In its gormless retaliation to Kevin Rudd's petition asking for a Royal Commission into the Murdoch media, News Corp has unwittingly confirmed why such an inquiry is so utterly essential. Founder and director Dave Donovan and managing editor Michelle Pini report.
WHEN it comes to News Corp’s hiring policy, scruples, expertise and intelligence have never been key criteria.
But now Independent Australia can reveal that also entirely absent from this U.S.-owned behemoth are the twin attributes of self-awareness and appreciation of irony. Because when it comes to the Rudd petition for a royal commission into Murdoch's domination of Australia’s news media – the success of which has been staggering – the corporation’s farcical reaction has only confirmed the urgent need for such an inquiry.
News Corp overlord Rupert Murdoch, a former Australian who renounced his citizenship in order to bypass American media ownership laws, nevertheless still runs a newspaper called The Australian. He also runs close to 70 per cent of Australia’s newspapers, along with the nation’s only cable news network and a host of online publications.
The Murdoch family, via Rupert's son, Lachlan, is also a majority shareholder in NOVA Entertainment — Australia's number one metropolitan radio network. The Nova radio network broadcasts in all states and also operates smoothfm in Melbourne and Sydney and FIVEaa in Adelaide, Star 104.5 on the NSW Central Coast, smooth Relax, smooth Chill and Coles Radio.'NOVA Entertainment also syndicates content to 60 regional markets in Australia and to markets as far as Malaysia and the United Kingdom.'
The various Murdoch outlets unashamedly push his agenda and stand ready to punish anyone who dares commit lèse-majesté to their octogenarian paymaster.
And so, when former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched his petition ('Petition EN1938 – Royal Commission to ensure a strong, diverse Australian news media') into this empire, it is likely he expected vigorous retaliation and bitter retribution. Certainly, Rudd knows, after his time as Prime Minister, just how vicious the News Corp press can become when challenged.
As these challenges arose, Rudd responded through videos and tweets, with logical responses and cutting rejoinders. The Murdoch minions meanwhile attacked with scorn and derision, especially via their opinion page oddballs and after-dark cable TV cheerleaders.
The howls from Murdoch’s paid goon squad turned to wails and teeth-gnashing when fellow former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – himself a speed bump in News Corp's core anti-news approach to political coverage – also signed the petition and publicly joined Rudd’s campaign.
Then it was time for the Murdoch media to pull out its ace — its power to publish “fake news”. To push “alternative facts” and persuade the vast swathe of the unsuspecting, ill-informed or amenable public, through its aforementioned media channels, that these alleged "facts" are, in fact, fact.
Of course, by doing so in this case, Murdoch’s goons fell into Rudd’s trap and absolutely confirmed his case that an inquiry into Murdoch’s news practices was utterly imperative.
A characteristically aggressive article in The Australian titled, 'Kevin Rudd’s Bangladeshi ‘bots’ in media royal commission petition', attempts to dismiss Rudd as 'dumped by his party within his first term' and Turnbull as 'also overthrown by his party while in office'.
The article goes on to claim that the petition is therefore tarnished because both men
'...led coups against their own colleagues to seize power and were also victims of internal political revenge, but blame News Corp Australia newspapers for losing office.'
Coincidentally, according to the article, it was The Australian's exclusive "sleuthing" that identified 1,000 shonky petition email addresses. While we can't speculate as to how this information fell into The Australian's lap, let's assume this part is accurate. This figure still represents less than 0.2 per cent of the total number of people who have added their name to the list. Even Trump would have a hard time calling for a recount based on that.
Finally, in a particularly oxymoronic passage, it is alleged that Rudd's record-breaking 500,000-strong petition has been hijacked by "foreign interference":
'The Australian' can reveal foreign interference in the petition, which targets publicly listed companies News Corp Australia and Nine Entertainment, and prompted a Greens-led Senate inquiry into media diversity.'
This, from the foreign-owned corporation that controls 70 per cent of Australia's media. And pays no tax. And continues to receive Australian Government handouts, despite mercilessly sacking staff and forcing the closure of community newspapers.
Independent Australia can, in fact, reveal that people who, The Australian and other News Corp gang members have "revealed" (read "defamed") as being engaged in "foreign interference" in Rudd's petition are indeed real-life Australian citizens, acting in good faith.
Daniel Bleakley – yes, his real name – is a 38-year-old Australian mechanical engineer, business owner and outspoken climate activist.
Daniel told IA that he had been tweeting with the hashtag #MurdochsPetitionPanic when he was indeed the target of foreign interference — in the form of foreign-owned News Corp employees targetting him on social media, defaming him and accusing him of being a "bot" and a troll.
In an eerie reminder of News Corp's infamous UK phone-hacking scandal, Daniel soon after suffered a concerted hacking attempt, receiving the first set of 39 text messages asking him to update his Twitter password, none of which he requested.
(Independent Australia does not allege that News Corp, Rita Panahi or Damien Tomlinson were behind this attempt to break into Daniel's Twitter account.)
Daniel told IA:
The text requests came frequently and then stopped, and then there was another series of frequent requests in the following days.
I felt quite intimidated as this was happening.
IA can also confirm that Daniel and others experiencing similar News Corp attacks are not "bots" — they are concerned citizens using their true identities to support a royal commission into media diversity because it is urgently required. (We will have more on this subject over the next few days.)
Despite the broad-based public support of Rudd's call for a royal commission, yet another Senate Inquiry with, admittedly, impressive terms of reference, is under way instead.
There have been other recent Senate inquiries into the state of our media landscape — in 2019, 2017 and 2011. As Dr Martin Hirst explained in IA, those inquiries made lots of sound recommendations that ultimately went nowhere.
Senate inquiries are no substitute for a wide-ranging judicial inquiry. They are too easily dismissed by News Corp's propaganda sheets, such as The Australian, and its Twitter trolls, such as Courier-Mail "night editor" Damien Tomlinson, as politically motivated, and so ignored.
To counter News Corp's shameless slander and foreign interference, the only hope is for Anthony Albanese's mostly absent Opposition to show some backbone and promote this worthy cause.
Don't hold your breath.
This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.
You can follow IA founder and director Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz and managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.
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