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Malcolm Fraser: Does it matter who owns our papers? Yes it does

The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald have maintained editorial independence since the foundation of the newspapers. It is an important principle of all great newspapers, but it is a principle that will…

Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam joined forces to protect the independence of The Age in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens in 1991. maintainyourage.org

The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald have maintained editorial independence since the foundation of the newspapers. It is an important principle of all great newspapers, but it is a principle that will almost certainly be snuffed out this week.

Gina Rinehart is expected to take control of the paper almost immediately. A spokesman for her has already said that the board should establish an appropriate direction for editorial policy. What can we expect? Opposition to the Emissions Trading Scheme, which is already law. Opposition to the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, which is already law. Policies that will support unbridled profits of great mining enterprises, perhaps polices not far short of those supported by the Tea Party and the Republican right in the United States. If this comes to pass, Australia will be effectively without independent print media.

Governments could not have stopped the failure of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald in their old form, because management has made serious mistakes. Instead of running the enterprises as one, they thought they could establish separate enterprises, one for the print media and one for the internet, or new media. This led to lack of strength on both counts and loss of advertisers, loss of support. These mistakes are directly attributable to incompetent board management.

Does it matter who owns our newspapers? Does it matter who controls the media? In far off days, which I am old enough to remember, Prime Minister Bob Menzies went into the federal parliament to prevent a British company buying four radio stations. He said it was wrong for people who do not belong to the country to own such a powerful instrument for propaganda.

The new owner of The Age certainly belongs to this country, but the principle Menzies enunciated carried with it further implications. Media should not be under the direct control of special interest groups whether they belong to this country or to other countries. That is why we need diversity of media ownership. That is why I stood on the back of a truck with Gough Whitlam overlooking Fitzroy Gardens long years ago, to try and prevent the Fairfax empire falling into foreign hands. A foreign owner has interests that are not ours. A mining magnate has specific industry interests that are not necessary those of Australia.

To say that it does not matter is to deny responsibility. What are governments to do? At the very least they could have preserved rules that would maintain diversity of media ownership. Those who own television stations should not own the print media. There should be a limit on the number of stations that any one person or corporation can own.

The economic rationalists might say that this will lead to inefficiencies. They are only concerned with the economic bottom line. A democracy is concerned with much more than that. A dictatorship could be more efficient than a democracy on that basis. You don’t need to pay all the politicians. Freedom and diversity have a cost. The economic bottom line does not always determine the best outcome. If it did, we would have no opera, no ballet, the arts would atrophy. The poor would be further impoverished.

For some time, Australian governments seem to have suggested that it does not matter who owns the print media, or for that matter television, perhaps a more powerful instrument for propaganda.

On many things, the political parties are at odds with the interests of Australians and with the views of many many people in Australia.

What can we look forward to? In present circumstances the print media espouses the most conservative economic policies. Policies that will enhance the obscene wealth of those who are ready extraordinarily wealthy, that will probably bind us even more tightly as a client state of the United States. No competition, no diversity, making it harder for people to make up their own mind, because people will not be given the choices as they were once given the choices. So much for Australia’s print media.

How much can new media, social media, the internet, Facebook or Twitter, The Conversation or advanced schools of journalism make up for these deficiencies? Certainly the internet makes it possible for people to read half a dozen papers each morning, or more, including journals that maintain high standards, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, the Financial Times or those with another language, French or German papers. Here we can find diversity. It is more and more readily available, it will certainly mitigate the coming lack of competition that will be evident in the Australian print media.

The Conversation and Crikey are probably Australia’s best efforts so far at overcoming the deficiencies, the narrowness of ownership and policy of the print media. Foxtel, although expensive, enables a great variety of news services and of commentaries to be readily available to Australians.

Two things are responsible for the destruction of Fairfax. Incompetent board management that has not understood the business it was running, together with governments that believe that ownership of powerful instruments for propaganda is of no account.

There are many countries that maintain nationality provisions for the ownership and control of important media within their borders.

There are no supporters however, for such policies amongst Australia’s current politicians. That may not matter if other forms of media can come to have greater and greater influence - but if politicians still believe the print media has a significant influence on policy and opinion, then we will be seeing policies sold to the highest bidder.

I was speaking to a couple of Americans from Los Angeles only two weeks ago. They told me that they feared their Presidential election would be bought by the candidate with the most money. Democracy for sale. We have not progressed quite as far as America, but we won’t be far behind.

