News Corp CEO: claims of anti-Labor bias are ‘baseless’

Julian Clake

Julian Clake

The newly appointed CEO of News Corp Australia Julian Clarke has rejected suggestions that the publisher is running a campaign against the Labor government.

Speaking to Mumbrella after a panel discussion of newspaper CEOs at the industry’s Future Forum event in Sydney, Clarke would not discuss the controversy over News Corp’s election coverage in detail, but described  accusations by Labor PM Kevin Rudd as “baseless”.

“We know why they are doing it and it is baseless”, Clarke told Mumbrella.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has responded to a series of highly critical front pages in News Corp publications such as The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun and Courier Mail by accusing the company of pursuing its own commercial interests.

“I think (Rupert Murdoch) made it fairly clear through one of his editors the other day that he doesn’t really like us and would like to give us the old heave ho and get his mate Mr Abbott in,” said Rudd earlier this month.

Last night, campaign group GetUp launched its own attack on News Corp’s political coverage.

Clarke’s remark came following an event where he was joined by the CEOs of Fairfax Media Greg Hywood, APN News and Media Michael Miller and West Australian Newspapers Chris Wharton.

Speaking about his predecessor Kim Williams’s rounds of cost cutting Clarke said there was a limit to what could be achieved through such means.

“My central position in all of this is that as much as the internet has intervened in a negative way, it has also released us,” said Clarke.

“We are now 24/7 and capable of video and of transactional platforms. It is a whole new exciting world that we live in and it is a matter of now articulating that,” he said.

“No one owes us a living; we probably had a tailwind for many, many years… and while cost cutting is absolutely essential you can only do it once. This is really about growing our business.”

Kim Williams’s cost cutting regime and the anger this engendered in News Corp Australia’s editors was seen by many as a key factor in his demise.

Rival Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood also spoke about his success in lowering his cost base and focusing the business.

We made the decision a few years ago that what was happening in the market was the absolute manifestation of structural change,” said Hywood.

“There is a real momentum and excitement in our business and changing the way we do things is fascinating it’s own right,” he said.

“We talk a lot about restructuring the business but the fundamental approach we are taking is that the weighing around our cost reductions is really about servicing the core which is really about storytelling and sales.”

Nic Christensen


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