Friday, 15 June 2007
For our purpose here the frog is the Bancroft family and the scorpion is the charming Rupert Murdoch, who would very much like to own the Bancrofts' shares in Dow Jones & Company and its jewel, The Wall Street Journal. Family members sensibly fear that he would misuse that paper's journalistic power. Murdoch's answer is that to damage the credibility of the Journal would be to destroy it. Why would he do such a thing?
You know the answer. For proof, you can read the wonderful 114-inch page-one piece in the June 5 Journal itself, which reported multiple examples all around the world demonstrating (again) that Murdoch's "newspapers and other media outlets have made coverage decisions that advanced the interest of his sprawling media conglomerate, News Corp."
The question for the Bancrofts is what to do about that. At press time some family members were exploring the creation of an agreement that would guarantee the Journal's editorial independence. They know that an agreement structured for that very reason at London Sunday Times in the 1980s was briskly whacked by Murdoch. ("God, you don't take all that seriously, do you?" he asked an assistant editor at the Times.) Thus, the Bancrofts would likely employ pricey lawyers to try to make a Dow Jones agreement invincible.
But Rupert has lawyers too. This is not a bad experiment in a world in which media are owned by companies like General Electric or by realtors like Sam Zell. But not with Murdoch. He has a record that proves that once he had some control he would readily find a way to sacrifice the Journal on the News Corp. altar. It's his nature.
We appreciate that the Bancrofts have come to realize that Dow Jones needs a fresh direction. And it is easy for outsiders to ask people to walk away from a $5 billion offer. But this is their moment in history. We hope they find a way to keep this American treasure away from Rupert Murdoch, who will smile even as he raises the stinger.
Thursday, 14 June 2007
"We're going to change the image of the Liberal Party as a 'do-nothing' party for the environment," said Howard. "And once we've fixed image, we can move into fixing the climate later." He also pointed out that the previous Budget showed the Liberals' commitment to recycling, particularly of Labor policies.
The scheme replaces the old horse-trading scheme for dealing with climate change, where polluting industries traded donations to the Liberal party for political favours. The Liberals also tested geo-sequestration techniques, where recommendations on global warming were safely buried for thousands of years.
Asked to explain his change of heart , Howard pointed to hard data. "We weren't swayed by computer models at first," said Howard. "But that was before they factored Newspoll into the projections."
However the Government is adamant that alarmist predictions should be ignored. "Some doomsdayers say that Kevin Rudd could be Prime Minster in 2012. But these kind of apocalyptic predictions have been wrong in the past. Just ask Mark Latham."
The government says that the cost to the taxpayer will be around two hundred million dollars, with 80% of that money dedicated to an advertising campaign informing taxpayers of the schemes.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Turnbull is putting together another parallel scheme, where water is traded on his credibility as a future leader of the Liberal party. Currently it holds no water.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
"I realised people would rather watch pyramids line up on a Queen Of The Nile poker machine than sit through another half an hour of Bert Newton's hammy, faux-Vaudevillian presenting," said Packer, who plans to expand his gambling empire. He has already begun headhunting talent from the network for his new operation, with Eddie McGuire taking charge of Crown Casino's roulette division and Karl Stefanovic tipped to be the "face" of Packer's online gambling sites. "We were going to use Richard Wilkins, but test groups logged off in droves every time he appeared on their monitors," Packer explained.
In related news, Alan Jones has been unceremoniously sacked from Today by the new administration, as part of a long-term plan to capture younger viewers. "Apparently Nine's new target audience aren't interested in ill-thought, hysterical rhetoric from out-of-touch Liberal Party stooges," he said, obviously reading from an autocue. "I'm Alan Jones."
Meanwhile, both the NRL and AFL Footy Show teams are feeling nervous about the company's takeover by a international company, especially with Scottish 36-year-old Adrian Mackenzie running CVC Asia Pacific's Australian operations. "It's a matter of cultural context," explained Paul ‘Fatty' Vautin. "How's a Scotsman gonna understand the connection between rugby league commentary and a big, boofy bloke dressed up as a lady?"
PBL's new chief executive, Ian Law, has been quick to allay fears of asset-stripping and downsizing. "I'm confident Nine's new line-up will bring the network back to prominence - we've just bought the rights to make a local version of an exciting new Dutch reality show. As a kidney patient, I think Kerry would've approved of the premise."
Sunday, 10 June 2007
Thousands of Australians were evacuated from their homes on Sunday as floodwaters headed down the country's wine-rich Hunter Valley, leaving towns cut off and farms isolated like islands.
A major storm battering Australia's east coast for the past three days has whipped up huge seas, which beached a coal ship, and dumped flooding rains over the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney.
Eight people have drowned in the floods, the worst in 30 years in the area, which have been declared a natural disaster by the New South Wales state government. Another person was killed when a tree fell on him, bringing the storm's death toll to nine.
"I speak for every Australian in saying ... we are heart broken by the loss of lives," said Prime Minister John Howard.
Around 5,000 residents from the town of Maitland in the Hunter Valley were evacuated on Sunday fearing the swollen Hunter River would break levees overnight, said emergency officials.
"This afternoon, we got advised that the levee is likely to overtop. Because of that we have ordered the evacuation of the some 5,000 people," Philip Campbell, a spokesman for the State Emergency Service told Reuters.
"It is the most significant flooding in the Hunter Valley since 1971. It is a very serious flood threat and we are taking the threat very seriously."
Army soldiers were constructing sand bag levees to try and hold back the flooded Hunter River, which had swollen into a wide, brown swirling torrent of water heading down the valley.
"I just don't know what is going to happen now. It's a real battle," said dairy farmer John Cousins as he surveyed his flooded farm, which had been battling drought before the storm and floods hit.
Another farmer whose entire property looked like a lake told local television: "We will survive, its what we do on the land".
Some farmers were forced to swim their horses and cattle out of floodwaters. One farmer, chest deep in water, held a chicken above his head as he waded towards higher ground.
Damage assessments of properties in the Hunter Valley were still being compiled and it was unclear how the areas famed wineries have faired in the flooding.
New South Wales state premier Morris Lemma said the damage in Newcastle, one of Australia's major coal export ports, was worse than after a 1989 earthquake hit the city.
"What I saw were parts of Newcastle that resembled the kind of damage that followed the earthquake," he told reporters after visiting Newcastle.
LIMITED DROUGHT RELIEF
Up to 300 mm of rain has fallen since Thursday on parts of the Hunter region, while parts of the Central Coast and Sydney received 200 mm.
Still, the rains have eluded much of the drought-stricken Sydney catchment area, with just 40 mm of rains in the main Warragamba Dam area and other dams.
More than 105,000 homes remain without power in Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Hunter Valley.
"Never before has our electricity network sustained such severe damage across such a widespread area," EnergyAustralia executive general manager network Geoff Lilliss said. "The extreme weather over the last few days has taken a heavy toll."
Wild seas on Sunday continued to hinder the salvage of the bulk carrier "Pasha Bulker", beached on Newcastle's Nobbys Beach on Friday. Authorities fear a marine disaster if the giant ship breaks up and spills its 700 tonnes of fuel and oil.
Newcastle Port Corporation chief Gary Webb said a 10-man salvage team was working on refloating the ship.
All coal loading operations in Newcastle have been suspended until the seas calm down, leaving some 50-plus ships anchored offshore.