Dempster v Mitchell. On Monday, ABC veteran Quentin Dempster had an opinion piece in the The Australian, presenting one half of an argument about ABC cuts (the other half was provided by Senator Cory Bernardi). The Crikey bunker wondered at the time why it was necessary to go to Bernardi to provide the “ABC-is-encroaching-into-the-dwindling-profits-of commercial-media-companies” line — after all, surely there’d be a few media execs, editors and producers who are more than happy to make that argument. Indeed, the next day’s Oz was happy to have a go at the ABC while trashing Dempster’s argument, in an editorial which made reference to his salary:

“Given the ABC’s Quentin Dempster is paid almost $300,000 a year to contribute to and present a half-hour television program, he probably has plenty of time to ponder funding issues. He has discussed them on ABC radio, he has written about them for the ABC’s The Drum website and he has shared his thoughts on our pages.

“Contrary to the paranoia of Dempster and others, The Australian supports an efficient, pluralistic and mainstream ABC. We have never wanted to see it privatised. But it should be capable of spending its money wisely without resorting to cheap stunts and special pleading at taxpayers’ expense.”

Dempster used his speech at the ABC rally this morning to hit back at the Oz. Crikey obtained a copy of the remarks which said:

“To News Ltd. which has targeted me and my salary I say this is not about one dispensable ABC individual. Rupert Murdoch would spill more than my salary at luncheon on Rosehearty.”

Dempster then went on to say News Corp’s tax-dodging ways did more to take money from the public purse than his salary.

“If [Murdoch] desisted from using tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Delaware or Bermuda along with hundreds of other corporations, perhaps services like hospitals and schools would be better resourced,” Dempster said.

Something makes us think we haven’t heard the last of this. — Myriam Robin

A questionable Move. For all the grand talk about the primacy of newspapers and print journalism around the Murdoch empire in Australia, News Corp’s board and the Murdoch family have shown us where they see the future of the company — and that future is in real estate, not newspapers. In fact newspapers look more orphan-like at News after this near billion-dollar deal. Overnight, News revealed it was paying $1.1 billion (US$950 million) cash to buy 80% of Move, Inc., an online real estate business in the US operating out of the country’s west coast. The deal is the largest so far for News after it paid just over US$400 million for Canadian-owned Harlequin (the publisher of bodice rippers and other female skewing books) and US$25 million for Storyful, a small online business in Ireland. The price paid means News will have less than US$2 billion cash on its books.

What the deal does mean for the local print enthusiasts at News Corp Australia is that they will be increasingly tied to the tail end of a real estate business, whose major growth asset remains REA Group (62% owned). REA Group is already the most important part of News Corp. Its US$5 billion market value accounts for more than half the market value of News Corp. Move ranks well behind the industry giant in the recently merged Zillow-Truila group, whose combination was valued at US$3.5 billion (an all paper deal, unlike News’ cash offer). Comparatively, last year Move reported US$600,000 in profit on US$227 million in revenues. Zillow and Truila dominate the online real estate business in the US, unlike Australia where REA Group dominates. That means News will be battling to make headway in a very, very competitive industry. — Glenn Dyer

Murdoch heiress exits. US media reports say Elisabeth Murdoch will leave 21st Century Fox after the merger of Shine (the company she helped start), Endemol and Core Media is completed. She will step down as chair of Shine and depart. There was speculation about her future earlier this week when former BSkyB executive, Sophie Turner Laing was named as CEO of the merged independent production group. — Glenn Dyer

Insiders grateful. The Community and Public Sector Union snapped this “insider” thanking the protesters at this morning’s rally.

In case readers are wondering, this is how we journalists communicate with all our confidential sources — through messages pasted to windows from “inside”.

Rupert will survive. Yesterday we expressed our sympathies for how 83-year-old Rupert Murdoch was having to suffer by seeing his US$29.2 million total pay packet from 21st Century Fox eroded by inflation. His salary and other perks at Fox grew just 1% in 2013-14, slower than the US rate of inflation in the year to June — a situation experienced by tens of millions of ordinary Americans. Well, this morning, an apology: the old buffer is doing very well, thank you. In fact, he’s swimming in loot (as he always has been, after all, millions of dollars a year in income is a lot more than ordinary people get).

The proxy statement from his other family company, News Corp, was issued earlier today in the US and it shows the old bloke got US$8.7 million for the year to June. That’s more than most CEOs get in Australia for running a company (such as Andrew Mackenzie at BHP Billiton). Murdoch didn’t receive any pay for the brief 2012-13 financial year. The pay packet — which includes US$1 million in cash, or chump change, just over US$5 million in share awards and US$2.68 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation — takes his total payout from the two family companies to close to US$38 million. Now that’s serious money, even for a Murdoch. Perhaps the extra was to compensate him for his new role as Tweeter-in-Chief of News … ?

Equally serious was the US$12.5 million in total paid to News CEO, Robert Thomson which was up sharply from the US$2.66 million paid for 2012-13. James Murdoch received US$225 million in director’s fees from News Corp, as did co-chair, Lachlan Murdoch. They already received millions from being board members of Fox (or an executive in James’ case), who was paid US$18.7 million in cash and stock for his role at Fox. News holds its AGM in Los Angeles on November 13, 24 hours after 21st Century Fox holds its shareholder meeting. — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW