Like kids in a lolly shop

Australia’s cross media laws are soon to be changed by the Howard government, effectively allowing media moguls such as Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch to own both a television station and newspaper in the same city. We can predictably expect a lessening of media diversity and increased necessity for alternative information.

Last night on PM, they examined the current attitudes of the key players. Reporter David Mark told of yesterday’s meeting of media executives discussing future options. The Sydney Morning Herald did not report this event today, unsurprisingly, as the last years have seen a reluctance by senior Fairfax management to allow open debate on the matter. Why? The Fairfax board and a number of senior editorial staff support the changes to cross media, in the delusional idea that the newspaper company will be able to expand into the TV market. The Murdoch minions, meanwhile, have long supported “opening” up the market.

Alan Revell, Group Executive of Fairfax: “…you look at it from a Fairfax perspective and there are three commercial television networks and there are two major newspaper companies and if there’s a game of musical chairs, I don’t expect the newspaper companies will be one of the ones left without a seat.”

Revell was brought back to reality by Media buyer Belinda Rowe from Optimedia: “I think probably the most vulnerable target would be Fairfax, even though it’s probably a bit expensive. Austereo would potentially be another kind of play, but people might say Austereo’s also expensive, so it’s interesting you’ve got two panellists here that are probably quite vulnerable potentially.”

SBS Managing Director Nigel Milan, a minor player in a very big pond, seemed comfortable taking John Howard’s word on face value: “I’m only 50 per cent convinced there’ll be any change at all. The Prime Minister made it very clear unless there was a degree of collegiality between the major players, that he wasn’t going to go into a controversial piece of legislation. You’ve got to bear in mind the Government makes no money out of this. There’s only pain and dissatisfied customers. So unless there is a high degree of collegiality between the major players, it may well be that nothing happens.”

And this is exactly the point. As I wrote recently, the Packers, Murdochs and overseas players will be strongly lobbying the government for the changes, as long as they get the assets they’ve long desired.

Never trust a media mogul (or a Howard government promise.)

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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