Hard News by Russell Brown


Granny for Sale

The Australian's business section says this morning that APN is being put up for sale by Tony O'Reilly's heavily indebted Independent News and Media.

Nevil Gibson has a New Zealand-angled story on the NBR website, noting that the company's half share in The Radio Network will be up for grabs too. And that O'Reilly's dissident shareholder (and fellow Irish billionaire) Denis O'Brien is outraged by the decision to cut loose the Australasian assets rather than do something about O'Reilly's London vanity paper, The Independent.

At a time when APN is already cutting editorial resources -- and where the liquidity that might have enabled, say, a private equity company purchase, is gone -- O'Brien would seem to have a point. The New Zealand media industry is about to head into strange territory. Perhaps O'Reilly could try a Trade Me listing …

You know, on Saturday I really thought Winston Peters was toast: that there was enough in Phil Kitchin's reporting on former National MP Ross Meurant's lobbying practice to establish that New Zealand First policy was exchanged for cash and goods. And then Peters is bailed out by Peter Dunne, who turns out to be another Meurant guy.

It's hard to see how one could go down without another; and potentially hard to see how a government could be formed without one of them involved. And whatever way it goes, I think we're due some strong public inquiry on lobbying practices in the racing and fishing industries, no matter who it embarrasses.

And we really need to hear from Meurant, along the lines of "Ross, just how rancid was your lobbying business?"

Meanwhile, the Herald has an "editorial" (oddly, bylined to Eugene Bingham) [Just got a call from someone at the Herald: the Bingham byline on the editorial I linked to above was a mistake -- their system automatically populated the byline field with Bingham's name because it was in the copy] explaining its approach to last week's H-Fee story, headed H-fee: same story chased for different reasons:

… why did [Key] tell us he had left Elders a year earlier than he did? The reason may be simply that he has a hazy recall of dates but he needs to be more precise. A would-be Prime Minister must expect scrutiny of every word.

Okay, then. But how and why did the language of story on the Herald's website on Wednesday afternoon come to be so sharply dialled back in the course of a couple of hours? At what point did the Herald decide it didn't really have a story? I'm interested.

Anyway, best go: big day tomorrow (well, bigweek, actually): we have a Media7 show where two New Zealand journalists working as correspondents for the Financial Times -- deputy Beijing bureau chief Jamil Anderlini, and former Seoul correspondent Anna Fifield -- along with Indian security and political reporter Dr Sudha Ramachandran will discuss the stories we get from Asia -- and the stories we don't. Tip: don't count on China to bail us out of the global credit crunch.

If you'd like to join us early evening tomorrow at The Classic in Queen Street for the recording, hit "reply" and let me know asap.

Earlier in the day, I also have a dizzingly special appointment: I'm interviewing Professor Lawrence Lessig for the TV show (the plan at present is to show it as a summer special). Feel free to suggest a question or two.

And, of course, you can get yourself along to tonight's public lecture at Auckland University to hear Lessig speak on "Keeping culture free: The choices law and technology force us to make about the future of the Internet and the progress of cultures".

PS: Some applause, please for the New Zealand U17 women's football team, who have participated in two wonderfully watchable matches in the past week. They lost both, ending any hope of advancing in the tournament, but I don't think that result really reflects how well they played.

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