaign against him and the council, running numerous critiques on its rulings and repeatedly breaching the confidentiality provisions regarding ongoing Press Council complaints.

Both Oz editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and News Corp CEO Julian Clarke have recently indicated they intend to keep up the campaign against the Press Council. — Myriam Robin

Exclusive watch: dads have it tough. Crikey, obviously, publishes Mondays through Fridays, so we often miss what goes on in the nation’s press over the weekend. So three cheers to the reader who drew our attention to this week’s Sunday Telegraph and its surfeit of exclusives. There are two of them on the front page, and we found 10 within the first 32 pages.

Sunday Telegraph

Our favourite was on page 28. It’s an interview with new dad Josh Wheeler, who has noticed “while the expectations on the involvement of new fathers have grown dramatically in one generation, support for them have not”. A University of Newcastle researcher is investigating post-natal depression in men, which seems to be what prompted this story. All well and good, but “exclusive”?

Another “exclusive” story (on page 10) is about how harbour-front homeowners could take advantage of new bushfire laws to lop trees blocking their views without council approval. The very same story also appeared on the front page of the Sun-Herald, but without the exclusive tag. A wasted opportunity. — Myriam Robin

Who’s going to America? So we know Channel Seven’s Sunrise and Channel Nine’s Today are fiercely competitive, but we didn’t think they’d copy each other this closely.

Last week, Today announced a week of “Today Across America”. Details on the announcement were scarce, but it appeared the morning show would spend a week broadcasting from several locations: “From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Florida Everglades… from Hollywood to New York City…”, as the promotional material put it.

Seven, it appears, thought this was a brilliant idea, and decided to announce a USA trip today too, taking place, well, just a week before Nine’s.

Beginning September 1, Kochie, Sam and the crew will spend the five days broadcasting from America. They’ll start in LA, before airing from Las Vegas, Texas, Miami and ending up in NYC (working on a breakfast show must be tough at the best of times, and we don’t envy the cast and crew who’ll be getting their internal clocks all messed up because of this). Im case you’re wondering, it doesn’t appear the trip is sponsored by anyone in particular, though pop idol Justin Timberlake will make an appearance.

We wonder who had the idea first? Nine were the first to announce, but these things do take time to get sorted. We’ll be keeping an eye on whose USA bonanza delivers the most. — Myriam Robin

Tim Blair’s kinda/sorta/not-really apology. The columnist everyone loves to hate is published again today, with a piece titled “Sincere apologies to my Muslim friends”. If you were holding out for contrition over Blair’s Lakemba  expose last week (the one that didn’t involve talking to a single non-white resident of the suburb and was widely trashed, including in Crikey), well, sorry to disappoint.

The piece begins by taking on all those people who believe Blair’s Islamophobic rant was racist. “Apparently these people believe Islam is a race rather than a religion,” Blair writes. He then goes on to detail the process of conversion to Islam, and notes you can’t similarly convert to become Asian, white, or Aboriginal.

Having thus established Islam as a religion, Blair then moves onto defending his decision to focus on the offensive titles on offer in a Lakemba bookshop. The bookshop is clearly profitable, Blair writes, thus proving a ready market for sexist and anti-Semitic texts in Sydney’s west.

After thus answering the critics, as he would have it, Blair then delivers his “apology”. It goes like this:

“For any readers who actually followed those instructions at the top of the column and converted to Islam, I neglected to include an important warning. Although converting to Islam is extremely easy, converting from Islam — particularly in the Middle East — may cause beatings, head loss and death by stoning.

“Looks like you’re stuck with it. Sorry about that.”

Video of the day. Vale Sir Richard Attenborough, who has died at the age of 90. We will miss his work in front of and behind the camera.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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