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79 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Richard Widows

    logged in via Twitter

    Thank you Malcolm Fraser for continuing to remind us what it use to be like when we had politicians who stood up for what they believed. We are extremely naive if we think Gina's investment will result in anything more than increased fear campaigning around the Carbon Price and preaching about the value of mining to the Australian economy.

    We are at an extremely challenging point in history where huge decisions need to be made which will affect many generations not come; not least is ENDING FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES. How are we going to get anywhere with these discussions when our media is controlled by right wing, climate change denying interests?

    There is one person who is happy about this situation and that is Tony Abbott.

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    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Richard Widows

      Thank you for the needed critique of the media Malcom Frazer.
      Earlier this month in Whitlam Oration you highlighted how far we need to shift in our politics and support of our region. Your voice reminds us as a people we need to demand higher standards, as no one could imagine the Liberal opposition with your mindset being given a platform today. We are in dire need of leadership in Liberal Party and this article goes to demonstrate how shallow a pool the opposition have.

      Why is it surprising a business woman of Gina Rinehart's standing would bother with an obliviously ailing media business, when she has the world to choose plum investments? It can only be for control and power the group has too influence the political centre of gravity.

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  2. Margaret Rose STRINGER

    retired but interested

    Malcolm Fraser is, as he has always been, up front. The current face of his party is detestable; but were it one that resembled him in any way at all, we could look forward to being free of the current hideous political gridlock. Oh, for a politician of honesty...
    These are frightening times. What Lang Hancock's daughter thinks she will be able to effect by buying her way in to so ailing a medium can only be surmised. But we have only to reflect upon Murdoch's god complex to be pretty sure.
    :-\

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  3. John Nicol

    logged in via Facebook

    Dear Malcolm,

    It is true that The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have been around for a long time and may have had a similar management policy of allowing editorial staff a free reign in controlling the content of the News Papers. I do remember the buoyant Menzies’ years, and also have observed the period, too long to mention, that the Fairfax group has been in trouble as a business.

    It is extraordinary to say the least that these two papers, which are the main daily news sheets of Australia’s…

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Nicol

      Your belief that The Age, which regularly features columns from Peter Costello, Amanda Vanstone and the shills from the IPA is "left wing" reflects your own position on the hard climate science denying right.

      I imagine from out there John, the small print on a Metcard ticket looks left wing.

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to John Nicol

      John Nicol's response doesn't even pretend to persuade. Instead it attempts, by sheer, mind numbing volume of verbiage, to stop thought. One drops into a type of coma, reading this all too familiar ranting style, only to be jolted alert by propositions so preposterous as to make one wonder about the author's grasp on common reality.

      For example, in what boardroom, on what yacht, in what club is it the common sense that left wing graduates of left wing media studies and journalism courses are…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,

      Everything you read looks left because of where you now sit.

      Malcolm Fraser is not a "leftist", John... he is at worst, an echoing voice of the liberalism of Menzies.

      It is not Fraser who has changed his spots and thrown his lot in with the Trots, John... it is the Ginas (remember her enthusiasm for nuclear weapons as a mining technology?) the Clives, the Bolts, the Joneses and Princling Monckton who are redrawing the landscape of political thinking and discussion... and sadly John you are sitting there right in the thick of it surrounded by leftist plots, conspiracies and the threat of science.

      Malcolm has grown in stature in his retirement John - others it appears have shrunk and shrivelled. Sad really.

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    4. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to John Nicol

      Unlike Anthony Nolan, I found John Nicol's response to be detailed, thoughtful, and well-structured.

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Good for you Phillip.

      But then you think Gina is a "great achiever" who lies awake tossing and turning trying to create more jobs for us humble folks.... and a damned fine poet into the bargain.

      Poor old John is really out on the fringes of politics ... out with the Convoy of No Consequence railing against the world. And you're making the scones.

      Now be careful or I'll start dishing out more rhyming couplets at you :)

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    6. Ross Newham

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Nicol

      John,
      If Fairfax is/was the dying swan due to board incompetance as you suggest, then why would Gina (being the savvy investor that we're told she is) inject her funds into such a company? If you consider this, then the glaringly obvious scenario would be an attempt to procure a substantial media channel for her own views. I don't believe Ms Rinehart to be left, right or other - I believe her allegiences are only ever driven by the path of most benefit to her already stupendous stockpile of cash.

      And on the topic of Singleton/Rinehart etc - her opinion piece using the tinderbox topic of asylum seekers looking for work as a justification for her attempts to procure half price labour to rip minerals out of Australian soil for her own profit is downright disgusting.

