Alex Mitchell’s Notebook

Elisabeth Murdoch with father Rupert

In this issue: 1) The Murdoch media’s PR makeover; 2) Bad language in Uganda; 3) ABC Classic under threat; 4) Nye Bevan on Parliament; 5) Quote of the Week

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is undergoing a public relations makeover. His son James has collected world headlines for condemning News Corp’s climate denial during Australia’s bushfire State of Emergency.

At the same time, receiving no media by comparison, Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth, was appointed a National Council member of Arts Council England (ACE), the body responsible for handing out millions of pounds to the arts community. (Elisabeth Murdoch finds herself in a similar position to Senator Bridget McKenzie who has been caught redhanded giving millions of dollars to sporting bodies in National Party constituencies in Victoria and elsewhere).

She was one of seven quietly chosen council members when the nation’s attention was consumed by Brexit, Boris Johnson, weather, royal family hi-jinks and Donald Trump atrocities.

Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth is founder and chair of the Freelands Group which comprises Freelands Ventures, a media and technology investment company. Her only known connection with the arts is her second marriage to artist Keith Tyson.

How long before Tyson is awarded a major exhibition at one of London’s premier public galleries and critics are flown in from Paris, New York, Tokyo and Sydney to praise his work? Or am I being too cynical? We shall see.

James Murdoch: hitting the headlines

Meanwhile, it is James Murdoch’s sudden emergence as a climate guru which captured all the attention. The British and Australian media were besotted: “James Murdoch attacks family empire”, Australian Financial Review; “Rupert Murdoch’s son James criticises News Corp, Fox for climate change and bushfire coverage”, ABC; “James Murdoch blasts News Corp’s ‘ongoing climate change denial’”, SBS; “James Murdoch slams News Corp for denying climate facts”, New Daily; “James Murdoch slams Fox News and News Corp over climate-change denial”, Daily Beast; “James Murdoch criticises father’s news outlets for climate crisis denial”, The Guardian.

While James Murdoch’s statement is “news” and the media has a perfect right (obligation) to report it, what about some real reporting? What about trying to uncover why the Evil Empire has suddenly decided to change its mind on climate change?

Even a cursory investigation will reveal:

James Murdoch made a joint statement. The other party was his American wife Kathryn from New York. They fronted the media together to make the announcement.

She is a big supporter of New York’s radical Democrats. She told the New York Times last year she had become increasingly focused on global warming. “There hasn’t been a Republican (Party) answer on climate change. There’s just been denial and walking away from the problem. There needs to be one.”

After hearing a speech by former Democratic vice president Al Gore in 2006, she said: “I decided to switch everything I was doing. I wanted to be able to look my children in the eye and say, ‘I did everything I could’.”

Rupert has never looked any of his children in the eye and said that they should accept the scientific basis of climate change. Indeed, he’s done the very opposite. He’s heavied them – and his worldwide editors – into promoting climate change denialism, and they have fallen into line.

There is apprehension in the arts world over Elisabeth Murdoch’s new role at the Arts Council. “The appointment of Rupert Murdoch’s daughter is not only deeply troubling, given her close ties to the Murdoch corporate empire, but is also a glaring example of how nefarious the UK arts establishment has become,” said Stephen Pritchard of Colouring in Culture.

Another jarring note was recorded by Artlyst which remarked: “It is, however, arguably a provocative appointment and appears to many as a further eroding of government-sponsored arts in favour of privatisation and corporate sponsorship.”

Keen Murdoch watchers are familiar with Rupert’s sudden shifts in editorial policy. In Australia he switched from pro-Gough Whitlam to anti-Gough Whitlam, in the UK he switched from supporting Tony Blair’s New Labour to dumping his successor Gordon Brown and then supporting Tory David Cameron and before switching to Theresa May and last year dumping Mrs May to back Boris Johnson.

The Johnson manoeuvre is paying off bigtime. In January it was announced Murdoch was launching Times Radio, a commercial radio network, to promote his newspapers, commentators, books, authors   and sports celebrities. It will directly challenge the BBC’s Radio 4 which is floundering in the ratings.

Boris Johnson is helping the launch of Times Radio by banning his Tory Ministers from Radio 4’s flagship political programme, Today.

