Inasmuch as it considers itself to be a coherent, sentient entity, The Australian believes that an accused person standing trial should have the right to eject any juror not to his or her liking. Surely not?
OK, let’s try it another way: The Australian believes that an accused person who objects to the presence of any juror has the right not to provide evidence in the trial. Ridiculous? Apparently not. In fact, The Australian believes that any person convicted by a jury containing a person they don’t like is not bound by their verdict.
That all sounds utterly preposterous, but it is effectively the position the Oz took today after it realised that the Australian Press Council had appointed Carla McGrath as a new member. In a front-page piece (“Oz will boycott decisions of ‘political’ stack’“) the paper has announced that it “will boycott testimony and will not accept adjudications of complaints by the Australian Press Council in which … Carla McGrath takes part”.
McGrath’s “crime”, which, in the eyes of The Australian should disqualify her from a place on the council that ostensibly regulates press behavior and standards, is that she is the deputy chair of GetUp. As such she embodies two of the newspaper’s most hated targets: social democratic politics and the power of the internet. Worse, (according to the Oz), GetUp has had the temerity to occasionally campaign against News Corp publications. Quelle horreur! For Murdoch’s loyal minions that is a clear abuse of free speech.
In what is becoming a bad habit, editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker had himself quoted extensively in his paper this morning, claiming that the appointment of McGrath made a “mockery” of the APC’s role as an independent adjudicator of complaints against news organisations. Curiously, he made no mention of the fact that the proprietors fund the APC and have had multiple representatives on the council since its inception, and they still do. Presumably this represents no threat to their independence when considering complaints.
But then, in a tediously extended spill on page 8, Mitchell Bingemann (the poor hack assigned to embroidering a news piece around his editor’s quotes), slithers from straight reporting into the fetid quagmire of partisanship and sucking up to the boss. See how easily opinion can become fact at Holt Street:
“The potential threat that Ms McGrath’s appointment represents to the impartiality of the Press Council has forced Mr Whittaker to withdraw The Australian from giving testimony or adhering to any adjudications in which she will be involved.”
Whittaker has been forced into this boycott? By a potential threat? This thin-skinned reaction by the Oz would be comical were it not such a telling reminder of News Corp’s hypocrisy whenever they detect even the faintest hint of credible media regulation.
Not so long ago, when the Gillard government had the courage to publicly canvass options for a reformed approach to accountability, The Australian led the counter-attack with a barrage of smear stories and endless opinion pieces warning us against the death of free speech. Self-regulation was the one true bulwark, they claimed, while pre-emptively doubling the funding and staff of their lapdog Press Council.
But this faith in the sacred principle of self-regulation has always had its limits for Murdoch. In 1980, after a damning adjudication finding by the APC against The News in Adelaide, Rupert withdrew his company (and its funding) from the council. They didn’t rejoin until 1987. When it comes to taking their bat and ball home when they won’t accept the umpire’s decision, News Corp has form.