Australia's print media is slowly collapsing under pressure from the internet (holding out a little longer than their peers in the US) - unfortunately this means deep-pocketed mining magnates / conservative fruit loops like Gina Reinhart can take over the remnant liberal sections of the media and convert them into yet another arm of the right wing noise machine. DeSmogBlog has a look at the fate of Fairfax - Mining Magnate Gina Rinehart Bids For Editorial Control Of Australia's Fairfax Newspapers.
When you think the news stories just aren’t going your way – when parts of the media just refuse to tow your particular ideological line – what are your options?
For most people, the choices are limited. You could perhaps write a letter to the editor or maybe even pen an opinion piece or start your own blog.
But if you’re the world’s richest woman with a penchant for climate science denial and a coal and iron ore empire to maintain, then your options are considerably broader.
This week, the Australian oligarch Gina Rinehart took the logical step for someone with a personal fortune approaching $30 billion and bought the opposition.
The mining magnate now holds 19 per cent of all the shares in Fairfax – the Australian media organisation which owns the country’s most respected newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age (Melbourne) and the Australian Financial Review.
Rinehart has been increasingly vocal in her opposition to taxes on mining and the Labor Government’s carbon price legislation, while backing and promoting climate science doubt mongerers – even going as far as to appoint one to the board of two of her companies.
Beyond the publicly-funded ABC, in Australia Fairfax provides the only mainstream centre-left balance to much of the anti-environmental, climate sceptic rhetoric offered by the columnists in the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd papers.
Rinehart is understood to be asking for three seats on the Fairfax board, one of which would likely be taken by her Canadian-born advisor Jack Cowin, the owner of the Hungry Jacks burger franchise who has said that Rinehart should be allowed to help set the group’s news agenda. Cowin is also a board member of Channel Ten alongside Rinehart, who owns a near 13 per cent stake in the television network.
Her tilt at Fairfax has prompted a flurry of outrage. Journalists at Fairfax revealed they had written a letter to Rinehart to ask for her assurance that she would sign the company’s 20-year-old “Charter of Editorial Independence” which ensures the company’s directors don’t dictate the news agenda. They have heard nothing back.
The “Charter of Editorial Independence” is signed by the company board and declares journalists should be free to go about their work “fairly, fully and regardless of any commercial, political or personal interests, including those of any proprietors, shareholders or board members.”
Senior Fairfax writer David Marr was under no illusions when he told reporters the charter and its principles were under threat. “It has protected readers, the community and it’s also protected the journalists,” he said, “and that is now what is under direct challenge by Ms Rinehart”. Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins hinted he could quit if Rinehart refused to sign the charter.
Former conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser wrote in The Conversation that if politicians still regarded the print media as having an influence on public policy and opinion, then Rinehart’s bid would represent “policies sold to the highest bidder”.
So “what can we expect”, asked Fraser, rhetorically. “Policies that will support unbridled profits of great mining enterprises, perhaps policies not far short of those supported by the Tea Party and the Republican right in the United States. If this comes to pass, Australia will be effectively without independent print media.”