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News Limited and self-regulation

News Limited’s tawdry campaign proves Conroy’s point.

After Rupert Murdoch’s chickens came home to roost spectacularly in the UK, his emus are scuttling about in Australia.

The entire Australian organisation is attacking the federal Government over proposed legislation to strengthen media self-regulation.

Absolutely predictable. News Limited is the main perpetrator of media abuses in Australia. And hence the strongest proof the current self-regulation system is useless. Naturally it will squeal when called to account.

Intriguingly, we are seeing precisely the same tactics deployed against the Minister for Communications Senator Conroy and his proposed rule changes as gave rise to the need for them in the first place.

News Corporation in the UK now admits to having hacked the phones of a murdered schoolgirl, and of countless public figures, and of deceased servicemen and their families. All this they denied for years with point blank lies.

They have been found to have fabricated damaging stories about their enemies and suppressed stories damaging to their friends. They have been caught using criminal means to obtain information, including pay-offs to police. These they also lied about for years.

Several British editors and executives have now been sacked, others jailed or charged, and a newspaper shut down in shame.

In the USA, Murdoch’s Fox News is notorious for distortions, omissions and fabrications in political reporting. Outlets there bow to the whims of Rupert Murdoch regarding content. But the man himself is unaccountable.

Downunder, Justice Bromberg found Australia’s most widely read columnist Andrew Bolt guilty of multiple fabrications in Melbourne’s Herald Sun. The Federal Court judge found Bolt had no evidence for more than 19 damaging lies in his racially-motivated attacks against vulnerable Aboriginal people.

This was not a first for Bolt. For years he has waged campaigns against Aborigines and others based on falsehoods. He has been admonished by academics regarding his persistent refusal to write accurately about climate. He was found guilty of “very, very serious libel” in 2002.

No other media organisation in any other civilised nation would employ Bolt as a journalist.

Just a year earlier, Justice Stephen Kaye in the Victorian Supreme Court slammed Murdoch executives for lying to the court. In the matter of Bruce Guthrie’s wrongful dismissal the judge said he “had reservations about a number of features” of the evidence of News Limited’s then chief executive John Hartigan. “In my view Hartigan was an unreliable witness …”

Kaye was even more scathing of Herald and Weekly Times chief Peter Blunden. “The explanations given by Mr Blunden in evidence,” the judge said, “do not survive scrutiny”.

In the matter of Eatock v Bolt, Justice Bromberg also rejected the testimony of Murdoch executives.

The conclusion is inescapable: it is an organisation run by liars who employ lying editors to supervise lying reporters.

The Australian Journalists Association has a 12-point code of ethics. All twelve are now routinely violated by Murdoch employees.

In 2010 Herald Sun reporters lied about their identity to ensnare politicians in a British tabloid-like sting. They had the support of editors and executives – despite explicit condemnation in the code.

Most Murdoch publications are now merely spruikers for conservative political causes which they advance with distortion and lies. The frequency and viciousness of these crusades increased markedly after Labor came to power in late 2007.

In 2008 Glenn Milne in The Australian attacked PM Kevin Rudd over a risqué play in Gippsland which the local Labor candidate had promoted in his newsletter. Milne failed to disclose, however, that the tawdry theatrical event was actually approved and funded by the previous Howard Coalition Government.

Glaring examples since then are the relentless campaigns against the economic stimulus packages during the GFC, against climate change, against the mining tax, against the carbon tax, against internet security, against changes to discrimination laws and against the National Broadband Scheme.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was found by the Australian Press Council to have used false customer figures in a news story on the NBN. Other Telegraph articles were found misleading by serious omission. The Council expressed concern that “within a short period of time three articles on the same theme contained inaccurate or misleading assertions.”

The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story headed “Thousands of boat people to invade NSW”. The Australian Press Council found elements of the story to be “gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive”. The Council condemned the newspaper for “an especially serious breach of its principles.”

Murdoch outlets have attacked the PM ruthlessly over her alleged involvement with a union two decades ago. They have produced no evidence whatsoever of anything amiss and were forced to retract and apologise at least twice.

They have constantly attacked the Treasurer Wayne Swan who, according to external assessment has done a better than average job.

The last four years “have been disastrous for Australians,” claimed The Daily Telegraph in 2011. “There have been broken promises, billions lost in wasteful spending and economic mismanagement and sheer incompetence.”

This was the month Australia gained its triple A credit rating with all agencies for the first time ever. And shortly after The New York Times reported “Australia’s economy has been booming”.

