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Issue #1606      August 14, 2013

Murdoch, Labor and the “free press”

“Kick this mob out”, yelled the headline on the front page of Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph on Monday last week. “At last, the power is within the hands of the Australian people to deliver a change of government and to rebuild Australia’s strength and stability.” The front page editorial went on to give the same list of Labor’s shortcomings and broken promises that Abbott hammers day in and day out. Inside the paper, the spray finally ended with a strong recommendation of a vote for the Coalition subject, of course, to the same assessment and judgement that both the old parties of capital must endure from the former Dirty Digger’s, now US Mogul’s media empire.

Why has Murdoch turned so sharply against federal Labor when Labor has bent over backwards to look after big business?

For months, the Greens, Gillard and now Kevin Rudd have been subjected to sustained attack. There has been little pretence of “impartiality” inside and outside the editorial and opinion pieces. It kicked up a notch last month with the arrival of roving Murdoch “flamethrower” Col Allan, known around the journalists’ traps as “Col Pot”. His specialty is head kicking to achieve “regime change” or to provide “extra editorial leadership for our papers,” as News Corp CEO Robert Thompson put it in a statement in New York recently. Murdoch foreshadowed the escalation of hostilities in June with a tweet: “Australian public now totally disgusted with Labor Party wrecking country with its sordid intrigues. Now for a quick election.”

Taste on the front pages of Murdoch’s tabloids across Australia took a nosedive. The Daily Telegraph depicted Kevin Rudd in a hoodie escaping from a bank with the headline “Rudd’s $733m heist on people’s savings.” Last Thursday’s Tele plumbed new depths with a “digitally altered image” of Rudd as the hapless Colonel Klink, Deputy PM Anthony Albanese as Sergeant Schultz and disgraced former ALP back bencher Craig Thomson as the irrepressible Hogan from the 1960s comedy Hogan’s Heroes. The attack was continued inside with all sorts of ill-adapted “background” information and detail of Albanese’s bar room chat with Craig Thomson.

Why the vitriol? Why has Murdoch turned so sharply against federal Labor when it has bent over backwards to look after big business? It has delivered low company taxation; a mining tax that collects hardly any revenue; a carbon price that exempts or compensates the biggest polluters; the continuation of the privatising agenda, particularly in health and education; Australian troops still support Murdoch-backed US military objectives worldwide; a new US military base has been established in Darwin; and industrial relations remain a paralysing legal minefield for unions trying to defend workers’ pay and conditions.

Murdoch’s editors defend their daily barrage by saying that the giant media group backed Rudd in 2007 against a Howard government running out of puff and credibility. Rudd wasn’t alone recently in pointing to a likely reason for his former mate Rupert’s nasty turn. Labor’s National Broadband Network could give a boost to competitors to dominant pay TV outlet Foxtel, which is jointly owned by News Corp and Telstra. Murdoch’s papers have run hard on the supposed shortcomings of the NBN and relished in every outsourcing stuff up and delay. They fail to point out that these are due to the private sector contractors, not the NBN itself. Loyal columnists and the Opposition have dismissed the NBN motive for the shrill election coverage as a nut-job “conspiracy theory”.

News Corp is a huge corporation pursuing its own financial interests. Along with the rest of the corporate media, it also manufactures consent for the system guaranteeing monopoly profits and ideological dominance over the working class. Media barons like Murdoch are well aware of the sort of power you have over public opinion when you own 70 percent of the papers in the country. The concept of a “free press” and “democracy” are a joke in these circumstances. Even governments are essentially powerless to rein in this sort of influence – witness the failure of Labor to impose broadcast media-style oversight of the press during its last term in office.

Rupert must be grinning from ear to ear. Labor has striven to shore up profits and serve the interests of the likes of News Corp (with the perhaps fatal exception of the NBN) while the Coalition is promising to deliver even bigger bottom lines for business. The media will foster the notion that vigorous “debate” is going on between the two alleged sides of politics battling over how to provide the most conducive environment for business.

From this table some crumbs may be offered to the Australian people. In the meantime, their real interests for jobs, peace, health and education are ignored. The need for more widespread alternative media is clear. The need for an economic and social alternative to the corrupt and cynical system of capitalism is also clear.   

Next article – Rally says “no” to PNG deal

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