16 September 2013

On tonight's panel...?

Finally, Media Watch has a pop at the left, hitting both the ABC and Fairfax in one show


Would it be curmudgeonly of me to point out that it's rather convenient that this sudden change in editorial line happened just after the election? In the interests of fairness I will give Barry credit for attacking the other side, but it is also a fair point that there have been at least half a dozen attacks on Murdoch vs one on the ABC/Fairfax - so 'needs improvement' but getting there perhaps

Incidentally I couldn't really care less if an ABC show photo-shopped a News Limited journo into having sex with a dog, but to me it's clear that this sort of 'joke' (which was only amusing if you revel in seeing your opponents mocked) is evidence of a left-wing mentality, the Chaser are well to the left and I don't think that's disputed, and strictly speaking there's nothing wrong with them leaning in their comedy (outside an election special on a state-funded broadcaster, I should add), they can hide behind the line that some people won't like certain jokes if they want, although I'd disagree that it was actually satire

Their continued promotion by the ABC when they aren't particularly popular any more, however, says quite a lot about the management and culture at the organisation

But onto my main point tonight - following on from a reasonable Media Watch, we were introduced to the Q&A panel - featuring no government or opposition spokesmen (normally a good thing), or even journalists:

Clive Palmer - ok, definitely independent
Nick Xenophon - can fairly be described as a centrist
Larissa Waters (Greens) - because it's not like they get on with the main parties regularly anyway?
David Williamson - a playwright critical of Murdoch
Rebecca Huntley - a research director
Mark Latham - former federal Labor leader

Hmm, worrying...

First point - Latham is hardly independent, he's not a member of the opposition, and he likes writing bad things about his former colleagues, but he is very much a Labor man

'Playwright' always rings alarm bells, David Williamson went on to confirm my suspicions by admitting he was a "leftie" and harping on about socialism and Australia's Gini coefficient (which is significantly better than America's, David)

You never know, Rebecca Huntley might research economics, but alas no, even her bio lists her as "[formerly] involved in ALP politics, working for numerous federal politicians. She was a member of the National Committee of Emily’s List and the ALP’s federal policy committee"

So, unlikely to see much liberal/conservative viewpoints being bandied around there, with a Green thrown in and Xenophon a self-confessed centrist that left any pro-market, pro-business views pretty much to the affable, eccentric Palmer (and maybe Latham as he is at least an economic rationalist)

In what world is this balanced? We have just changed to a Liberal government with a clear majority and Q&A has three panelists who are openly left wing and hostile to the new government, another who is a former Labor leader and essentially no serious voices from the economic right

I just don't understand how this can pass for balance, for starters even if you trot out the letter-of-the-law political party rule, it's odd that the Greens are formally represented as everyone else is either independent or a micro-party, the Greens are regularly featured with the main parties and were part of a coalition government mere months ago

Secondly, two others are former ALP members, and the other effectively admitted being a lifelong ALP voter (or Green, maybe), only one of the remaining two could be considered to have links to the Liberals leaving a four to one balance if you're using any sort of common sense

Sorry but saying 'they're all independent of parties' (except the Greens obviously) just doesn't wash, it's blatant - there was criticism of Murdoch, free markets and Tony Abbott and much support of socialism without any reply - there were no rebuttals from the right (as the sole champion, Clive can say what he likes and avoided any such argument)

Whatever, I, as always, wish to leave it up to the market to decide...not that it really helps...

10 September 2013

Gittins: Labor's problems are all in our minds

I'm not going to waste too much time commenting on Ross Gittins' strange view that we have an unconscious bias that Liberals are better at running the economy

The whole story is based on the poll question 'who is better at managing the economy?' The standout point for me was this:

There was a time during the term of the Hawke-Keating government when the economy was doing well and Labor was ahead on this question. But such times are the exception. Normally, Labor judges its success just by the extent to which it has narrowed the gap with the Libs.

So we all love the Libs, except when Labor actually do run it well, the concept of Occam's razor springs to mind. In the 41 years since Whitlam came to power there have been three periods of Labor government (cumulatively longer than Liberals) - Whitlam, which ended in a constitutional crisis, the well-regarded Hawke-Keating era which lasted about 13 years, and the Rudd-Gillard period which wasn't quite so successful

It couldn't just be that people actually hold conscious opinions on a government's performance? Likewise the fact that Liberals, who favour free markets and appeal to 'battlers', and Labor, who favour trade unions, are judged differently on the economy, is not surprising. My economics text book did not exactly regard trade unions as good for markets, but no no, it's because the Libs are the 'bosses', not the workers (never mind that Labor abandoned most 'workers' for welfare recipients and hippies before Howard)

Gittins also claims that the budget and boat people crises are 'over' - first I'd point out that it's hardly unreasonable for one party to play on two of their key strengths - border control and the economy, much as Labor will soon play on IR and public services, Labor had plenty of crises for when they were last in opposition, such as the evil inhuman border control policy - and yet in power the screaming lefties went away and the new government actually supported Liberal policy (no doubt they'll be back now Tony's in), both sides are guilty of hypocrisy when they are on the easier side of parliament, it's called a point of difference and is hardly indicative of unconscious love of 'the bosses'

Secondly, the crises not over, but surprisingly enough, when there's a new government you tend to give them a little bit of a chance (say, at least a week...) before jumping down their throats and demanding the boats stop now - ultimately there's only two choices for government and it would be rather silly to demand a change before they are sworn in...

