I am but 50 pages into the Paul Barry biography Breaking News and the overriding impression one gets from these first few pages is that Rupert Murdoch recognised very early in his pursuit of fame and fortune that sleaze sells.
His publications in other countries are currently under investigation so I will confine my remarks to his Australian publications.
The profitability and popularity of every publication he owns depends on sleaze, be it the intellectual variety of The Australian or the gutter filth of The Daily Telegraph.
He realised early that the opinion he generated via his publications gave him influence in political circles and with it the power to manipulate it for his own benefit. The recall of favours rendered is always implied and never spelt out. It’s safer that way. Age has not wearied him but the times have. The advent of the Internet is but the beginning of the end. The Internet does not convey sleaze (I’m talking newspapers) as well as big boobs on page three of a tabloid. And those of the left should not assume that he supports any ideology other than the one that will give him what he wants in the circumstances. He supported Whitlam’s election and dumped him with an anti Labor campaign three years later. Whitlam was not for kowtowing to any media barren. And he supported Rudd in 2007.
Reuters in the past week reported that the Murdoch Australian newspapers have experienced a 25% advertising revenue decline on top of a 22% dip in sales. Is it any wonder based on the gutter trash it serves up? Have the advertisers decided they no longer want to be associated with sleaze? Is it reflecting on their product as it did during the Alan Jones sexist exposure? Has the reader’s tolerance for smut reached its limit?
So how does a proprietor arrest the decline? One way is to become sleazier, more titillating, more outrageous, and shocking. They can also increase the lying and spying and the omission of truth. In the case of The Australian they could choose to be even more biased. If that’s possible. Take for example Nick Cater’s (journalist for The Australian) reply to Tanya Plibersek on Q&A Monday night: “If you want to make this a war, we can”. Or Murdoch’s trashing of Australian sporting legend, Ian Thorpe’s reputation while at the same time accusing the ABC of being unpatriotic.
Another choice is to over a period of time transpose your paper into an on-line newssheet. The problem there is that you have to charge a fee and as this blog has proved there is an abundance of excellent writers ready to opine about issues for free. News and information is readily available so why should anyone pay?
Yet another choice is to discredit your opposition and seek a monopoly. Murdoch in partnership with the Abbott Government are doing their best to achieve this with their ferocious attacks on the ABC. Given the community support for the public broadcaster this is also doomed to failure.
COMMUNICATIONS Minister Malcolm Turnbull has issued a thinly veiled warning to the ABC to correct and apologise for errors, as senior cabinet figures voiced outrage and backbenchers seethed over the broadcaster’s handling of claims that asylum-seekers were deliberately burnt by defence personnel. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison yesterday demanded the broadcaster apologise for “outrageous slurs” against the navy while Joe Hockey revealed he has been so angry on occasions at ABC coverage he had called managing director Mark Scott to say “this is outrageous”.
One is apt to ask if the same outrage could be extended to the Murdoch Media who threaten our democracy with so much power that they can see people dismissed and governments elected.
And consider this from Crikey.com:
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s revelation that the government is mulling dumping the “two out of three” rule in our media ownership laws is more welcome news for News Corporation — albeit a bit like sending a leaky boat to rescue a drowning man.
Since the election, the government’s initial media policy forays have closely followed the script some of us suggested prior to September 7. In particular, the ABC has been the subject of extraordinary attack editorially — with both Turnbull and Treasurer Joe Hockey inappropriately calling ABC managing director Mark Scott to complain about ABC news content — and reputationally, with the Prime Minister himself engaging in a carefully-structured attack designed to delegitimise the broadcaster.
Turnbull flagged this week that changes to the anti-siphoning laws — which are still betwixt and between following the failure of former Labor communications minister Stephen Conroy’s comprehensive reform package — are under consideration, which opens up potential benefits for News Corp’s half-owned Foxtel — although old hands will know that any changes to anti-siphoning usually harm, not help, pay TV. Turnbull could do worse than run with the guts of Conroy’s package, which introduced an element of common sense into what is in essence a profoundly anti-competitive piece of regulation favouring the free-to-air TV cartel.
Day after day the Murdoch media empire exposes its monopolised gutter filth, acting like a dog on heat seeking to justify its gutter crawling journalism. It isn’t working. Truth could, but mud raking has made Murdoch’s fortune. He knows not decency so he cannot try it.
And the political journalists at these excuses for newspapers would know that they only retain their jobs on the basis that Murdoch is paying them to write merely what he demands them too. They have no choice. In other words they prostitute their professional ethics for money. They also know that the life of their jobs is dependent only on the lifespan of the owner.
But what about self-promotion that might work.
Comment should not be cheap
December 04, 2013 12:00AM
REGARDLESS of what he is writing about – the Gallipoli centenary, Labor’s existential turmoil or the policy pratfalls of a new government, as he is today – our editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, brings his penetrating insight and peerless authority.
The Australian is blessed with writers such as Dennis Shanahan on politics, Greg Sheridan on foreign affairs, John Durie on business and Judith Sloan and David Uren on economics, and many others in the top rank, who have lived through the big moments in the nation’s history and are able to provide readers with a sense of perspective, knowledge and balance on the issues of the day. Along with experienced editors, they allow us to cut through the noise and tumult of a frenetic news cycle to explain events.
Yet that can’t be said of all media outlets, especially when seasoned journalists are being traded for ones unable to see beyond the dazzle of the instantaneous fix of Twitter or web-first publishing. These callow reporters and trainee talking heads are setting the pace at Fairfax Media and the ABC, with their “breaking” views and zippy analysis five minutes after something has happened.
We can see the crude results in the way the Abbott government is being portrayed as bad, mad and chaotic by the baby faces in the press gallery and beyond. To date, the low-point of juvenilia was struck by John van Tiggelen, editor of The Monthly, old enough to know better but clueless about Canberra, who wrote about the Abbott government’s “onanistic reverence for John Howard” and described it as “this frat party of Young Liberals who refuse to grow up”.
This twaddle would be harmless if these ill-informed innocents were on the fringes of new media, learning their craft in the minor leagues. Alarmingly, these infantile musings reflect the priorities of their organisations: it’s a reverse-publishing model, which sees the trivialities of Generation Y setting the agenda for once-venerable newspapers, which traditionally served older, educated, middle-income readers in Sydney and Melbourne.
No wonder Fairfax Media editors have lost touch with loyal readers and the respect of the old-hands still in the newsroom. At the ABC, Triple-J alumni have wrested cultural and editorial control in the face of insipid leadership from managing director Mark Scott and his news director, Kate Torney. You wonder if anyone’s really in charge at Pyrmont, Docklands and Ultimo and how long this idiocy can last.
Well it looks like that hasn’t worked. What’s left? That’s the big question.
I have a suggestion. Just close shop and save a lot of money. But I’m sure the board will do that anyway when the stench leaves the boardroom.
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