      Mr Fraser - thankyou for a balanced insight.

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    7. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to John Nicol

      Go John Nicol.....
      ... 36 negatives scored to now....and, lots of name calling and personal insults, ...and really no sensible reasons why.
      Oh dear.

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    8. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Jobs for us humble folks from overseas on temporary visas, preferably at below industry standard wages.

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      True Tim - I'm sure that's the thinking behind it - or more ugly still - hired offshore by a subsidiary who then take a sizable chunk out of their pay packets for the duration.

      But with a bit of luck this will actually give our union officials something to do beyond negotiating redundancy packages ... be like the old days won't it?

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    10. Richard Ure

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ross Newham

      "why would Gina (being the savvy investor that we're told she is) inject her funds into such a company" for the same reason Rupert sank even more into the Wall Street Journal and within months wrote off over $2 billion.

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    11. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Richard Ure

      Why is there a waiting list for the latest Ferrari when the speed limit is (in WA) 110 kph?
      The answer is, I suppose, it's her money and she can do what the heck she likes with it.
      I don't understand all this paranoia about the dangers of her turning it into some Right Wing, anti government anti AGW paper. The only reason I can think of is fear in the hearts of those who disagree with her.
      In the post World War 2 Labour Britain, the Daily Mirror was somewhere to the Left of Mao. The Daily Express…

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  4. Colin MacGillivray

    Architect, retired, Sarawak

    "Certainly the internet makes it possible for people to read half a dozen papers each morning"
    For this reason it may therefore be less important today that a paper presents a broad range of views. Newspaper readership, even on-line, is declining and may soon be limited to an aging and discerning audience who can spot left or right wing bigots and move on.

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  5. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Ethos is as important as ownership; if the latter is necessary, it is nevertheless not sufficient. Let us consider Their ABC in that context.

    Sadly, far from being the excellent, independent, full-service public service broadcaster that it should be, what was Our ABC has degenerated into Their ABC - little more than a shell used as a cash cow for the profit-seeking media production sector, Macquarie Bank's apparently lucrative transmission monopoly, Newscaff journalism displaying a capacity for…

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  6. Cain Roberts

    PhD Student at University of Melbourne

    Mr Fraser, thank you for making this contribution and for making it on The Conversation – a shining light on a diminishing hill of independent reporting and opinion. Ms Rinehart owns enough, she does not need to own what we read and as a consequence, influence how we think.

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  7. Suzy Gneist

    Multiple: self-employed, employed, student, mother, volunteer, Free-flyer

    Ethos is important - and not just in media or business, but in the entire country, even world.
    I feel very concerned about developments around the world at the moment, the decline of democracy, the voices of ignorance and selfishness that continue to promote a failing economic model and its global impacts for the benefit of its own generation only, and contest any evidence to the contrary noisily rather than take responsibility and engage in intelligent action... The loss of a few papers seems insignificant…

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  8. Warwick Brown

    Retired

    "have maintained editorial independence since the foundation of the newspapers"

    Oh that’s nonsense. Well for the smh it is. Going back into history mightn’t be that profitable, but faced with such a ridiculous statement we have to breeze over it, at least. Take the industrial disputes of the 1890’s, WWI and conscription, Jack Lang etc but it was Malcolm Fraser who says ‘since the foundation’.More recently Warwick Fairfax (senior) and the changes in political views in 1961, and more recent examples…

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  9. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    The far more telling outcome, lest you all forget in your agonising over print media which is a load of shit anyway, and always has been, is that people are no longer bothering to participate. It's already happening.

    As Malcolm rightly points out, the concern is primarily a concern of governments. The concern rightly swings around media as "such a powerful instrument of propaganda". Nowhere else can the blame lie than with the media and government itself.

    Many of us have been pointing this…

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Go Gil Hardwick.....
      You note:- "As Malcolm rightly points out, the concern is primarily a concern of governments. The concern rightly swings around media as "such a powerful instrument of propaganda". Nowhere else can the blame lie than with the media and government itself."

      Ok, but I think it IS us to blame because "we" (due to our failure of education & THOUGHT) AND, resistance, not only "religiously believe" Media disinformation and it's "agenda" but we ALSO keep buying their crooked papers…

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  10. markus fitzhenry

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Lighten up readers, the progressive world is not going to collapse just because Gina wants an outlet for her insightful poetry.

    3 on topic quotes:

    Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
    George Orwell (1903-1950) British novelist, essayist, and critic.