The frontal attack on the BBC, supported by the Tories, is being directed by Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News UK, who was charged with the criminal offence of phone-hacking and acquitted. Her co-accused Andy Coulson, then editor of the News of the World, was jailed.

Murdoch’s aim, supported by Lachlan, James and Elisabeth, is to force the Tories to end the licence fee funding model and then privatise what’s left. This will create a privately-owned media landscape in the UK in which the owners will lay siege to the trade unions, environmentalists and the arts.

Murdoch’s empire is currently cashed up after selling 21st Century Fox Entertainment to Disney for 60 billion pounds sterling ($AUS115 billion).

News Corp finance manager Emily Townsend walked out of News Ltd HQ in Sydney after News Corp chairman Michael Miller boasted in a staff email that the company was proud of the bushfire coverage and its “arsonists-are-to-blame” emphasis.

She left behind a building full of frightened hacks, influencers and public relations parasites who would rather go up in flames than confront the climate craziness of the owner.

Sir Nicholas Serota: privileged

Sir Nicholas Serota is the new chairman of the Arts Council. It is a controversial appointment by Prime Minister Johnson because the two men share a similar reckless background of privilege and preferment. Serota received an exclusive private education at Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute following in the career footsteps of Anthony Blunt.

Serota is a controversialist with a chequered career in the arts. The Daily Mail Online accused him of using “his power as head of the Tate Galleries to promote talentless self-publicists and to encourage the proliferation of the ugly and the pointless”.

His Tate exhibitions were described as “pathetic” by the Daily Mail Online which added: “Who in the future will see the point of Gillian Wearing’s 60-minute video of immobile actors dressed in police uniforms or Martin Creed’s offering in 2001 – an empty room with lights going on and off?”

The Murdoch dynasty will be lapping up Serota’s appointment. He will provide endless copy to enrage the backward yobs of Borisland and to ridicule the so-called “elites”.

Bad language in Uganda

Author and human rights activist Lucy Popescu is currently campaigning on behalf of Ugandan feminist Dr Stella Nyanzi who is on remand in jail outside Kampala on a strange charge of “cyber harassment”

Dr Nyanzi, 45, is alleged to have sent an “offensive communication” contrary to Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act.

Her trial judge was Lady Justice Flavia Anglin Senoga who wanted to hear the evidence in closed court. Dr Nyanzi objected but her objection was overruled.

Dr Stella Nyanzi: jailed for “offensive communication”

To coincide with President Yoweri Museveni’s 74th birthday Dr Nyanzi posted a poem suggesting that Uganda would be better off if President Museveni’s mother, Esteri Kokundeka, had miscarried him:

Yoweri, they say it was your birthday yesterday.

How nauseatingly disgusting a day!

I wish the acidic pus flooding Esteri’s cursed vaginal canal had burnt up your unborn fetus.

Burnt you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of the public institutions in Uganda.

Ms Popescu supported Dr Nyanzi’s poetic language saying she used “radical rudeness, a traditional Ugandan strategy for castigating those in power through the tactical use of public insults”.

In response, I’ll use a traditional Australian strategy for castigating bullshit and say: “Don’t come the raw prawn with me, ya bullshit artist.”

ABC Classic on chopping block

Watching the ABC Classic radio channel die a death by a thousand cuts is like watching a car crash in slow motion. You know the axe will fall on the programme sometime soon and they know it too.

Every week someone leaves the unit. It is now the bare bones of its former self.

The bludgers in middle bureaucracy who strut around Harris Street HQ carrying clipboards and wearing mobile phones on their hips, are urging Classic FM staff to introduce movie soundtracks and generally become “more popular with young people”. Let’s call it by its rightful name: “dumbing down”.

ABC Classic presenters: Back row: Stephen Watkins, Greta Bradman, Ed Ayres, Mairi Nicolson, Genevieve Lang, Alice Keath, Meena Shamaly and Margaret Throsby. Front row: Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe, Joel Carnegie, Damien Beaumont, Vanessa Hughes, Russell Torrance, Martin Buzacott, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Dan Golding

Classic presenters, Martin Buzacott, Russell Torrance, Ed Ayres, Damien Beaumont, soldier on regardless. They bring loyal listeners the magical sounds of classical musicians and composers. It is a sheer delight to hear their programmes – soothing, exciting and inspirational.

