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  • Aug, 2012

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    Owning The Press–and Democracy

    Jennifer Hewett, may I introduce to you a man by the name of A.J. Liebling. While Hewett may live in the world of the Fantasy Review, Liebling lived in the real world of media, where power and democracy often clashed.

    Liebling, a long-time American journalist, observed quite correctly that, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

    Which doesn’t seem to occur to Hewett, or she simply wants to conveniently smudge the truth. Today, she’s acting as the willing mouthpiece for The Empty Suit, leader of the Coalition, who is bent out of shape by the government’s inclination to make some modest attempts to preserve a modicum of freedom of speech. Hewett, on behalf of The Empty Suit, attacks Wayne Swan:

    Add to that Abbott’s attack on government bullying for claiming Gina Rinehart is a “danger to democracy’’ over her refusal to endorse Fairfax Media’s existing editorial charter. Case closed apparently. It’s surely in the public interest to have greater controls on media “bias’’, on institutionalising the ability to demand corrections and on who gets to own media outlets to pursue their own agendas. Hear, hear, Wayne. [emphasis added]

    Wait just a minute. Who is the burden on exactly? Wayne Swan and the government? Or Gina Rinehart? Recall, as we discussed a number of times, even Malcom Turnbull was on the side of the position that Rinehart had to sign the editorial independence charter:

    Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull also said the board’s reluctance to give Mrs Rinehart board seats was understandable ”without a commitment to supporting editorial independence . . . If Fairfax, for example, were seen to be a mouthpiece of Gina Rinehart and a ‘spokes vehicle’ for the mining industry that would undermine its business model dramatically.”

    Rinehart cannot even agree to a basic requirement to adhere to a code that has been broadly accepted, the questions should be aimed at her motivations, not Wayne Swan’s motivations. But, in the world of the Fantasy Review, reality plays a very small role.


  • Jun, 2012

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    With “White Knights” Like This, Who Needs Enemies? Show Gina The Door.

    The “I, Gina” show kicked into high gear last night. Now, her lordship is threatening–oh, please, wait while we cower–to walk away from Fairfax if she doesn’t get her way. It may be raining on some but Fairfax should see this as the sun shining through and bid her goodbye–and, if possible, add a swift kick in the backside on the way out.

    The day dawns and bring us this news:

    GINA RINEHART hopes to be a ”white knight” for Fairfax Media, but might sell her shareholding unless she is offered positions on the board without ”unsuitable conditions”.

    The mining entrepreneur told the ABC’s Four Corners program, via her company Hancock Prospecting (HPPL), that she would be prepared to sell the 18.6 per cent chunk of the company’s stock that she holds and consider investing again if her demands were later met.

    ”Fairfax’s largest three mastheads [including the Herald] have been declining in circulation for five years, a long time,” Hancock Prospecting said. ”Fairfax’s share price has also declined … approximately 90 per cent.

    ”HPPL had hoped that Mrs Rinehart may be viewed by the board as a successful business person and a necessary ‘white knight’ with mutual interest in a sustainable Fairfax, however unless director positions are offered without unsuitable conditions, Mrs Rinehart is unable to assist Fairfax at this time,” the statement said. ”HPPL may hence sell its interest, and may consider repurchasing at some other time.” [emphasis added]

    There is so much wrong with this story it’s hard to decide where to begin. First, can someone please point out, in the story, that a “white knight” does not include arriving on the scene and, as a first act, commence to soil  (this may still be a “family site” so just trying to be somewhat restrained) a fundamental principle of the business, in this case, editorial independence. Indeed, the Fairfax board is showing, so far, a modicum of spine on that principle, which, not withstanding the awful unconscionable cuts ordered even though the CEO and top management is not taking a hit, one has to give those folks credit for:

    The Fairfax board has been resisting her push, and insisting she abides by the company’s Charter of Editorial Independence, which states that board members do not interfere with the content of the newspapers. Mrs Rinehart, reportedly, will not agree to that charter.

    This being a family site, let us just say, mildly, Gina, go fuck yourself. There are some things that very rich people do not understand and that is principle. Principles that are stronger than (a) the whims of a rich person and (b) principles that are more important to society than the needs and ego of one person.

    The Fairfax board should go further than simply resisting. End the charade. Tell the “I, Gina” show it’s not welcome in this town.


  • Feb, 2012

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    Impact of Gina Rinehart on Independence of Fairfax Newspapers

    Q. Gina Rinehart (mining company owner and Australia’s wealthiest person) has recently bought a major stake in Fairfax newspapers (publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age). Do you think this will make Fairfax newspapers reporting of politics and business more balanced and independent, less balanced and independent or will It make no difference?

    Total Vote Labor Vote Lib/Nat Vote Greens NSW Victoria
    More balanced and independent 7% 7% 8% 6% 11% 5%
    Less balanced and independent 31% 35% 22% 62% 33% 31%
    Make no difference 44% 36% 55% 23% 38% 46%
    Don’t know 19% 22% 15% 9% 18% 18%

    44% think that Gina Rinehart’s purchase of a major stake in Fairfax will make no difference to the balance and independence of the newspapers. 31% think this will make the newspapers less balanced and independent and only 7% think the newspapers will become more balanced and independent.

    Greens voters (62%) and respondents aged under 35 (37%) were most likely to think the newspapers will become less balanced and independent and Liberal/National voters least likely (22%).

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