    Don't believe everything that you read in the newspapers.
    Andrew Card (Born May 10, 1947) is a Republican American politician

    Winners are grinners.
    Gina Rinehardt (Born 9 February 1954) is an Australian businesswoman in the mining industry.

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    1. Ron Chinchen

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to markus fitzhenry

      Problem is Markus that the majority of Australians ( and I dont mean to be condescending of the masses) are naive and gullible and will believe often to their own detriment the propoganda espoused by those with influence. It never ceases to amaze me when I talk with people I know, living their quiet family oriented lifestyles in the 'burbs, how little they really know about the world around them. Its not because they arent intelligent. Rather it is probably because most people will accept willingly…

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    2. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      "What a successful con the mining companies perpetrated and yet the majority of the population fell into line opposing what in the end would have benefitted them markedly."

      I think, not so because generally, profits are "Invested" and taxes are "mainly wasted"....

      Also, the Gov is saying you risk everything & if you don't go broke we will change the rules "just for you"...so we can get your money.

      Generally taxes increases REDUCE OZ CAPITAL to invest & cause more Oz debt and don't encourage risk and employment in Oz.....

      The Govt should want Oz owned business making more ...and get us out of our HUMUNGOUS debt which we can not service.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      Heck Bill I don't know what sort of artistry you do but I'm suspecting it's got more than a passing attachment to my avatar thing.

      Do you pollute your opinions with any facts at all? If so, give me some of your facts behind this little outburst: "....and get us out of our HUMUNGOUS debt which we can not service."

      Probably a photorealist!

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    4. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Australia reported a current account deficit equivalent to 14892 Million AUD in the first quarter of 2012. Historically, from 1959 until 2012, Australia Current Account averaged -4095.9200 Million AUD reaching an all time high of 292.0000 Million AUD in December of 1972 and a record low of -20503.0000 Million AUD in March of 2008. Current Account is the sum of the balance of trade (exports minus imports of goods and services), net factor income (such as interest and dividends) and net transfer payments (such as foreign aid). This page includes a chart with historical data for Australia Current Account.

      http://www.tradingeconomics.com/australia/current-account

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      Now Bill this is where you're getting yourself into strife .... it's the "which we can not service" bit.

      See it all depends on the CAD as a proportion of GDP ... using uncorrected dollar values just gives people the terrors without reason.

      First up - this deficit is primarily private ... not government Bill and a lot of it is actually capital gear for the mining boom... this is Gina and Twiggy and Clive going shopping ... goods and services ...more in than out ... but when this humungous lump of investment actually starts flogging our rocks to the world the numbers will close then turn around ... more out than in.

      If you'd like a more economically literate approach than you'll find on a website for number focussed speculators like trading economics try this: http://archive.treasury.gov.au/documents/1087/PDF/02_ABE_Keynote.pdf

      An oldie (2005) but a goodie... and you'll sleep a lot better too.

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    6. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      The current account deficit, seasonally adjusted, rose $5,253m (55%) to $14,892m in the March quarter 2012.

      The fact we have current account deficits means we must borrow money to pay our interest bills and/or sell more of the farm.

      A quote .."So in other words we sold lots of new financial assets to foreigners so we could pay them the interest we owed them stemming from their previous purchases."

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      We? You mean the taxpayer must borrow money to fund the Current Account Deficit?

      Selling the farm is what we do here ... not the government, the characters that own farms. Some farms are being sold by the tonne ... but one way or another there will be less here at the end of it.

      Not sure what you are meaning by the quote or where it's from ... sounds more like the USA where they were selling "new financial assets" to foreigners to whome they had previously sold financial assets.... The US has been living on selling bonds and anything else it could fabricate to the Chinese since the mid-80s.

      But it's not actually relevant to Australia, or the CAD or the current surge in private spending on capital goods. You're just frightening yourself with all these imagined shadows Bill.

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    8. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "Selling the farm is what we do here" ...seems you finally get it.

      Re your "not the government" comment.
      Can you recall Howard sold a huge amount of Gov (read public) assets to get us of Fed debt?

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to William Bruce

      No Bill... I have already explained that the Current Account Deficit is not. that is NOT - government debt... it is private debt ... it is the excess of in over outs - imports over exports. The government (we, taxpayers) do not buy these imports...private persons and corporations buy them. They include a heck of a lot of mining equipment.

      At some point this mining equipment will start digging up these farms and other bits of dirt you like and will stick it on ships and our Current Account Deficit will start to look a lot better.

