The purchase of a major punting website by News Corp could be behind TheDaily Telegraph's campaign against the Baird government's greyhound racing ban, as the paper confidently predicts Mike Baird is about to cave in and allow the industry to continue, delivering the company more revenue and commercial opportunities.
The company last week revealed it had acquired punters.com.au, without disclosing the price. Described as about "making racing more awesome", punters.com.au offers racing news, tips and a form guide on different kinds of animal racing, including greyhound racing. According to marketing blog Mumbrella, in July former Telegraph manager Simon Anderson was appointed to head a gambling division within News Corp as part of a major move into wagering. The company is currently struggling to deal with collapsing print revenues and the slow death of its Foxtel subscription television service. According to News Corp execs quoted by Mumbrella, the company is explicitly seeking to leverage its animal racing reportage both to gain more revenue from readers and sell access to its readership to "wagering clients".
Ironically, punters.com.au has offered more balanced coverage of the revelations of mass slaughter, animal torture and systemic industry cover-ups that have emerged about the greyhound racing industry than The Daily Telegraph, which for several years had been rated as Australia's least-trusted newspaper. The paper has run an aggressive campaign against the ban announced by the Baird government in July, and this morning reported that Baird would overturn the ban tomorrow.
Angles of attack from the Telegraph have included claims that vast numbers of dogs would have to be re-homed due to the ban (as opposed to the routine slaughter of dogs that occurs now; another greyhound graveyard was revealed just today), attempts to dispute the details of the McHugh report that prompted the ban, claims the ban was "destroying the lives of ordinary people", encouraging a revolt by Nationals MPs against the leadership of Deputy Premier Troy Grant, and claims the ban had led to a collapse in Baird's political fortunes. In fact, polling has shown strong and growing support for the ban; new polling on the weekend showed support for the ban at 64% in NSW.
In none of the Telegraph's attack pieces has the company's looming purchase of punters.com.au been disclosed, despite the obvious financial benefit News Corp stands to make from a continuation of the industry. Indeed, the Telegraph website only ran a Herald Sun article on the purchase last week, sourced from a junior reporter at The Australian. There was no disclosure of the purchase or the conflicted position it places the company in in today's "exclusive" that Baird was about to back down on the ban.
Many writers as The Australian (which has also taken a pro-greyhound racing line) have personal connections to the greyhound industry, but these have been disclosed.