IF you needed confirmation that the Gillard Government did the right thing in awarding the Australian Network contract to the ABC, pick up a copy of today’s Australian, the local flagship of the Murdoch empire. (December 7, 2011). The decision to leave the $223 million contract with the ABC and to resist the temptation to offer it to Murdoch’s Sky News, received the following coverage:
Page 1: “The fix that gave contract to ABC” by Paul Kelly;
Page 5: “Call to monitor how ABC uses network funds” by Dennis Shanahan and Leo Shanahan, “Scott unveils BBC-style merger of overseas television and radio” by Amanda Meade, “AFP to investigate media leaks” by Lauren Wilson;
Page 11: “Dubious vision of our land” by Christian Kerr;
Page 12: “Overseas TV contract bungled from start to finish” by Mark Day; Page 13: Editorial: “TV deal shows proper process not as easy as ABC “; Three letters to the editor; Cut & Paste column; Cartoon by Nicholson showing Communications Minister Stephen Conroy ripping up the contract with Gillard saying: “Instead, let’s call for tenders for a contract on Kevin.”
In other words, the Oz deployed a conga-line of loyalists to hammer the federal government and the ABC. Nor will it stop. The fury will continue so long as Chris Mitchell remains editor-in-chief surrounded by propagandists posing as independent commentators.
Murdoch doesn’t own Sky outright, but he does have the management contract which takes the crucial editorial, personnel and budgeting decisions.
Any doubts about the intimate connection between the two corporate entities were demolished last month when Murdoch assumed the chairmanship of Adelaide-based News Ltd and simultaneously named former Sky boss, Kim Williams, as his new CEO replacing John Hartigan.
Murdoch forfeited any claim to the contract when the horrible magnitude of phone-tapping activities by his London tabloids broke into the headlines earlier this year. But there was also the ongoing disgraceful performance of his TV networks in Britain and the US: would anyone trust Murdoch’s minions to run a news network representing Australian interests and Australian values?
However, awarding the contract on a permanent basis to the ABC isn’t without problems. For decades, Britain’s BBC has managed to run the World Service financed by the Foreign Office. It has steered a fine line between Brit propaganda and independent news, sometimes successfully but not during the Falklands war, the army occupation of the north of Ireland or the war against Iraq.
To succeed, ABC managing director Mark Scott will need to keep Canberra at bay and his board of directors on message.