      But remember it is private and not public debt accruing through the Current Account. No one will come knocking on your door demanding a few million off the Current Account Bill, unless of course you've bought a few Kotmatsu 45 Tonne trucks in the last few months.

      Now stop frightening yourself and go spatter some paint about.

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  11. David Poynter

    Medical Scientist

    To say that the 'Age' and 'SMH' have editorial independence is really little more than semantics.

    Sure their charter says that the board can't impose its will on the editors.

    But surely the Owner / Board has control over who is appointed as Editor.

    One simply has to appoint as Editor a person with the same world-view as the owner. Problem solved. In that way the Editor can then redirect the thrust of the paper (left, right, or green) by replacing the 'problem' journalists with further like minded staff, or at least journalists capabale of divining what the owner would want (without having to actually involve said owner). Voila - editorial independence.

    The 'Age' is/was a green mouthpiece because somewhere in the chain of command - owners - board members - green is/was the preferred colour.

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to David Poynter

      Re so called "editorial independence".
      Exactly right David.......and I'll bet it is not only Editors & Journos that know well what Mr Murdoch & other MSM owners expect......
      Furthermore, a handful of media owners (&/or their Bankers) control all Western MSM under the fraudulent basis there is "editorial independence"...Is there any wonder why we have such huge problems in all the West and BEYOND.....and such a need for the likes of Assange, Manning & "The Conversation".

      This week, we saw evidence…

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  12. Jason Boudville

    logged in via Facebook

    If Gina and Co. could oust the Prime Minister in a few weeks of introduction of the Resource Super Profits tax, just imagine what they'll be able to do soon?

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  13. Jack Arnold

    Director

    So it appears from this insightful analysis that Malcolm Fraser would NOT support a US citizen owning Australian media.

    Uhm ... now about News Ltd where Mr Rupert Murdoch, US citizen, is the CEO???

    In my experience, foreigners & miners seldom have the best interests of the Australian people at heart.

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  14. Diana Taylor

    retired psychotherapist

    Well, if Gina does take over the Fairfax press, it will crumple anyway through alienation of the readers. In that case, the Murdoch press will have free reign. She can't lose, but democracy will lose.

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    1. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Diana Taylor

      Then Gina will have lost a lot of her money. If she doesn't take it over, it is dying anyway, and the current investors will lose their money.
      So Gina is doing the current investors a favour.

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  15. Richard Ure

    logged in via Facebook

    If Gina takes the Fairfax papers to the right, won't she just fragment that market, which she will then share with the Oz, making both of them even less viable?

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Richard Ure

      Sadly Richard the sort of vehicle Gina is constructing will not be remotely like the Australian or anything else we have seen in the country - unless you count Bob Santamaria's News Weekly or the Spartacist.

      The model advocated by Monckton in the clip I posted here is Fox News - Murdoch's deeply sinister rant machine where shock jocks and fringe-dwelling haters are given a national platform to fabricate lies, fuel paranoia and create a climate of fear and loathing... where nothing is true... where…

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    2. Richard Ure

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      The voting system in the world’s Greatest Democracy is so dysfunctional with fragmented electoral rolls, most important voting conducted in winter, too many offices to vote on, polling booths under resourced with the apparent discretion to deny electors voting papers and of course it’s not compulsory. It would take a substantial effort from an identifiable source with a clear agenda to change that culture, particularly since the pollies are not in favour of changing compulsory voting.

      Hopefully people who read (unlike Fox viewers) retain some critical faculties.

      Sadly, your views about serious journalists lending a veneer can be right. The point has been made that senior journalists like Paul Kelly espouse user pays views while working for the subsidised sheltered workshop that is the Oz.

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    3. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Richard Ure

      Yes, Everyone is jumping up and down and abusing Gina Rinehart when in fact they do not have a single clue what she has in mind. She may do anything. She sure has a somewhat more capable business mind than anyone, apparently, on the board of Fairfax. The Editorial staff who have been singularly responsible (since the board can't interfere) for losing circulation, are probably even less capable than the board.

      I have never seen a forum which contains so much suppoasition and prognosis from so littel knowledge.

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    4. John Nicol

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Richard Ure

      Richard,

      The "subsidised" Oz as you call it, if it is subsidised, is not paid by you and me, but by the rest of the Murdoch Empire.

