ABC revisits Murdoch influence, while Williams finds it all 'absurd'

With a Senate inquiry set to start, there's tacit acceptance that the Royal Commission former prime minister Kevin Rudd and more than 500,000 others asked for will not take place.

Not that it ever would have, if the working relationship between the Murdoch-owned media and Australia's Morrison government was to deliver value for either side.

But that doesn't mean the fascination with the subject is about to end any time soon.

Tuesday's ABC 7.30 Report updated on the subject, with some old video footage of Rupert Murdoch, now aged 89, and contributions from Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull - another prime minister to sign the #MurdochRoyalCommission petition - and somewhat curiously, Kim Williams.

The former chief executive of (then) News Limited left in 2013 because he failed (as marketing publication Mumbrella put it) to "master the internal politics" of the company, while seeing sales revenue collapse.

It quoted one 'insider' at the time, that "you can piss off the editors or you can lose money, but you certainly can't do both and think Rupert (Murdoch) will let you get away with it".

It was apparently, the 'direct line' some of the Australian editors had to the boss which was Williams' downfall.

Curiously however, he appeared on 7.30 Report as some sort of News apologist, claiming "the idea" of a printed newspaper still having significant influence in this age was "absurd", an adjective he used again to describe the call for a Royal Commission, arguing that it was not warranted, and unlikely to achieve anything.

Another nay-sayer was Pru Goward - former Liberal politician and sex discrimination commissioner - who said the topic was not important enough for "such a high level inquiry". Although she warned of getting Murdoch's (Sydney) Daily Telegraph offside.

The ABC programme spoke of a "partnership" between former prime minister Tony Abbott and the Murdoch papers, while Turnbull said current incumbent Scott Morrison - narrowly appointed instead of Murdoch's "preferred" candidate, Peter Dutton - was "cleaving very close to the Murdoch press, and they are backing him up" - determined to "avoid he fate I received". Talking of the close relationship with Donald Trump and influence in the US, reporter Michael Vincent mentioned Fox News but seemed oblivious to the Wall Street Journal and New York Post.

Having been allowed (by then prime minister Paul Keating) to buy the Herald & Weekly Times company in 1987, APN News & Media in 2016, and a lot more in between, News now owns most of the major news outlets in Australia, print or digital, and every one in some states, such as Queensland. Exceptions are Nine's Sydney and Melbourne metro dailies, Seven West's West Australian in Perth, and of course, the ABC.

Williams urges that we should "ignore the influence of individuals", and cites what he calls the public's "inalienable right not to buy the paper", but he appears to be missing the point on both issues.

Perhaps the last word belongs to Keith Rupert Murdoch himself, quoted in footage from half a century ago: "Every prime minister, every politician, they are all paranoid about the press," he said.

Which - with that increase in reach and influence - is exactly what the inquiry to be chaired by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is all about.

• On Wednesday, The Australian reported that "more than 1000" names on the petition were fake, and that a Melbourne blogger had paid someone in Bangladesh $58 to generate them as a way of testing authenticity. The News Corp paper reported that among names on the petition are 'Scott Morrison', 'Anthony Albanese' - spokespersons for both of whom denied signing - and 'Rupert Murdoch'.

It says more signatures appear to be fake, but does not speculate on whether they were added to boost numbers to the petition or to discredit it.

Peter Coleman

Pictured (top): Kevin Rudd with Rupert Murdoch, and (above) Kim Williams.

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