There is an ongoing hatred between the Australian left blogosphere and News Corp – The Australian in particular. To pick out just one example, here is John Quiggin having a go at the Oz.
If the Oz were a blogger, I’d be expecting about now to see the full meltdown post in which some combination of personal hell/substance abuse/mental illness is revealed. But I have no idea how the process ends in the case of a national newspaper employing a large number of journalists, some of them with a substantial track record.
My theory is that The Australian behaves like a newspaper – critically holding those in authority to account with little fear or favor. They have been very critical of the Rudd-Gillard government because (1) they are the government and (2) there has been much to criticise. The left don’t take well to non-believers.
Then there is this piece by Jason Wilson at The Drum.
Here, News controls 70 per cent of combined national and metropolitan media newspaper markets. But that figure masks monopolies in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and a range of provincial centres like Townsville, Cairns and Geelong. They also own the only major national daily, The Australian (we can leave aside the more specialised and niche-directed Australian Financial Review).
But why leave aside the Fin Review? It is a national daily. To simply claim that it is specialised misses the point. Fairfax have a national daily, and despite it being a very good paper, it is struggling. Its price is probably too high, its internet strategy is poor, and it doesn’t campaign on behalf of business or indeed run any campaigns at all. The ability to run a sustained campaign to influence public opinion, and be taken seriously, must be the hallmark of an influential newspaper. It is here that News – The Australian in particular – succeeds where Fairfax doesn’t.
Wilson has another criticism of News – their involvement in Rugby League and
restraint of trade salary rorting at the Storm.
The News-owned club, in a league half-owned by News, was deliberately and systematically rorting the salary cap. The issue – not only for rugby league fans, but for all taxpayers who have subsidised rugby league’s operations and facilities – was one of accountability.
Was there an awareness of the salary cap problems at the upper echelons of News, or a failure of oversight in allowing the club to stray?
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is the biggest-selling newspaper in Sydney, and the major outlet for rugby league reporting. Brisbane’s Courier-Mail is the only daily in Brisbane, rugby league’s second city, and it’s sister paper the Sunday Mail is the only Sunday paper in the state.
Melbourne’s Herald Sun is the only paper in the Storm’s home city that gives rugby league even passing coverage.
All three are owned by News.
This criticism is underwhelming – Sydney and Melbourne have flagship Fairfax papers in the from of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Each of these papers outsells The Australian. If the StormGate story was newsworthy enough to seriously embarrass News Corp they would have pushed hard.
The concentration of resources and outlets in News’s hands mean fewer alternative voices were around to pursue questions about the degree of knowledge enjoyed or negligence shown by News’s upper organisational echelons in the Storm’s cheating.
I think Wilson is forgetting his publisher, the ABC – this organisation has the full financial backing of the Commonwealth and an explicit mandate to pursue the public interest (whatever that means). In the context of state-sponsored media with very-deep pockets it seems strange to single out a private organisation as having too much power and influence. That media presence has to earned every day through consumer choice, the ABC earns its media power through taxpayer coercion.