      Nevertheless one wonders why it has such a large circulation both in printed form across Australia and comprehensively on the internet with a very well written news and commentary, which most people here believe is "only" Right Wing propaganda, mainly I suspect because they don't read the paper very much if at all. I guess Graham Richardson, Barry Cohen, Julia…

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    5. Doug Green

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to John Nicol

      Firstly, I read "The Australian" daily, as it is supplied by my workplace, and I have done so for more years than I would care to remember. It has always been conservative/right wing/corporate in its editorial tendencies and news priorities. However it used to be the voice of an intelligent, reasoned conservatism. It held itself above the tabloid ranting and hysteria, and largely relied on reason and argument to present its case. It also had, and occasionally still does, some very interesting review/arts…

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Doug Green

      I suspect you'd have a reasonable workers' compensation claim right there Doug ...the Australian provided by your employer... it's brutal.

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    7. Doug Green

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      It's dreadful Peter. Especially for anyone who values balance, transparency, integrity in their news reportage.

      Chris Mitchell (with Rupert's blessing, of course) has taken what was once an intelligent, considered, reasonable organ of conservative viewpoint...and removed the intelligence, consideration, reason to replace it with flagrant bias, hysteria and pettiness.

      The laugh is, of course, that, in a mainstream media environment monopolised by Rinehart and Murdoch publications, Rupert may well come to be seen as the voice of reason. A defacto mainstream left-wing, if you like.

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  16. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    Dear Malcolm,

    For your information, in Australia a radio station needs a Government-issued licence. Publication of a newspaper does not, at least not yet. However you seem to suggest that governments should licence, regulate or control print media when you say "together with governments that believe that ownership of powerful instruments for propaganda is of no account."
    Besides English, French and German, other people on the planet speak even more popular languages such as Spanish and Mandarin…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Geez Phil, do you actually write this?

      See normally I understand what you're saying - even though I almost invariably disagree with it... but these strangled sentences have had the meaning throttled out of them. More like stuff from a PR flak accustomed to having her opinions for hire.

      OK I'll bite... this bit: "To simply blame management for Fairfax's perilous state is to ignore the reality that it was lack of editorial diversity that contributed to this state."

      Now what do you actually mean here Phillip?

      Do you mean that Gina is going to bring in a new era of "editorial diversity"? What do you actually mean by that?

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      I don't know if you are putting more effort in today, John Dowling, than you usually do but the prose style above is distinctively different from your usual writing. It bears resemblance to the contribution, earlier today, of another person not least because of the manner of address - Dear Malcolm, (double space). These contributions, designed to do no more than muddy the waters and confound sensible discussion, appear to be coming from a common, purposeful source.

      The articles have in common the notable absence of any consideration of the role of the media in a liberal democracy. This is, I warrant, because the author(s) know little and care less about the political philosophy of democracy. These author(s), it needs to be understood, are not of the right; they are anti-democratic; they are, following Keane, Putinesque.

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    3. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony,
      Firstly, I read Jon's earlier powerful contribution.
      Secondly, I confess to following some simple aspects of his post.
      Thirdly, my contribution should be seen as supplementary to Jon's. I don't think that I could have improved on his and there was no point merely repeating it.
      Fourthly, when I reread Fraser's contribution, I realised that it simply didn't stand up to the most basic analysis. There are too many facts wrong, or omitted. He is merely writing in politic-speak - all fine sounding word and phrases that actually contain no relation to reality.
      As to "the role of the media in a liberal democracy", you fail to realise that the times have been achanging. The death of "The Bulletin" was the but the precursor of current changes. By the way do you follow NewMatilda or MenziesHouse or Professor Bunyip?

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    4. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      To put in simple terms for you, unfortunately all too often columns in Saturday's SMH consist of three or four people basically rehashing the same views about the same recent events.
      If you removed articles from sources such as Snopes.com and mashable, or from The Guardian, the SMH would have large gaps.

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    5. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      Well, I imagine that if you had any real concern for democracy you would be saying something about now about the role of the media in a liberal democracy. Instead, you make a gnomic comment about The Bullie. It's a full WTF elision.

      Here's a middle ground statement of the issues: modern representative democracy is of too large a scale to allow for direct participation. Consequently, parliamentary democracy has developed a dependence on mass media for information and for accountability. The effective dissemination of information and a wide and diverse range of views depends on a plurality of media sources and ownership. Without this the capacity of civil society to monitor democracy is radically diminished.

      But you can't bring yourself to say that because...because...it has never occurred to you, has it?

      BTW: I'm not a follower.

