News Corp is a monopoly which runs “campaigns of character assassination” and leaves politicians across the country frightened. So said former prime minister Kevin Rudd to a Senate inquiry into media diversity on Friday.
On Saturday News Corp went and proved him right: eight papers across the country ran almost word for word pieces attacking his Senate appearance.
“The media diversity challenge is different in every one of these cities, and yet they all received the identical ‘Rudd is wrong’ article,” Rudd told Crikey.
“It’s a vivid demonstration of how they abuse their monopoly power, and how contemptuous they are of their readers.”
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Rudd has been in News Corp’s crosshairs since he hit a nerve when he launched a petition calling for a royal commission into the company last year and got more than 500,000 signatures.
Rudd was followed at the Senate inquiry on Friday by News Corp’s Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller, who said the media industry was actually pretty good on diversity because people read other news websites.
He also said nobody gave editors directions on what to publish. Yet somehow eight separate editors around the country decided to publish very similar pieces hitting back at Rudd.
“Here we see clearly the bleeding of news content with Murdoch’s own commercial self-interest,” Rudd said.
Miller and group executive Campbell Reid both denied the company — whose newspapers drove Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of the country over some tweets — was in the business of character assassination.
“I disagree with the word assassination. We ask tough questions,” Miller said.
Except often it seems News Corp simply does not ask questions of the people it’s targeting. Rudd says he’s “lost count” of just many times its outlets have engaged in character assassination of him since he launched his petition.
First there was the story claiming he’d used “Bangladeshi bots” to bolster his petition, an earth-shattering exclusive straight from a dodgy Facebook page. The Australian didn’t ask Rudd for comment. Neither, says Rudd, did Sky News’ Peta Credlin when she accused him of using the petition to harvest supporters’ email addresses.
Rudd also said during the hearing that Miller had falsely accused him of trying to get published in The Australian.
“Just last Friday, Murdoch’s CEO Michael Miller misled parliament by claiming I had ‘proactively approached’ The Australian to ‘write on China’ for them,” he told Crikey.
“That statement is completely false. Yet so far as I am aware Miller hasn’t yet apologised to the Senate for misleading them.”
News Corp’s bosses say they’re not a monopoly — simply a humble news organisation that asks the tough questions and holds politicians to account. But their targeting of Rudd proves their executives wrong.