In February this year, The Australian ran a cover story headed “Mutiny kills PM’s Bob Carr plan”. It contained at least six “revelations” relating to the appointment of Bob Carr as Foreign Minister. All six were soon proven fabricated.

Murdoch publications have campaigned against all Labor state governments. News reporters at Brisbane’s Courier-Mail were instructed to use the news pages to drive a campaign targeting then Premier Anna Bligh.

The campaign against the Greens, and former leader Bob Brown in particular, has been particularly vicious.

An editorial in The Australian declared “We believe he (Brown) and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box.”

These are not just vigorous campaigns confined to the opinion pages, which would not be so objectionable. But crusades fought with distortion and lies in the news content.

Can anything be done? Ex employee Bruce Guthrie who defeated News Limited in court in 2010 believes “you can bite back against Murdoch”.

Senator Conroy seems to be attempting exactly that. Will he succeed? We shall see.

Guest post by Alan Austin.

Alan is an Australian freelance journalist currently living in Nîmes in the South of France, but who returns to Australia regularly. His interests are religious affairs, the economics of development and integrity in government and the media. He has been published in many print outlets and worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit. He has also worked as a journalist with the aid agency World Vision and the Uniting Church.


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  1. Ken Atkinson

    Thank you Alan for providing us with such a well constructed and irrefutable piece of work. You have clearly and factually provided the evidence for the need to strengthen the so called self regulation in the print media. It is high time News Ltd. In Australia is held accountable for it’s disgraceful actions. When we hear them screaming blue murder as they currently are, then we know we are on the right track.

  2. andyrob65

    Bloody perfect review of the situation.

    Alan, lets add one more to the list, ASHBYGATE. who was named in Judge Rares’ decission. A News ltd employee…..STEVE LEWIS

  3. fair suck of the sav

    Good on you Alan for calling it as it is. That someone as shallow, mendacious and vacuous as Abbott should be elected as PM shows you how serious the decline of democracy is in this country. Shades of Reagan here which spoke a lot about the USA at the time. Make no mistake about it there is a war going on at the moment between the government and News Ltd with useful sites like this one providing an alternative view.

    This war is a lot more subtle that Orwell’s 1984, kind of like a virus that is seeking to enwrap us all. Your article shows clearly that in spite of Australia’s financial success recognised internationally News Ltd refuses to acknowledge this for its own economic and political advantage. A plague on all their houses: Fox, News Corp UK and News Ltd Oz.

  4. Steve Foy

    ………and ‘Utegate’ by the same News Ltd and the same Steve Lewis.

  5. Miglo

    And Lewis knowing in advance the pending arrest of Craig Thomson.

  6. didisaythataloud

    Excellent work, Alan. Interesting that as it stands the only thing I believe is that the legislation is about to be put to parliament – all other press commentary is set aside until I see for myself what happens.

    What a state of affairs.

  7. Heather

    Thankyou Alan. You have made the case as clear as possible. And AndyRob is right Slippergate and Ashbygate most definitely need to be added.

  8. Debra

    Alan … THANK YOU. This is not about partisan politics — we need to sort our news out, regardless of who we vote for. This is dumbing down the nation and it is inexcusable and unacceptable. It all seems to hinge on ‘free speech’ and the historically biased nature of newspapers. Enough is enough. People have been played liked fools by the Murdoch Press for long enough. Even on the issue of ‘free market’ … failing circulation states that the market has spoken. Yet those of us who do not even buy these rags of ‘news’ papers get drowned in the personal and biased opinions they scream from every head line, every day. It is not just a case of ‘don’t like it – don’t buy it!’ — most of us ARE NOT buying it — but it these headlines and warped personal opinions are generally broadcast across the media and so forced on all of us. I’m very angry about this. It isn’t right. What can be done about it?

  9. johnlord2013

    Always enjoy your work Alan. Spot on factually.

  10. Robert Roestenburg

    Thank you Alan. A breath of fresh air in an otherwise chocked filled atmosphere ruled over by Murdoch! Your insights should be printed in the Australian! (No such luck however!) Polling has shown that people are just not buying the non-sense that passes as journalism these days. The media is filled with opinion makers who insinuate the slants that they wish you to take on board. Keep up the insights! I need to be able to drink from the clean water of balanced information rather than choke on the poluted muck that is the News Ltd.

  11. Ricky (Tory Torcher)

    Alan, thank you for your excellent contribution. I have nothing more to add other than Murdoch’s blur of the line between opinion and news. All opinion pieces should be labeled like cigarettes, poison, dangerous goods.