If the Morrison Government, the Treasury boffins, the ABC board and the criminal enterprise run by the Murdoch family have their way, Classic FM will be abolished. It will be the day the music died.

But I must be ever so careful not to criticise the ABC. According to the media’s Old Guard, criticism of the ABC is verboten!

I wonder if no-criticism will still apply if ABC management axes Classic FM and staff and listeners stage a picket or call a strike? I’ll be supporting Classic FM programme makers on the barricades and heaping criticism on ABC management while those who oppose criticism of the ABC will be obliged to follow the logic of their position and do a bit of strike-breaking.

Quote from the past

Aneurin (Nye) Bevan

“In one sense the House of Commons is the most unrepresentative of representative assemblies. It is an elaborate conspiracy to prevent the real clash of opinion which exists outside from finding an appropriate echo within its walls. It is a shock-absorber placed between privilege of the pressure of popular discontent. The classic Parliamentary style of speech is understatement. It is a style unsuited to the representative of working people because it slurs and mutes the antagonisms which exist in society.”

  • Aneurin “Nye” Bevan in his 1952 book In Place of Fear. Bevan, Welsh Labour MP for Ebbw Vale (1929 – 1960) and miner’s son who left school at 14, established the free National Health Service (NHS) when he was Health Minister in Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s post-war government. He wrote: “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” Elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 1959, Bevan died on 6 July 1960, aged 62, and was taken home to Wales by his partner Jennie Lee for cremation. In a 2013 poll, the NHS was more popular than the monarchy, the BBC and the British armed forces. Can you imagine anyone in today’s Australian Labor Party holding such passionate socialist views?

Quote of the Week

“I also get a little bit annoyed when we have people in those sorts of countries [South Pacific] pointing the finger at Australia and say we should be shutting down all our resources sector so that, you know, they will continue to survive.”

  • Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, berating Pacific leaders who have asked Scott Morrison’s Coalition to accept climate change and a play a leadership role in promoting renewable energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments

  1. Alex, your reminder about the vision and courage of the inimitable Nye Bevan gave such contrast to your account of the authoritarian antics of Murdoch and those of that appalling, too easily ignored dictator in Uganda. Bevan in his time was attacked unmercifully but the Murdoch-like media of the day, but stayed resolute for principle and people. ‘ Come the Revolution’, we’ll learn from Nye and look back on his life with admiration and gratitude.

  2. No rules were broken, claims Senator McKENZIE and her colleagues. So, we must presume this emboldened her with the entitlement to be amoral, unethical and unfair.

    Our ship of civilisation has sprung leaks all around, and it just keeps getting worse.

    Maybe it was never a ship to begin with. Just a cheap tinnie commandeered by second rate sailors.

    1. PS Cannot bear the thought of not having ABC Classic. It has always been a sublime salvation from the sewer of Australian politics and the worst of media power games.

  3. Alex, I had absolutely no idea that the ABC Classic FM Channel was on the proverbial ‘chopping block’. Regards, PETER CONSANDINE

  4. Hi Alex, Though I very rarely listen to Classic FM, I am in deep sympathy with the need for a curated “classical music” ABC Radio station. One of the most insulting things that has occured over the last few decades of ABC management has been the pursuit of the “young listener” by dumbing down content under the assumption that young people are not smart or cultured enough to find well researched discussion or curated and “difficult” non-pop music a turn off. I do have a university degree earned during my thirties, but have always listened across the ABC radio network. To 2JJ (now JJJ) until I was in my early thirties, and to what were then 2FC and 2BL. I managed to turn the dial between all three trough my teens and twenties, searching for interesting content. JJJ has long since played a very narrow range of music that is of decreasing interest, appallingly Radio National abolished its brilliant modern music programs including folk, jazz, world and newer work by older “rock” artists that simply has no other outlet on radio other than the volunteers who do the best they can on community radio. This is a huge cultural loss to Australia. As for Double Jay, the less said the better as it focuses on a very narrow range of music for the permanent teenager. Local radio is even worse, dumbed down with trivia and grabs so short no serious issue can be addressed, and yet for all this it remains far superior to commercial radio. As for Bevan, I’m sure that when presented with the empty page that area Labor’s policies he may assume they are Tories, which they are in a way, convinced they are born to rule and that they know better than the rest of us.

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