I'd agree 'crisis' is hyperbole, but that's politics, which I'm fairly certain we could find from Labor, ultimately while we may not be in Weimar Germany the Australian people do not like the idea of spending more than they earn, they also don't like being lied to constantly and having the government fail to deliver their promises time after time (this hilariously is also the fault of our unconscious bias again), the British and Europeans were complacent about their huge levels of debt for decades (I'd never heard of a government running a surplus until I came to Australia), and look where that ended up

In short, weak drivel from Ross that appeals to the far left

I'd also make the point that this is clearly apologetic to Labor, it's simply an opinion with little empirical evidence (if any?) and therefore it's as biased as the Telegraph's daily attacks on Labor, which cause such a problem for the ABC and Labor

Yet, you don't hear people complaining much about it - I know Fairfax is biased, great, that's why I don't read it, rather than trying to censor it or running ads trying to get it to say what I want

It wasn't the Tele that won it

But don't tell Paul Barry that, in his latest epistle he provides a mock-up of the famous Sun headline from 1992 (again)

Now, aside from the issue that Barry has now twice used a 20-year old story from another country to beat Murdoch with, which suggests an obsession rather than contemporary media analysis, the idea that we'll never know if the Murdoch papers won it is a fantasy

The Telegraph, who according to Barry, are the worst of the Murdoch press only 'won' 4 seats in NSW, they may yet gain another 3 in unconfirmed results - while they've taken 2 (out of 4) in Tasmania, 3 in Victoria and potentially only one from Queensland (which has the second naughtiest Murdoch paper)

They could've won without NSW, although it would've been pretty strange to not pick up anything in the nation's biggest state - in fact the swing against Labour was below the national average, at a meagre 2.99%

The states where Labor really crashed were Victoria, the only state which had a Fairfax paper actually support it (not that you would know that if you listened to Barry), Tasmania and South Australia, all traditional Labor strongholds

Any simple analysis would show that the impact of Murdoch's papers was limited at best, in fact there seems to have been a negative correlation - with the Labor supporting Age creating the biggest mainland swing, and the single paper state of Queensland barely losing a seat

This is, to be honest, extremely poor from the ABC - while you might be able to attempt to justify Barry's weekly commentary on the bias of a populist daily tabloid as a fair cop, but boring, the suggestion that the Telegraph had a significant impact on the federal result just doesn't stack up with the facts, it's lazy and quite clearly biased

Arguably it's evidence of ABC 'group-think', where they decide that people must surely agree with them and Murdoch and his tabloids are trashing the awesome Labor government - no need to actually review their assertion that the Tele could've won it when three other states had bigger results

They also don't seem to have been able to stop the woeful Western Sydney Liberal candidate Jayme Diaz providing Labor with one of their only swings towards them, odd that...

For the sake of balance Barry also mentioned an anti-Murdoch 'GetUp' ad that went 'huge' on social media (the importance of which is contestable, and another weird ABC obsession) that the commercial broadcasters refused to air

I'm sure they refuse to run all kinds of things, but GetUp say that this is an outrageous breach of their free speech (why?) and Barry again twists the story to suit himself, saying that the non-Murdoch channels don't want to make an enemy, his view, not anyone else's

It couldn't just be that they felt it was in their commercial interests not to run the ad? It couldn't just be that commercial networks aren't a platform for free speech that they can actually use their own networks to act in their own interests? It couldn't be that Fairfax also refused to accept it as a paid ad?

Arguably there is a media story in this case - the commercial networks (and Fairfax) once again not running a far-left political ad*, but it's very convenient that the Media Watch subject matter was Murdoch, after a whole episode..about Murdoch

My thanks to Andrew Bolt for the screen grab of the dummy front page, he has effectively written the same article as me and I probably just should've saved time and read that before making my own post - but as an aside he points out that 6 (of 10, I think) have been focused on News corp - we should start making those graphs that Barry uses every week to judge the Tele

From memory, I think the others have only focused on vested commercial interests in tabloid television and beating up 'shock jocks' - how many have focused on Fairfax or the ABC...or are they just that good?

*The ad was a strange one, featuring a man criticising the Courier Mail's editorial stance against Labor and using it to clean up his dog's mess, saying that we're all entitled to our opinions, you know free speech and all, but then saying it's not on for Murdoch to put one in his papers

It doesn't make a lot of sense - to me, the ad seems to imply you must receive the Courier Mail and it must provide objective 'news' - yet in reality you choose to subscribe to it, does that man think it's some form of state funded newspaper he has to receive?

He's wasting his money on expensive doggy bags, difference is we don't have to with Media Watch...

26 August 2013

Let's just rename it Murdoch Watch and be done with it

Another week, another full episode on News Ltd and the Daily Telegraph - I'm getting boring, but so is Paul Barry

This week it's makeup-gate - the story that a make up artist called Kevin Rudd rude on Facebook and this led to six articles in the Telegraph...cue investigation!

Was the Telegraph the only media outlet to cover the Make-up artist 'story' - absolutely not, but it was a convenient excuse to lay into the Daily Telegraph, rather than say, the Sydney Morning Herald

Fact is, everyone covered it, TV, radio, and all the papers, the story became part of the 'narrative' - that being the one that says Rudd is a vicious, nasty, little man

That is a narrative that has existed for several years - it's built on quotes and stories from his own colleagues, the leaks he was responsible for throughout the Gillard era and his often tetchy public displays

No doubt the right wing are going to hammer this narrative a lot more than Fairfax and the ABC but this is simply how 21st century 24hr sound bite political news works, it's cruel and a lot of the time bloody stupid - but the politicians' play it just as much as the media do, only Labour started whingeing about the 'hate media' when they suddenly lost favour

They also asked for this kind of debate, running negative, personal ads and refusing to engage in any meaningful policy debate (and I'm talking about both sides here) - the press need to fill pages every day, and they knows what sells

Yes, the Telegraph is biased, News Corp is biased - we know this, and you could pick up the Telegraph on any day of the year and find crap...it's a tabloid

But is it really a worthwhile pursuit providing a running commentary on a poorly written, populist newspaper every week?

Despite the howling from the left, it has no mandate to be impartial, unlike the ABC, it is simply a commercial enterprise seeking profit, governed by traditional libel laws and is entitled to preach its opinions to anyone willing to pay for them

When there is so much criticism of left-wing bias at the ABC, which is mandated to be impartial, shouldn't they be more worried about that than pointing out perfectly legal behaviour at commercial enterprises

Or does Paul Barry, who is writing a (possibly negative) book on the Murdoch Empire, just have an unhealthy obsession with Murdoch

The Labour/ABC narrative on the Murdoch conspiracy is just as odious as the beat-ups the Tele does on Rudd...but which is more interesting to the public debate?

And as an aside, what the hell is the failed media regulator from the UK - Labour MP Tom Watson, doing on Q & A?

14 August 2013

Bolt and Blair on the 63%

It's doing the rounds...but does anyone care?

Selling ain't owning

Murdoch Haters Owned

When I first came to Australia I was told Andrew Bolt was a crazy shock jock and to avoid him and talkback radio - stick to the ABC for serious commentary they said

Presuming it would be like the BBC, a bit politically correct and alarmist on global warming, but the only serious broadcaster and fairly balanced, I sadly discovered the tv shows were invariably tilted to the left and the radio presenters were even worse - so I shifted to the 'popular' media

I'd say it's fairly clear who gets their sums right on how many papers Murdoch owns

12 August 2013

Again, ownership is not the same as sales

Once again Media Watch fails to adhere to the ABC Charter

Somewhat hilariously Barry picked up (briefly) on Rudd's erroneous claim that Murdoch owns 70% of newspapers

It's 63%, he corrected, and helpfully added 'of sales' at the end of his statement - which means he is technically correct

But he did not pull up Rudd for ignoring that key point of difference between sales, and ownership of newspapers

He also didn't amend last week's entry which made the exact same mistake

But maybe he is listening to me (or more likely Andrew Bolt)

It was also sad to see that once again the show focused on the Telegraph and other Murdoch press, with essentially nothing on Fairfax - obvious headlines were shown, including the same one from last week (why?) and an analysis was done of how many supported Labour or Coalition

Note that no similar analysis was done for any other paper, despite Fairfax papers being clearly of a similar bent towards Labor (an analysis proving me wrong would be an even stronger point)

Likewise, out came the 1992 famous Sun Kinnock lightbulb front page - if you know some British political history you'll know that John Major won an unexpected victory and only the Sun called it, leading them to crow that they was 'wot won it'

They claim that, but many commentators take the view that they just pick winners (as they have picked every winner for decades) which is good for their commercial interests - both Kinnock and Brown were extremely unpopular, both were hated by the Sun, both lost - correlation or causation??

I personally hated them too, but I didn't read the Sun

But anyway, my point is it's a tad tenuous to bring out a 20 year old infamous front page from the UK

The stream of attacks on the Murdoch press is quite tiring, almost every episode of Media Watch under Barry has focused on right-wing media, or even praised the left-wing media

I repeat last week's point that this is a clear departure from the editorials of the more reasonable Holmes, and a contradiction of Barry's defence against Andrew Bolt's claim that he was another leftie host

07 August 2013

Murdoch does not "control two thirds of Australia's newspapers"

Briefly I'd like to rebut the new (or old) host of Media Watch, Paul Barry's claim that Murdoch 'controls two thirds of newspapers' in Australia (Media Watch 5/8/13)

This is a common claim from the left, and it's a convenient little sleight of hand - while it's a true figure if you're talking about audience share it is not the same as 'controlling' the media

For example, if there were 1000 supermarkets, and Coles and Woolies owned 500 each, but Coles had 66% of the shoppers - how many supermarkets would they control?

50% each, clearly

In my hypothetical situation Coles have a bigger market share and therefore influence perhaps, but they are simply winning in an open contest (assuming equitable conditions of course), they don't 'control' the market any more than Woolies

It's the same for newspapers in Australia, News Corp have about two thirds of the circulation, but they only own about 33% of the newspapers - time for some real figures (3 year old data will have to suffice, sorry):

In Sydney there are two main dailies available - The Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) -

Tele = 374,000
SMH = 207,000

In Melbourne it's The Herald Sun (News) vs The Age (Fairfax)

Herald = 515,000
Age = 197,000

(I'm discounting The Australian as Australia's only national daily as it has a fairly insignificant circulation, if you credit off the Fairfax national AFR as well then we're only talking 60,000 people nationally)

That's roughly 64% vs 36% in Sydney, and a ridiculous 72% vs 28% in Melbourne but these two papers are available to exactly the same audiences within each city - does Murdoch 'control' two thirds of the two major cities' newspapers? According to the logic of the ABC and many lefties he does, despite having the same number of publications and being on a level playing field as Fairfax, I've never seen a news retailer not selling the SMH along with the Tele

Winning audience share from your rival through the free market is not control, it's providing a product people want in a fair fight with another product - 'control' implies that News Corp own the majority of newspapers, thus limiting access to leftie opinions, but that's simply not true - people choose to buy News products over Fairfax, which is readily available to them (they own 33% of newspapers available and 11 of the top 25 circulating ones, while Fairfax own 10)

Yes, that provides News with the ability to influence two thirds of the audience, but that audience chooses to engage with that publication, the constant claim that News Corp 'controls' the printed press is merely a sook from the losing side

The truth is 'Murdoch' can speak to two thirds of people, and try to influence them, but there is no undue control on his part, clearly two media empires effectively owning every major print publication in the country is control and that should be looked at - but both companies need to be considered and the 'two thirds of newspapers' figure is complete bull designed to attack the 'Hate media' as Labor like to call them (except when they are backing them)

I encourage Paul Barry to correct this statement to at least say that they have 'two thirds of market share', or 'control a third of all newspapers', as they are in no way the same thing - it's a small distinction but an important one, as it implies an unduly gained influence rather than simply achieving more sales in a fair fight, and to be honest I'm pretty sure media people who use that figure know exactly what they're doing by using it

I'd also take this opportunity to express my dissatisfaction with the refreshed Media Watch since Jonathan Holmes left - under him I found it to be one of the few enjoyable ABC shows, occasionally I found a choice or two a little unbalanced, but in the main I found him objective and willing to take on all the media outlets

Conversely Paul Barry spent his first episode praising Julia Gillard and since then has almost exclusively attacked 2GB (and maybe some other right wing talkback stations) and News Corp over fairly small issues

If you watch this week's show, you'll see the criticism of News (with the false claim that riled me) followed by slathered praise for Fairfax's investigation into Labor corruption

Not a huge problem on it's own, aside from the one falsehood you could find this week's particular angle fair, but after weeks of nit-picking over right-wing radio and newspapers it's become somewhat obvious

Ultimately if there's a major story from 'the right', like cash for comment, then obviously it should be used, but in any given week you can easily pick on the Age or the AFR (The Australian have a whole section on it), or the ABC, not to mention Today Tonight or ACA for sheer nonsense or some other questionable issue just as much as you can find the racist guy who the shock jock humours - to delve through talkback radio calls or minor News ltd stories to the almost total exclusion of all others is blatant bias

I would've complained to the ABC but why bother, there's streams of this bias picked up daily and nothing ever gets done, and the website has no activity, so I use my own blog for the sake of posterity

Hopefully market forces will prevail and Paul will lose any viewers Holmes gained..

not that they mind if anyone's actually watching the ABC, but they've lost me