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  17. Richard Ure

    logged in via Facebook

    At a time when media diversity and platforms were rather less than is the case today, “Goebbels’ greatest fear, it seems, was that the schedules would be so stuffed with propaganda that the German people would switch off in their droves. He was right to be concerned. Throughout the war, complaints were rife in the capital about the content aired on German radio, some decrying the exaggerated propaganda slogans, others demanding more live music.” Wolfram Wette, Ricarda Bremmer and Detlef Vogel (eds) Das letze Halbe Jahr, see, for instance pp. 196 and 246. cited in Berlin at War, Life and Death in Hitler’s Capital 1939-45 by Roger Moorhouse, p.206, The Bodley Head, London, 2010

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Richard Ure

      Interestingly I think this is just what is happening here....a recent statistic I saw indicated many people now don't believe MSM.

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  18. Lincoln N. Maurice

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Not to nitpick, but the "ETS"/"Emissions Trading Scheme" (aka a positive way to ensuring carbon emissions are adequately dealt with, in a fiscally responsible way) is not what we have in law. We have a carbon tax, which indiscriminately taxes all industries which produce carbon, whether it's an appropriate measure or not. This is not a good thing, and Fairfax's position on this as a bad thing should be well heard.

    Anyway, other than that, I agree that the newspapers could go through some disastrous changes, stripping them of their to-date relative integrity in favour of forced articles. That's a bad thing, but having said that, does not the ACMA have a position to ensure that levity is delivered by manjor broadcasters and publishers in Australia? I believe so.

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  19. Comment removed by moderator.

  20. Roger Crook

    Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

    How quickly we forget. It is as if the names of the 20th century Press Barons, Northcliffe, Rothmere, Beverbrook, Maxwell, Fairfax and Murdoch (before Rupert), the Hearst family and Robert McCormick mean nothing to us. We have little sense of history.

    We are still here, thriving, and part of the free world ‘in spite’, according to some, of the ulterior motives of the Right and Left Wing tub-thumpers and other Independent social manipulators of the past, capitalists all.

    Does the ‘Light’ still…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Roger Crook

      You reckon Gina's gone into debt Roger? Or Clive? Or Twiggy? Personally? Putting "their" money on the line?

      Numbers and refs please.

      See Roger there's a difference between all the moguls you've cited above and Gina and her mates who are behind this. One would assume that these investments by Buffet et al were designed to turn a quid ... unless you have evidence to the contrary. I can't see how Warren Buffet would want a loss-making soapbox. Does he ever make a loss on anything…

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    2. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Well, Twiggy was known around Perth as the man who couldn't do it. And he did. There is no secret that he 'did it' with the aid of Chinese bankers or backers and a certain faith demonstrated by his Australian shareholders. I believe they are called Australian investors and those who have faith in investing Australian funds in Australian industry. Have the Unions, who get paid 'quite' well invested? I don't know. I do know they draw their substantial wages.
      Old Lang didn't leave Gina as rich as many…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Yes Gina managed to make some sharp deals - once again using others money and some very good advice - but then buying up dirt in the Pilbara on spec is hardly a dumb bet is it? And it helps if dad left you a few mountains of iron ore that he found by accident as well.

      But you're right - generally I don't have much respect for folks that make money out of other people's stuff and other people's hard work,

      And you're right again - I have even less respect for Prince Monckton - who seems to…

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    4. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter you write, 'Churchill? Strewth where do they get you fellas from?'
      Churchill was ridiculed by all and sundry for predicting that Germany and Hitler were up no good and hell bent on war.
      I have spent a deal of time studying the life of WSC, I would recommend you read 'Winston Churchill' The Wilderness Years - Martin Gilbert. May I also suggest you brush up on your 1930's history when virtually alone, Churchill was warning both Britain and the world of the rise and rise of Germany in contravention…

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    5. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Yes, Warren Buffet does make losses ... despite the myth-making about him. He freely admits when he has. It is the percentage of profits to losses that matter.

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Sorry you found my comments "arrogant and assumptive" Roger ... they weren't intended to be - I just thought you might not know much about cattle ticks and what they do for a living.

      Now on a tangential issue: As for Churchill - he really had no one but himself to blame regarding his loss of credibility - he invariably got things wrong - about India, about Gandhi, about Africa and the collapsing Empire, about the tories, about everything pretty much ... ratting on his party, re-ratting his return…

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    7. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter,
      I have no wish to be moderated out for being ‘off topic’. That said, I cannot allow your comments on WSC to pass without comment. As you will discover if you follow the references below, he did not disappear into obscurity after his defeat in the General Election after WW2. Far from it. He became a Nobel Laureate, was a prolific writer and predicted the ‘Iron Curtin’ and Russia’s ambitions, to name just a few of his achievements.

