“It’s called show business for a very good reason, because behind every show there’s business,” said Channel Nine’s Ross Greenwood — and with the plugs coming for James Packer’s fancy new casino, it’s hard to argue with that.
Packer flew about 400 journalists to Macau to cover the opening of his swank new casino on October 27. The resulting print, online and TV reports were careful to include the disclaimer “travelled to Macau with Crown Resorts” — except for Channel Nine (Channel Seven says it paid its own way). Crikey found multiple reports on the opening of the casino from Nine, but nary a mention that Packer might have picked up the tab.
Crikey contacted Nine to inquire whether Ross Greenwood was in Macau as a guest of James Packer and his business and, if so, why it was not disclosed. But a Nine spokesperson would only tell us “no comment”.
Nine News and Today both showed ample footage featuring the casino’s opening during Greenwood’s report, during which he responds to presenters on the Today show by saying: “I’ll tell you what, it’s been a very big night.” The headline banner on the story was “Crowning Glory”. Greenwood said the casino opening was “like no other”.
Todd Sampson, national chief executive of communication company Leo Burnett, said on the ABC’s Gruen last week Packer’s largesse was very smart marketing.
“The media doesn’t tell us what to think, but it does tell us what to think about. So … by paying for [journalists] to go, he guarantees not what they’ll say, but he guarantees they will say something.”
Packer has also put $70 million into a short film, The Audition, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and directed by Martin Scorsese. Technically The Audition is a movie, not an advertisement for the Macau casino, which means it can be shown in China, where gambling advertising is banned. It’s a nifty loophole, much like accepting a free trip to Macau.