Julia Gillard: News Corp and Fairfax Media are like elderly, sniping neighbours

Julia_Gillard_Telegraph Mumbrella

Gillard’s comments come as her overthrow of Kevin Rudd is retold in the ABC’s The Killing Season | Pictured: How The Tele covered it at the time

Newspaper publishers News Corp and Fairfax are like elderly neighbours sniping at each other across the fence, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said.

In an extract from a new chapter of Gillard’s autobiography published by The Guardian, she also expresses concern at the concentrated media ownership in Australia, with the two companies’ newspapers dictating the daily agenda as TV journalists follow up on the morning’s headlines. She writes: “It is still the case that the early-morning workers in the newsrooms of radio and television stations compose their bulletins based on what they read, which tends to be from one of our traditional media players. The impacts of this concentration are diverse and all undesirable. Above all, it means bias matters more, simply because there is less capacity to contest arguments and less diversity of commentary.”

News Corp publishes national newspaper The Australian along with a daily metro tabloids in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, while Fairfax publishes the Australian Financial Review along with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

News Corp and Fairfax’s hatred of each other leads to them working against the wider interests of the press, argued Gillard. She wrote: 

“The way our media outlets unthinkingly peddle each other’s errors is particularly jarring given the much-vaunted rivalry between the newspaper groups. So constant is the sniping between News Corp and Fairfax, they often seem like irritable, elderly neighbours, always complaining about the other having the television too loud or letting weeds grow through the fence.

“Indeed tension between our news outlets seems so acute that there are times when criticising each other is viewed as more important than arguing for freedom of the press. For example, when one media outlet is berated by government for getting a story wrong, consistent with arguing for freedom of the press, other media outlets could editorialise that freedom inevitably means the right to be provocative, even wrong.

“In Australia’s media culture though it is much more likely the other media outlets would see a competitor being given a beating and want to land their own blows, siding with the government rather than defending an example of the free press at work.”

In the piece, Gillard also highlights News Corp’s campaign against Labor during the last election and complained of vendettas against those who take on the press.

She added: “Another impact of media concentration seems to be the normalising of perverse behaviours. In this small playground, if you are treated unfairly and complain individually, then you will be the subject of payback. The bullying culture of sections of our media establishment would be right at home in the school playgrounds of yesteryear.”


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