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Sky News host Kristina Keneally: Australia is too small for a Fox News

Australia’s population would be too small to support a full-time, Fox News style commentary-led news network, Sky News host Kristina Keneally has suggested.

Responding to a question at a breakfast discussion organised by the Online News Association in Sydney, Keneally – a former Labor premier of New South Wales – argued that the ultra-right wing Fox News serves a narrow niche, but is successful because of the size of the US population.

Keneally:

Keneally: Fox News narrowcasting won’t work in Oz

Sky News Australia is currently being fully acquired by News Corp. In the US, the highly-profitable Fox News is owned by News Corp’s sister company, 21st Century Fox.

Keneally was asked whether a polarised, politics-based comment network would find an audience in Australia. She replied: “It has an audience, after 7:00pm on Sky News.”

Sky News Australia launched 20 years ago as a joint-venture between Seven, Nine and the News-Corp aligned UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

For most of its history, Sky News remained mainly bulletin based. But over the past five years, it has increasingly turned over its evening programming to panel-based discussion shows, mainly featuring right-leaning commentators such as Andrew Bolt and Paul Murray.

Murray

Murray, host of Paul Murray Live on Sky News

Describing herself as the network’s “lefty”, Keneally added: “What we do at Sky is to try to bring both analysis and news to people throughout the day and I think we do a really good job with that. But we do have a particular style of analysis after 7:00pm.

“And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Our hosts are quite upfront about where they stand. And you don’t tune into Paul Murray thinking you’re going to get one type of agenda, then be surprised when you get another.

“So there’s always an audience that wants to engage with that type of content.

“So, would it have an audience? It probably would; why wouldn’t it? But it would obviously be much smaller.”

Keneally went on: “The one thing to remember about America is that Fox is narrowcasting to a diminishing portion of the American population. And part of the reason the Republicans are in such trouble is the shifting demographics of the United States.

“That is the Republicans’ challenge. Fox News merely amplifies their message to a narrow portion of the population. But their population is so big that that makes that an economically viable proposition for them.

“In Australia, we have to be able to talk to a broader range of people because a network of the scale of a Sky or the Daily Telegraph couldn’t get away with talking to such a narrow proportion of the population.”

She added: “I don’t think it’s fair to compare us with Fox. The dimensions and demographics of the American audience are quite different.”

Meanwhile, News Corp executive Claire Harvey suggested that the ability of talkback radio and newspapers such as those in her stable had less ability to influence political outcomes than had once been the case.

Harvey: News Corp may not be as evil as people think

Harvey: News Corp ‘slightly less evil than people think’

Harvey, The Sunday Telegraph’s deputy editor, said: “I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that tabloid media and talkback radio don’t necessarily change votes. I think a good example is the recent Federal election where Western Sydney did not go the way that the Daily Telegraph and 2GB wanted them to go… or were generally suggesting that they might like to go.

“It may make us slightly less evil than people think we are. It might make us more evil – I’m not quite sure. Maybe we’re just not as competent.”

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