Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A handful of battling billionaires

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  • Mark Graham,

    Please God, not the Kochs. Scumbags of the highest order.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 218 posts Report

  • Euan Mason,

    People will buy and read what they perceive to be balanced reporting. Unfortunately this check on media bias has the following flaws in a web-based world:

    a) Many newspapers are free to read on the web and it's advertisers who choose what thrives
    b) Buy up enough outlets and readers have no choice but to read your propaganda
    c) Sources and whistle-blowers cannot be protected from legalised domestic spying
    d) People read what plays to their prejudices (always true, not just in a wwwworld).

    So where does this leave the fourth estate as a check on governments' abuses of power? Is it possible for the media to retain this role? Should we have some kind of regulation of media ownership, and isn't this just regulatees regulating the regulators? Relying on friendly, public-spirited billionaires isn't a very stable solution.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report

  • David Hood,

    Always pays to check the surrounding issues in cases like this (which I don't know about in this case). In the sale the other day of of the Boston Globe by the New York Times for $70 million, the Times keep the Globe's pension obligations (effectively making it a sale for -$40 million, or so I've read).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report

  • Shaun Lott,

    $250m seems cheap... but surely the real costs come in the long term support of a business that will marginally profitable (at best) with an eye to the civic good?

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 113 posts Report

  • The Ruminator,

    That letter is an exercise in spectacular PR. Anyone considering buying a company needs to take that down word-for-word and replicate it as best they can...

    Since Apr 2013 • 54 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to David Hood,

    In the sale the other day of of the Boston Globe by the New York Times for $70 million, the Times keep the Globe’s pension obligations (effectively making it a sale for -$40 million, or so I’ve read).

    Interesting. The Tribune Company entered bankruptcy (from which it just emerged) with something like $13 billion in debt -- quite a lot more than its assets were worth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Tim Michie,

    I was interested this acquistion followed so soon after the Washington Post introduced its paywall (with allowance of 20 free articles/month for registered but unsubsribed readers). I think the social good component was a factor for the Grahams Trust discounting the price.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Craig has directed me to this link detailing quite how much Bezos got for his $250m. Not just A masthead, but a publishing empire.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    David Simon on the Koch brothers' plans:

    “When I heard that the Koch brothers, bless their hearts, were interested in purchasing newspapers–and the Baltimore Sun, my alma mater, in particular–I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of the last nail in the coffin,’” Simon said. “There’s a lot of damage that’s been done to print journalism in the last 15 years, much of it self-inflicted.” He noted that the “original sin” for American journalism was going to Wall Street for funding, which led companies to “put out a shittier newspaper and make more money.”

    When he heard that the “ideological” Koch brothers were looking to buy the “husk” of the Tribune Company papers, he thought, “That’s the end game.” He added, “It’s not enough for you to lobby government, it’s not enough for you to influence elections. There’s an awful lot of capital that’s already introduced into our electoral process. Newspapers, the fourth estate, are supposed to be outside of that.”

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Barnaby Nicholls,

    It's hard to know exactly what kind of model is ideal for newspapers - they're still large news-gathering/disseminating organisations, and continue to be widely read. Profit may be just about impossible for them, so all they have left to recommend them is influence - and this leads to ownership by those who can afford to run them at a loss. Murdoch's grip on the British press is incredible, let alone his much more significant influence in Australia - owning a newspaper may not be directly profitable, but political influence can pretty easily be converted into entrenching a favourable environment and ensuring considerably more significant profits for their other commercial interests than newspapers have ever earned for themselves.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2013 • 19 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Newspapers are now restored to their former status as playthings of the rich, rather than market-driven profit centers.

    An intriguing column by The Guardian's Emily Bell.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • James George,

    So "I'd rather have Murdoch than the Kochs own The Times, if it came down to that choice," he said. The Koch brothers, he charged, "use money and media to misinform, misdirect and make miserable all of us." is to be regarded as credible?
    You have to be joking. Murdoch's News Ltd/plc/international/corp has committed all of those sins and more.
    News Ltd just imported Murdoch confidante & former editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph and, for the past 12 years, The New York Post into Australia to oversee News Ltd's co-ordinated attacks on Bruce Rudd during the lead up to Australia's general election.
    Why? Because Rudd is committed to ensuring the National Broadband Network (NBN) is sufficiently resourced to provide genuine competition to Foxtel cable TV monopoly which jointly owned by News Corp & Telstra is Newscorp's most valuable Australian asset.

