Murdoch media problems

Feb 20, 2023
News Corp building NYC

The good news for the Murdoch media is that it’s not the most distrusted brand in Australia – despite the efforts of its journalists.

The bad news is that – according to the Roy Morgan Research Most Trusted and Distrusted Brands research – it is the fifth most distrusted behind Facebook, Optus, Telstra and Amazon. It just edges out Harvey Norman, whose ads in newspapers provoke much irritation, which rated sixth.

There are probably many reasons for the rating but the main ones are probably its unrelenting attacks on anything vaguely progressive; its rabid commentators; and, it is attempts to re-frame any debate so as to favour the LNP, attack the ALP and wage war on the woke.

Just last week (10 February) the front page lead had a huge headline – Albanese adopts new tone to save Indigenous voice. This is not news as such but a loaded statement which is freighted with various assumptions.

First the lower case for Voice is significant in itself. The subs couldn’t bring themselves to use the upper case because, presumably, that would give some sort of credence to the Voice concept. The editor must have seen the headline in proof form and also didn’t notice anything amiss.

Second, the underlying assumption was that Albanese was trying to save the Voice because the campaign was in trouble. It may appear so from the Murdoch media, Peter Dutton and much of the rest of a media obsessed by conflict but a minor Government shift in a major community based national campaign supported by all States and Territories, much of big business and many community groups is hardly earth-shattering news.

But it is for The Australian which said: “Anthony Albanese has embarked on a major reset of his campaign for an Indigenous voice (sic) to parliament to engage the support of the Coalition, promising to provide further detail and use a bipartisan committee to be set up next month to maximise support for the referendum.”

Agreeing to send out a publicly funded pamphlet is a change in direction but Albanese put it into perspective when he pointed out that lots of pamphlets get delivered to mail boxes and reiterated the emphasis which will be placed on grassroots campaigning which would result in even more.

Moreover, it’s odds on that that the No case will not manage to deliver quite as many leaflets and direct mail as the Yes campaigners.

As for the ‘new’ bipartisan committee that was something always being considered.

The surprising thing in all this coverage was that the paper wasn’t describing it as a major backflip nor a last-ditch desperate effort to get the campaign back on track.

Meanwhile, the newspaper part of News Corp is looking pretty sick. Profits in the company’s news media business – the New York Post in the US and newspaper operations in Australia and the UK, which also includes radio operations such as TalkSport and the Piers Morgan-led TalkTV – slumped 47% year-on-year in the final three months of the year, according to The Guardian.

News Corp, as a result, has announced that 5% of its global workforce will be cut after profits in the final quarter fell by 30% after advertising revenue fell; the book publishing and digital real estate operations slumped amid a fall in advertising; business at its book publishing and digital real estate operations slumped.

All told there was a 64 per cent decline in income in the quarter ending December 31 and the staff reductions will cost 1259 people their jobs. Who gets to stay will be interesting although sadly we will probably continue to hear from Greg Sheridan and Dennis Shanahan.

The Murdoch problem is that the news media problems have been offset by the success of Fox and other non-news interests. Whether Fox is part of a news business or just an even more flagrant propaganda outlet than the Australian print media is another question though.

The Murdochs’ problems have been exacerbated by the abortive merger between News and Fox which has been put off as not being “optimal at this time.”

The bigger problem is that even Rupert Murdoch is not immortal. Marriage to Jerry Hall didn’t finish him off and he has his mother’s genes so he might last until 100.

But when he does go it probably won’t be a simple transfer of power to Lachlan whose own business record is mixed – with OneTel as one example. The other siblings may well have different ideas.

Media empires are sometime resilient over the generations – for more than a century in some UK cases. But this one could end up looking like a real world Succession.

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