Nine’s newspaper journalists demand answers following Hugh Marks-hosted Liberal fundraiser

Nine’s newspaper journalists have turned to the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) to voice their concerns over a Liberal fundraiser hosted by Nine CEO Hugh Marks at the media company’s Willoughby offices.

Attention was first drawn to the event by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review (AFR) yesterday afternoon, in stories posted to their respective digital platforms.

Marks has been a strong advocate for press freedom

According to the reports, the event had a ticket price of $10,000-a-head and would be attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, communications minister Paul Fletcher, education minister Dan Tehan, trade minister Simon Birmingham, government services minister Stuart Robert, and assistant financial services minister Jane Hume.

In an open letter written to Marks and managing director of publishing Chris Janz, the house committees of Nine’s three major metro daily mastheads, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and the AFR, drew attention to their Fairfax roots and questioned why the event was held without staff being informed.

The letter read:

“Dear Hugh and Chris

Reports in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the AFR yesterday about Nine hosting a Liberal Party fundraiser at our Willoughby offices have raised the question of where the Nine newspapers’ political loyalties lie.

The former Fairfax mastheads have a long history of political independence. If this has changed and we are now associated with the Liberal Party, this should be conveyed to staff. A decision to host fundraisers for Labor or other political parties would be of equal concern.

We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised by the hosting of party political fundraisers. This can only serve to make the job of working journalists more difficult.

Our mastheads have done much to expose the corrupting influence of money on politics. It is vitally important that we remain independent of the political process.

On behalf of the house committees of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.”

Marks has been an outspoken champion of press freedom in recent months, following the raids on the home of News Corp’s Annika Smethurst and the ABC headquarters in Sydney. He spoke at a National Press Club event in June, giving a speech which compared the current state of freedom in the Australian media industry to a boiled frog – at the mercy of laws which have crept in overtime and not been challenged. At that event he said the media needs to show a united front to demand change from the government.

Speaking to Mumbrella recently after Nine posted its fiscal year results, Marks said the recent furore around Alan Jones was a reflection that people in prominent media positions need to be at the ‘top of their game’ because the demands on them are heightened.

“It’s part of our industry and the demands on us, or the demands on our people, to always be at the best of their game are heightened. When we fall down then we certainly suffer the consequences. It’s just a reminder to all of our people that we need to be on our game and we need to be at our very best,” said Marks.

A spokesperson for Nine said the event had been a chance for the media company to present its case to the Liberal Party.

“Nine management and board have been clear and strong in the support of the Charter of Editorial Independence. Editorial impartiality is also integral to the operations of our regulated television business,” said the spokesperson.

“We participate actively in our democracy and speak to all parties to press our case around regulation and other political issues that concern our business and the ability of our people to perform their role.  We took the opportunity last night to present our case to the Liberal Party at their business forum and today to the Labor Party at their event and dinner with their leader.”


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