Hard News by Russell Brown


Will they make O'Reilly sweat?

The Irish Times has a useful story about the backdrop to Tony O'Reilly's bid to sell his company's 39.1% stake in APN, the company that owns a decent chunk of our media landscape. The key thing to look for is that the O'Reilly-controlled Independent News and Media has a €300 million bond due for redemption in May, 2009.

If INM doesn't have the money from a sale by then, O'Reilly will be forced to look at a rights issue to raise cash -- at which point his dissident shareholder, Denis O'Brien, will pounce, and attempt to seize control of INM.

Any potential buyer might decide to make O'Reilly sweat to drive down the price even further than it has fallen since institutional investors rejected a sale at $A6.20 a share in May last year. APN shares are now trading under $3.

Our longstanding media institutions -- the Herald, the Listener, The Radio Network (two of three of them once owned by the New Zealand public) -- can only bend in the financial wind. I gather yet more cost-cutting is underway at the print publications -- athough I suppose it's a mercy that there's nothing of the order of the shedding of 90 jobs (including 60 of the paper's 230 journalists) at O'Reilly's vanity paper, The Independent, in London.

Meanwhile, as Rupert Murdoch lays into newspapers for losing contact with their readers, things aren't exactly dandy in his empire either.

Dan Rather's lawsuit against his old employers at CBS is either sheer folly or the stuff of Hollywood movies. But what he has forced CBS to hand over -- memos showing that CBS let the Republican Party vet the "independent" panel that would stand in judgement over Rather's story on George W. Bush's Air National Guard service. Best part:

Another memorandum turned over to Mr. Rather’s lawyers by CBS was a long typed list of conservative commentators apparently receiving some preliminary consideration as panel members, including Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. At the bottom of that list, someone had scribbled “Roger Ailes,” the founder of Fox News.

This week's Media7 looked at the conflict in Afghanistan, and the way it's reported -- or not -- in domestic media. The panel features David Beatson, who has been pursuing real stories for Pundit.co.nz, including this one about what may have constituted a Geneva Conventions breach by New Zealand forces. Also, our own Damian Christie -- who actually got to Afghanistan under his own steam last year -- and Pundit founder Tim Watkin.

I feel bound to note that Beatson's claim -- and subsequently ours on the show -- that the seven years New Zealand troops have been in Afghanistan represents the New Zealand military's longest foreign deployment. Our forces were in Bosnia for 12 years on a formal basis and 15 years all-up. You could certainly contend that Bosnia wasn't a war zone all that time -- while Afghanistan, even around Bamiyan where our people are, just gets nastier and more dangerous. But as a bald statement, it's wrong. Sorry.

Update: David B observes:

Bosnia was an international intervention in a civil war. We entered it in 1992 by providing 9 UN military observers after a peace agreement had been signed between Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims. We comitted 250 troops to Bosnia in 1994 after a flare-up in the civil conflict. The majority of those troops returned to NZ in 1996.

We entered Afghanistan as part of a full-throated war of invasion in which the established government [Taliban] of Afghanistan - not just the Al Qaeda terrorists were the declared enemy. We came in on the second wave of the invasion to engage in combat not peace-keeping. I guess that's the difference.

So technically Bosnia stays in, but as David points out, the two deployments aren't greatly comparable.

Anyway, the show is here on TVNZ ondemand, and the other versions of the video will be linked from our TVNZ microsite.

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