    In fact I would like to see clear labeling of this toxic product. “Contains opinion”…..”Report”….

    Reporting is a dying art. Most Journalist now prefer opinion to reporting as it makes them feel important, like rock stars without the rock.

  12. Truth Seeker

    Alan, great article, laying out the reasons why we need, at least, what Conroy is proposing.
    I personally would prefer a Canadian style Truth in media legislation, but anything is better than what we have at the moment.
    I would love to see Ken”Bone dome” Williams arguing as to why we shouldn’t have “Truth” in media. Mmmmm

    I have written my own thoughts on Tony Abbott’s puppet master, Murdoch in “Is Tony Abbott Australia’s own Silvio Berlusconi”, “Tony Abbott’s arse selling” and “The real cost of Abbott’s arse”

    Cheers 😀

  13. silkworm

    Let’s not forget the AWU non-scandal.

  14. William Telfson

    News Ltd’s coverage of the recent change to the unclaimed money legislation, in which they lead the reader to believe the government was taking money away from people (note the picture of Wayne Swan with his greedy hands), was certainly closer to fiction than fact. Good enough example for you, Mr Williams?

  15. patriciawa

    Well done, Alan! Good work = well expressed and well researched! An article to be forwarded and its information therein spread as widely as possible.

  16. Spiro Fragopoulos

    Thank you Alan,a very succinct artickle and hitting the nail on the head..The only drawback it has is that it is Factual and precise.That may be good for anyone with a bit of interest in the truth, and fair play..But would be anathema to the populist 3 word slogan merchants yelping after the dog whistle the Cons are blowing..Their attention span is limited and the most sophisticated yelp they can come up with,,is,”Burn the witch”.After which they fall back with a self satisfied smirk and congratulate each other,,We saw an example of their mindset in The Canberra public Galley this week..Poor bugger my country allright,,

  17. Buff McMenis

    Congratulations for a clear and clean comment on the perilous situation we find re Australian News publications and broadcasts. But what an indictment on our News that it is a journalist from overseas, no matter whether Australian or not, who has the guts to stand up to Murdoch and lately Fairfax and the ABC. Such a shame that the very few journalists who match Mr. Austin and who are still living and working in Oz are either no longer employed by one of the MSM outlets or are too feared for their jobs to make comments on the unfair, distorted, lying comments about anyone who doesn’t fit the limited and biased outlook of Murdoch. I have a strong resentment towards an American who sold his Australian citizenship for the sake of American newspapers and TV outlets. And the power this gave him over a country which at the time was the most powerful in the world. Shame it isn’t any more, Mr. Murdoch (times 3?).

  18. 2353

    NewsCorp seem to be worried sick about the possibility of some regulation – interesting indication of the current level of morals and ethics I think.

    Food post Alan – well done.

  19. Pingback: Sane analysis and comment on media reform | Australians For Honest Politics

  20. Tom R

    Excellent article Alan, a concise and informed portrayal of all that is wrong with newslibited in todays media landscape. The facts within are evidence enough for the need for media reform, and yet they just scratch the surface. Well done.

  21. Möbius Ecko

    In 2006 the Howard government to appease the Nationals proposed harsher and more intrusive media control akin to authoritarian regimes than the current mild proposal.

    Where’s the outcry of hypocrisy against the opposition and their supporters?

  22. Pingback: News Limited’s campaign confirms need for media regulation | Independent Australia

  23. Pingback: News Limited’s hysterical campaign confirms need for media regulation | OccuWorld

  24. Joy Cooper

    Just remembering when Julia Gillard, still in Opposition graciously allowed the press into her very modest home for a photo shoot. All they could talk about was her empty bloody fruit bowl!!! It was as if this was a metaphor for the despicable Senator Bill Heffernan’s disgraceful slur in calling her deliberately barren. (A term he never directed at his colleague Julie Bishop. Well not in public.)

    No mention, of course, that she had just arrived home from Canberra & that the photo shoot was stopping her from doing any shopping. Then again she may not have thought that shopping was high up on her list of priorities.

    Empty fruit bowl indeed!! Things do not seem to have changed much amongst the empty-headed media.

  25. Fed up

    Yes, one should fill that bowl, even if there is no one there to eat the fruit, just let it go rotten.

    Most homes look like that when one is away for time.

  26. Pingback: Blog 4: News Sources’ – Trinity Blogs

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