The Weekly Notebook – Murdoch poised to raid ABC

Rupert Murdoch poised to raid the ABC

Media oligarch Rupert Murdoch believes that the ABC is the best training ground for reporters and technicians. It is a lesson he learned from his fellow tycoon, the late Kerry Packer.

When the ABC created “stars”, Packer would swoop with his chequebook. Packer preferred the national broadcaster to spend money training talent and then he would pick up the best of them for a song. In the long run, it saved him millions of dollars.

As night followed day, members of the ABC’s talent pool swallowed their pride (and their previous loyalties) and went to work for Channel Nine. After all, most of them had growing families and over-swelling mortgages on homes in Sydney, the South Coast, the Central Coast or the Southern Highlands. And there were always the horse-riding classes to pay for and the private school fees.

Today, as Murdoch’s Adelaide-based News Limited expands its print, digital and TV footprint across Australia, the Pacific and Asia, his executives believe that the jobs-slashing should stop and the hiring should commence.

So don’t be surprised to see Murdoch’s headhunters at work in 2019. They want to cherrypick the ABC’s high-profile presenters, technicians and programme-makers.

The horrific crew of nut jobs at Sky News will be elbowed out when the highbrows from the ABC arrive in dark suits, ties and pointy shoes. However, Packer bought genuine talent like Mike Willesee, Ray Martin, Jana Wendt, Ellen Fanning and Ita Buttrose while the current crop of ABC self-preeners wouldn’t know a story unless it was presented to them in a press release.

Murdoch adopted the strategy of pillaging staff from opposing networks when he barnstormed his way into the TV market in the UK and the US. Why would anyone suppose his News Ltd won’t do the same here?

Already the media flanellers are deodorising The Dirty Digger. His career as a phone hacker, political harlot and serial husband is being swept under the carpet and he is being recustomised as an animal lover, New Age guy, patron of fashion and style, original thinker, philosopher and shy genius. All this is carefully orchestrated to make the transition to Captain Filth’s gutter press easier to negotiate.

Expect some surprise names to rat on the ABC to grab Murdoch’s fantasy of a “secure” career. In fact, they’ll be selling out to sweatshop conditions and the loss of any shred of independence.

Satire or serious?

The Onion is a Chicago-based digital media company. Its editorial output is satirical and therefore not to be believed.

Its New Year message was hilarious: “In a year where cruelty, deception and unfettered corruption controlled all three branches of the US government, The Onion’s flawless reportage and above-reproach journalism in 2018 exposed the dark underbelly of society and provided a beacon of hope that human civilisation would finally and mercifully come to an …”

Just as amusing was a pre-Christmas spoof article allegedly from the University of Chicago. It claimed the study of Latin helped schoolchildren who wanted to summon demons later in their lives.

The piece read: “According to our data, children who studied Latin in grade school were far more likely to contact, summon and then raise a damned soul from the underworld,” said classics department chair Emily Greenwood, adding that students who learned Latin tended to be more adept at chanting ancient incantations, opening up portals and comprehending Demonic screams.

“On the whole, young people who studied root languages like Latin had a much easier time communicating in tongues, and could sometimes even convince spirits to do their bidding. However, those who didn’t were more prone to lag far behind their peers and often died at the hands of a bloodthirsty, vengeful succubus.”

This would be hilarious if the current Prime Minister of Australia, Pastor Scott Morrison, didn’t belong to the “happy clappy” version of the American Pentecostals.

Many Pentecostals believe in “speaking in tongues” and other weird incantation rituals. But mostly they believe in the liberating power of money, property and private wealth. It is a perfect fit with the ideology of neoliberalism, i.e. of the corruption-ridden neolibs.

It’s not cricket

Cricket commentary, once a beautiful form of journalism, is now in the hands of drongos steeped in advertising, cross-media promotion and money-raising with the backroom help of exorbitantly paid “influencers”.

Cricket Australia’s current message is relayed on all channels and in most newspapers: drop the ban on Steve Smith and David Warner and bring them back into the Australian Test team.

Steve Smith and David Warner: inflated expectations

The theory is that the return of Smith and Warner can “solve” Australia’s miserable batting record and win future Test matches in 2019 and beyond. Really?

This pre-supposes that two very talented batters can rebuild a whole team. They can’t.

There can be no doubt that the skill and grace of high batting scores are what attracts spectators and TV audiences. However, cricket is a team game which comprises batters, bowlers (fast, slow and medium-paced) and fielders in the slips and on the fence. In recent games against India, Australia’s tail-enders – all of them specialist bowlers – outscored the specialist batsmen and all-rounders.

In South Africa last year, Australia was on the ropes in the series when Warner, Smith and Bancroft were caught redhanded in the ball-tampering scandal. During the tense Third Test in Capetown, and with the series in the balance, the word arrived from Cricket Australia: we need a win … at any cost.

I have no doubt that Smith, Warner and the “patsy” Bancroft will return to Test cricket, but rebuilding the Australian team will take more than adding them to the top of the batting order. What about a full investigation by an independent judicial body into Cricket Australia where millions of dollars are wasted each year on consultants, PRs, advertisers and palm-greasers?


John Gorton, the Prime Minister destroyed by his own Liberal Party

The political assassination of Prime Minister John Gorton is one of the great untold stories of Australian politics.

Gorton was evicted from the Prime Ministership by MPs and grandees from his own party, the Liberal Party of Australia, in the first-ever Canberra Coup.

The full story of Gorton’s overthrow in 1971 is the result of 10 years of research, interviews and foot-slogging investigation in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

The lessons for today’s broken political system are critically relevant. This is a story from yesterday, told today, for tomorrow.

Serialisation will start this Saturday, January 12.

It is FREE to all subscribers of my website.

I will be inviting comments and anecdotes that, after checking, I will add to the narrative.

Join my regular readers – who include politicians, journalists, academics, lawyers and historians – and follow The Political Killing of John Gorton.


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