To say it is troubling times for the health and diversity of the media in Australia is an understatement.
As reported in The Australian:
MINING magnate Gina Rinehart is believed to have asked for three board seats at Fairfax Media and the unfettered right to hire and fire editors.
Fairfax, however, is yet to make a formal offer of seats to Mrs Rinehart, although that is expected to be made in the next 24 hours and to be for for two seats.
Mrs Rinehart is also understood to have asked for the position of deputy-chairman of the company and sought to have her alternative directors to be unvetted by the board.
Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting has increased its stake in Fairfax by 6.1 per cent in recent days and is looking to move to 19.9 per cent ownership. Hancock revealed today that it had increased its stake in Fairfax to 18.7 per cent.
These demands, if accurate, are extraordinary: it will turn papers such as The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald into the unofficial PR unit of Hancock Prospecting.
As noted by former Age editor Andrew Jaspan, Gina Rinehart’s bid to take control of Fairfax will distort the climate change debate even further:
Rinehart’s appointment of Australia’s leading climate change sceptic, Ian Plimer, as an advisor to her mining companies is simply a taste of what’s to come. As one senior Fairfax editor remarked, expect this kind of front page once Rinehart gets control: “Exclusive: Climate Change is a Hoax.”
Rinehart aims to change the terms of debate in Australia for good. Her fellow Channel 10 director, ‘Hungry Jack’ Cowin, the burger man, will likely join Rinehart on the board of Fairfax. Cowin has already made clear that the Fairfax board has every right to set the editorial tone of the papers. And that Andrew Bolt, who already has the Bolt Report show on Channel 10, would be welcome at a Rinehart dominated Fairfax to “balance the message that’s being communicated to the community”.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation control 75% of the newspaper market in Australia and have been waging an unremitting campaign against the science of climate change.
Thus we will see Australia’s media swallowed up by two eccentric billionaires openly hostile to science.
An independent and diverse media is essential to the political discourse of any democracy.
I present the future of Australia’s media: