Monthly Archives: September 2013


Just to see if I was imagining anti-Labor bias in The Australian, I did a little poll of the letters page over the weekend.

Out of 21 letters, 17 were anti-Labor. Three of the others concerned various ongoing right-wing campaigns: the hoary ABC-bias meme, and the bogeyman-academic of the month, currently Jake Lynch.

There was a single non-right-wing letter, but they were forced to publish that as the result of a complaint to the Press Council.

That’s not a good look, and that was just the letters page; the rest of the paper, even the news, followed the same pattern.

The media has a special place and a special responsibility in a democracy. The more powerful the player, the bigger the responsibility. It is not a defence to say that because Rupert legally owns most of the newspapers he can do what he wants, and if you don’t like it read something else. That’s like saying that because Kim Jong-un is the recognised ruler of North Korea, if the North Koreans don’t like his style they should stop complaining and move. Mere brute capability doesn’t confer legitimacy.

The staff at The Australian are journalists; I wonder if any of this makes them uncomfortable? Maybe they just have to do as they are told, or maybe they were hired because they really believe it’s OK to warp democracy to achieve certain ends; I don’t know. I just wonder how they explain it to themselves.

The wig slips

Simon Heffer (“Why anti-media crusader Tom Watson should come down off his high horse”, The Australian, 1/8) reveals in passing what local News Corp outlets have been flatly denying for years: that Rupert Murdoch actively directs his Australian newspapers to pursue his political agendas. In case you missed it, here it is in black and white: “Murdoch has had the temerity to ask some of his newspapers in Australia … to come out fervently against the re-election of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister”.

To concerns that Murdoch’s interference is commercially-motivated, also hitherto dismissed by NewsCorp outlets, Heffer’s response is shockingly blunt: “so what?”.

Defenders of democracy would see this as more than mere “temerity”. It is an abuse of the responsibility of all media, private and public, to ensure the free and fair political communication which electors need to make their decisions. The bigger the player, the greater the responsibility. To accept anything less is to resign ourselves, as Heffer evidently has, to living under a plutocracy.