Election 2013 media panel

Tom Watson muddying the waters

British MP and anti-Murdoch campaigner Tom Watson is visiting Australia. Apparently he was so incensed by the Murdoch press coverage of the election that he cleared his schedule, packed his bags, and came to warn us of the Murdoch scourge.

It is a bit hard to get excited by all this. An opposition backbencher from the UK coming to tell us that the Australian tabloid media have taken a dislike to the Australian government? Like we hadn’t noticed? Like the Murdoch press wasn’t just reflecting a broad consensus amongst Australians that a change in government might be in order?

Never mind the Murdoch press - on day one of the election campaign the Fairfax owned Australian Financial Review called for a change in government on its front page. Just like the Daily Telegraph. That didn’t stop the Australian Financial Review reporting his visit to Australia (and having several of its tweeting staff tweet the story either).

Perhaps it was the graphic images in the Murdoch press that upset Watson? After all depicting senior government members as the officious bumbling Germans from the 1960s comedy show Hogan’s Heroes was a bit rude. Was it as rude as the Fairfax owned Sydney Morning Herald image of Kevin Rudd as the Joker from the Batman movies? Well, no, not really.

Perhaps it just is the vibe of the thing. Maybe the Murdoch press is particularly biased? Not according to some research posted at Mumbrella. There we read, “So far more than 2000 people have used the headline worm ranking more than 7,000 headlines, with The Guardian and Fairfax’s headlines assessed as pro-Labor while the ABC and News Corp trending toward neutral.”

Watson’s trump card, of course, is the News of the World hacking scandal. Shocking. But the only Australian newspaper involved in anything remotely approaching something like that is the Fairfax owned The Age. Whatever the merits or circumstances surrounding that incident, Fairfax has not shut down The Age, unlike News Corp which did shut down the News of the World.

Despite the fact that Watson has a message that simply does not resonate with the Australian experience he has been treated as something of rock star by the ABC. He appeared on radio shows and on Q & A. He also got pilloried in The Australian. Christian Kerr downplays one aspect of the Watson story when he coyly refers to, “an unfavourable mention in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal”.

I’m not sure the Labor party would be pleased to see him here. His advice that Kevin Rudd should take on the press isn’t wise. Certainly not during an election - Kevin Rudd should be taking on Tony Abbott. Fighting the media would be a distraction. In fact, Watson himself is a distraction. Every second of airtime he has taken up - telling Australians a story that is far removed from their own experiences - is a second that the Labor party could have used to sell their story and vision for Australia.