MUNGO MacCALLUM. A $30 million gift to the great rent seeker, News Corp.

Inevitably a scandal over $30 million of taxpayers money to Foxtel tended to get lost in the rush. But it remains a scandal nonetheless, especially when the government admits – no, boasts – that there is no record of the transaction; apparently the cash was simply handed over in a brown paper bag with a wink and a nudge. 

It was a week the featured the same sex marriage imbroglio, the NBN disaster, the water rorting in the Murray Darling endorsed by Barnaby Joyce and now the accusations about the Commonwealth Bank turning a blind eye to money laundering for terrorists.

Inevitably a scandal over $30 million of taxpayers money to Foxtel tended to get lost in the rush. But it remains a scandal nonetheless, especially when the government admits – no, boasts – that there is no record of the transaction; apparently the cash was simply handed over in a brown paper bag with a wink and a nudge.

It was intended, we are told, to be used “to support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports and sports with a high level of community involvement of participation.”

Worthy enough ideals, certainly, but surely there must have been some research into the plan, most obviously whether the money might be spent better on free to air channels where the audiences are far larger and easier to access.

As it is, we have no idea what Fox is going to do with the lot – presumably not simply trouser it to prop up what has, to date, been a loss making venture. The Minister, Mitch Fifield, merely said that it was part of the overall media package and Fox refused to comment.

It must therefore be assumed that it was a sweetener for Rupert Murdoch and his fellow moguls, and had nothing to do with policy. So much for open and transparent government.

Fox, of course, already gets regular free kicks from the conservatives., usually in the pages of its stablemates through the Murdoch empire. One of the silliest came last week from the Australian’s resident dominatrix Janet Albrechtsen, who spent her column extolling the wonder and beauty of what can be loosely described as the network’s current affairs programs.

Abandoning what tenuous grasp of reality she once possessed, Albrechtsen described Outsiders – once the purview of Mark Latham but now taken over by his fellow crazies Ross Cameron and Rowan Dean – as “a cracking show … the number one subscription show in its timeslot.” Well, yes, also the only one. Its audience can hardly be called massive. Indeed, there are times when it can hardly be called visible except for the relentless cross promotion provided by Newscorp.

But Albrechtsen was undeterred: another right wing rant, Paul Murray Live, is lauded as “rocking the ratings … the top rated show across Foxtel.” Yes. Even less unpopular than Outsiders. Albrechtsen clearly has her evenings full.

Perhaps she is lovelorn; her devotion to Peter Dutton the week before suggests that she has abandoned her earlier idol, Tony Abbott, and moved on in search of fresh meat. But there is something missing: for all Dutton’s manifold attributes, Albrechtsen has resisted telling us she loved the magnificent hairiness she swooned over with her Tony.

Never mind, perhaps it will feature in a Foxtel special. Surely Dutton could arrange a swift backhander to fund the program – according to Albrechtsen he can do anything. And since public broadcasting, the ABC and SBS, must be abolished immediately, there will be no shortage of funds for Fox and its struggling multi-billionaire proprietor. Over to you, Mitch – and don’t bother about the paperwork.

It’s only taxpayers’ money and there is plenty more for Rupert where that came from.

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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