It’s official: Sky News, under the control of Nine, Seven and Sky News of London, is a leftish swamp that will need draining when News Corp Australia takes over sooner than later. That’s not me saying it, or Mark Scott at the ABC, or Kerry Stokes at Seven, or even Greg Hywood at Fairfax. No, it’s Sharri Markson, the spear-carrier for all things Murdochian and News in the Oz’s Media Diary today. Seeing it appeared in the most closely watched and edited part of any News Corp paper, its Murdochian gospel.

Buried in mid-column, Markson wrote: “Sky News would be re-positioned to take a centre right stance, featuring more opinion and commentary if News Corp is successful in buying the channel”. Of course News Corp will be successful — it is down to striking a price with Nine and Seven (UK Sky is on board, seeing as it is part of the Murdocs empire). If there is no agreement, Sky News will lose its carriage agreement with News-controlled Foxtel and disappear in 2017, replaced by a network of News’ invention. It’s called being over a barrel.

“News Corp would ensure Sky reflected the tone of its newspapers and was in line with its brand,” wrote Markson. She was not contradicted by News Corp’s current local boss, Julian Clarke, who was quoted as saying “News has great regard for Sky News and is attracted to the opportunity to contribute to its future as a significant national broadcaster,” News won’t contribute; it will dominate and own Sky News in future.

Existing staff, especially those on air, say this is confirmation that news will sack or sideline them and replace them with News Corp journalists and columnists, some of whom already broadcast on Sky.

Andrew Bolt’s underperforming show Ten show (it attracts around 150,000 or so viewers at 10am Sunday) is a News Corp production. The problem is if it is exclusive on Sky, the audience would drop to low single digits. News could run it first on Sky, then on Ten, as has been suggested.

But never fear, Markson wrote today, the network wouldn’t lean “as far to the right as Fox News in the US. Its tone would be in line with mainstream views and would offer balance to the increasing number of left-leaning media platforms entering the Australian market.”

That’s a relief. But what exactly could Markson mean? The Guardian Australia? Or the Huffington Post? You’d have thought News could fight off the leftie invasion with its own websites — especially given the so-called “left-leaning media platforms” presumably alluded to are free, online and entirely direct to a subscription-TV station.

To justify a crude takeover and dismantling of the most successful news business in Australia, Markson and her masters have invented a new bogey — “left leaning media platforms” — to justify dismembering Sky News and turning it into a clone of News papers. All of which, by the by, are suffering from a steady loss of sales, ad revenues and readers. In fact News Corp’s papers are a bunch of losers if you look at the way sales, circulation, revenues and profits have fallen — unlike Sky News, which has steadily built revenue and earnings.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey