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