News Corp Australia, led by Michael Miller, the executive chair at Holt Street HQ in Sydney, has inveigled the heads of Australia’s other failing legacy media companies to have yet another joint whinge about the ABC and SBS over “their effect on commercial operations”. In a page-1 story by media editor Darren “Lurch” Davidson, the collective of corporate media crown princes moaned and moaned and moaned about the two public broadcasters.

The ABC and SBS are on a growing list of nasties (in the eyes of Miller and the rest of his gang of millionaires) like Facebook and Google (which last week reported record ad revenues). Then there’s Netflix, Amazon, the federal opposition, the media union and advertisers who are not supporting these legacy media playthings of billionaires like Kerry Stokes and the Murdochs.

Davidson’s story in full is leading the media section and is backed up by an editorial (it must be serious). Joining the chorus of whingers are the millionaires who run News, Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment, Fairfax Media, with assists from Peter Tonagh, the head of News Corp’s failing associate Foxtel, and Paul Anderson, the head of the Ten network, which is also a failed associate of News Corp.

Miller made us all chortle with his speech at the Melbourne Press Club last week, in which he called on the media to stop attacking each other. What is usually the first publication to launch an attack on its rivals or perceived rivals?

News Corp Australia is facing more write-downs for its Fox Sports Australia subsidiary (we will know late next week when News Corp releases its 2016-17 results), after the News Corp board wrote down US$310 million from the value of News Corp Australia’s long-life assets earlier this year and US$227 million off the value of the 50% stake in Foxtel. Perhaps Miller knows there are more write-downs coming and today’s moaning and groaning is a diversion to establish a “straw man” argument.

Greg Hywood, the multimillionaire who runs Fairfax Media, has just had to endure the humiliation of his company being rejected by two bottom-fishing private equity sharks from the United States: TPG and Hellman & Friedman, who were prepared to lay out more than A$2.2 billion for Fairfax until they viewed the books and departed in haste. Hywood also endeared himself to staff on his newspapers by chopping 125 jobs and $30 million in costs. Hywood’s Fairfax also owns 50% of the video streaming service Stan with Hugh Marks’ Nine Entertainment. The ABC and SBS’ streaming video services are emerging as local rivals to Stan, which is running second behind US giant Netflix. Netflix’s success ended the life of Presto, the streaming joint venture owned by Foxtel and Seven West Media, generating more than $100 million in losses for both companies at a time when revenues and earnings from the ad sales business, continue to fall.

That explains the presence of Nine’s Hugh Marks and Seven’s Tim Worner in the list of media moaners in the Oz this morning. But maybe Worner should be looking a bit closer to home for the root of Seven’s problems, especially as Seven passed on the Ninja Warrior format that has breathed new life into Hugh Marks’ term at the head of Nine.

Tonagh is in the group because he is a senior News Corp associate and former executive and runs Foxtel, the most important business in News Corp Australia after the 61%-owned REA Group, the real estate website business that is holding up the rest of the creaking Murdoch media empire. Paul Anderson is there to make up the numbers — Ten was not forced into administration and now receivership by anything the ABC or SBS did. That was all Ten’s own work, from the management to the dud board and the billionaire shareholders led by Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon whose threats frightened the Ten board to push the company into administration on June 14.

Miller’s Melbourne Press Club appearance last week and his comments this morning in his company’s staff newsletter (AKA the Oz) are pretty egregious seeing as last week dozens of photographers and subeditors were sacked at News Corp tabloids around the country (but not at the loss-making Australian — at least not to the same extent). These job losses mirror those at Fairfax Media (and are the third round of cuts at News in four years), at Seven West’s Pacific Magazines and The West Australian and Sunday Times in Perth, and job cuts at the ABC and SBS, which were forced on the two broadcasters by budget cuts imposed by Malcolm Turnbull when he was communications minister.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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