      I believe ‘Road to Victory’ ‘Winston Churchill 1941 to 1945…

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    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Ok I'll have a look at your refs ... if you have a look at mine ...

      Graeme Freudenberg's "Churchill and Australia" ... an excellent read, sets out how Churchill's enthusiasm for the "English speaking peoples" was rather selective - didn't run to the Irish or the colonials in Australia at all...sets out how he was quite ready to suck every soldier out of here to defend Britain and was quite content to allow Japan to invade the place, which he would leave defenceless.

      and JM Keynes "The cost…

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  21. william gore

    property developer

    Good article Malcolm,
    but I take issue with your claim that, "Policies that will enhance ......., will probably bind us even more tightly as a client state of the United States".

    We are already a client state! A recent report from the journalist John Pilger states that In February, the government wrote a “WikiLeaks Amendment” to the extradition treaty between Australia and the US that makes it easier for them to get Assange. And that the Government has even given the US, power of approval over our Freedom of Information searches.

    Never mind the independence of a bloody newspaper, what about our country ???

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    1. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to william gore

      Very well said William and, I think Mr Fraser has said something like, he feels we are "too foreign dependant". ...Influenced?

      Importantly, our military & politicians need to consider we are perhaps not dealing with the same USA administration we did in the 40's......

      My view is the more independent we are the more secure we are and, the better ally we are.

      Perhaps we ought buy all these subs if we can...and the best ones too ,,German?...and no backhanders..

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  22. el don

    logged in via Twitter

    thanks malcolm for a great piece.
    succinct and to the point.

    unfortunately, i agree on every point he makes - but perhaps i am not even one of thsoe who believe that the smh should be classed entirely as a business. it is actually a 'national living treasure' as the japanese might put it. but then, the japanese have a more finely honed sense of tradition and heritage values in many ways.

    the sydney morning herald and the age are part of our heritage.
    it seems to me that rinehart only wants revenge - they did not print or not print what she wanted in the past, and now she is stamping her foot like the meglomaniac child.
    similar to what happened to the advertiser in adelaide...

    and now we'll all suffer.
    nothing to read except propaganda and popular tripe.
    the country will become more of an international laughing stock, populated by know-nothing pompous cashed-up bogans.
    even hildebrand is cashing in on our new brand...

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  23. Roger Crook

    Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

    Hands up all those who would buy a business and then give 'independence' to the managers and staff to do what they like with your investment.
    Seriously.

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    1. Richard Ure

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Rupert convinced the Establishment he did just that as a condition of taking over The Times of London.

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    2. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Richard Ure

      True, got away with it too!
      Lost the 'Screws of the World' though. 2% of the Empire was it?

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    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Google Mondragon, Roger. A ripper business that goes from strength to strength that is run as a co-op.

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    4. William Bruce

      Artist

      In reply to Roger Crook

      "Hands up all those who would buy a business and then give 'independence' to the managers and staff to do what they like..."

      Bull's-eye ...Roger wins, how perfectly succinct.

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    5. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to William Bruce

      A newspaper is not just another business. Only a dullard (or someone who thinks that the Current Account Deficit is government debt) would equate it to buying a milk bar.

      http://useconomy.about.com/od/glossary/g/Current_Account.htm

      If the Fairfax press was taken over by someone sympathetic to the Greens, you right-whingers would be screaming like stuck pigs.

      Democracy requires a plurality of views. Be careful what you wish for.

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  24. William Bruce

    Artist

    Seems the gist of Mr Frasers argument is :-

    "A mining magnate has specific industry interests that are not necessary those of Australia."

    And is this not true also of the existing owners?

    And does it not also assume that, like like Twiggy Forrest recent philanthropic pursuits, as a red blooded Australians, Gina might now be caring about Oz and what the GOVT & MSM have totally neglected to remedy for yonks?

    Also, isn't the existing major shareholder from foreign climes?? Is he possibly…

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  25. Ron Chinchen

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    Personally and probably quite naively, I would like a news service that reports the news, doesnt manufacture it. I'm tired of these policically motivated news services we have. Cant we just get the facts of what is happening, instead of a myopic mumblings of people who have no greater understanding of general politcal affairs than many of the readers, and yet consistently place themselves at the forefront as supposed 'experts'.

    Personally some of the comments and judgements I read in editorials…

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