    Jeff Bezos will not have bought the WaPo for the warm & fuzzy feelings he hopes to get when it runs another Watergate type expose.
    The WaPo has long been a tool of both halves of the neo-liberal American Empire Party and that won't change under Bezos' stewardship.
    What will happen is that WaPo will largely be left alone to pursue its status quo agenda except when government regulation anywhere by anyone threatens Amazon's profits.
    Then WaPo will be used to nuture politicians sympathetic to Amazon's situation.
    Say for example NZ pollies planned to actually pass laws which would give local retailers an edge in the market by making amazon collect gst on all goods sold off their site delivered here no matter who the actual vendor was.
    A few quiet words to a couple friends on the hill who would, in return for favourable coverage in their home district/state launch tirades against NZ's food safety or tourism standards that would make today's story in Xinhua about Fonterra seem advertorial.
    Yeah Bezos doesn't give a flying f**k about NZ sales but he is interested in preventing a 'thin end of the wedge' situation.
    US corporations are increasingly dependant on offshore markets, Google has gotten itself into a fine pickle with englander parliamentarians over its tax dodging scheme whereby nearly all of its european bosses live & work in London despite corporate structure claims Google Euro is in fact an Irish based entity that paid less than 6 million quid tax on profits of many Billions of pounds.
    Does anyone really imagine Google would have copped that grief if Larry & Sergey owned, say, The Guardian?

    It amazes some of us that when Clark tried to one good thing for the people of Aotearoa once she saw defeat was inevitable, by outlawing corporate funding of political campaigns, thereby ensuring that every citizen's voice carried as close as possible the same weight as everyone else's, most kiwis lapped up the media's claim to be 'protecting free speech' without asking themselves why it was that news publishers had become so altruistic.
    Repealing that law was about the first thing KeyCorp did after election, because a political brand such as national's which emphasizes money ahead of citizens, couldn't survive in system where the media can't be bought.
    So now rather than the Nats having to reconnect with the voters, we see the brand that the media continually sell to the mugs as 'the only alternative' brand, Labour, ditching citizens in favour of lounging about Sky City's corporate box.
    Reed Hundt's job as Federal Communications Commission chair, was got courtesy of Barack Oblamblam and the democrat party machine, of course he's gonna favour Murdoch over the Kochs.
    Murdoch fishwraps occasionally back the left hand half of the neo-liberal party eg The Sun's support of Tony Bliar in england's 1997 general election.
    The Koch brothers only ever back the right hand half US neo-liberal political parties, the Republican Party, so Hundt's dislike of Koch owned newspapers is a given - rather like Peter Dunne picking power over principal by supporting GCSB legislation.
    I do wish kiwi media commentators looked at vital issues such as why has no NZ media outlet published a complete translation of the Xinhua editorial .

    Since Sep 2007 • 96 posts Report

  • James George,

    oops - principle not principal

    Since Sep 2007 • 96 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James George,

    You have to be joking. Murdoch’s News Ltd/plc/international/corp has committed all of those sins and more.

    As odious as Murdoch might be, he's nowhere near the Koch brothers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic,

    America has the Koch Brothers. Australia has Gina Rinehart.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    As odious as Murdoch might be, he’s nowhere near the Koch brothers.

    You mean that whole Koch Brothers joining with George Soros to fund the ACLU to challenge the USA PATRIOT Act while Bush was President?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report

  • Robin,

    Auckland • Since Jun 2012 • 8 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    You mean that whole Koch Brothers joining with George Soros to fund the ACLU to challenge the USA PATRIOT Act while Bush was President?

    No, more the way they've bankrolled school board candidates to defeat diversity schemes, their massive support for voter ID laws and other vote suppression efforts, the tens of millions they've poured into risible climate-denial groups and their own company's dreadful record on corruption and environmental pollution. That sort of thing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    For an example of how a newspaper takeover can go horribly wrong, look no further than David Carr's astonishing account of the goings-on at the Tribune Company. It's a remarkable piece of journalism, but his investigation reveals that the company's moral and fiscal bankruptcy under Zell- the workplace culture was utterly vile under his tenure. (Some of the anecdotes are jaw-dropping).

    If you've got a spare hour or so, Jane Mayer's New Yorker profile is a great account of the undeniably shady and corrupt nature of the Koch Brothers operations.

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 449 posts Report

  • anth,

    Meanwhile the Sun is going behind a paywall but that is only part of the story.

    Since Nov 2006 • 77 posts Report

  • Myles Thomas,

    Maybe newspapers need to borrow funding models from other media - say the BBC or ABC in Oz? The Guardian is owned by a non-profit trust and that shows in its reporting. Journalism's role in democracy is the hedgehog to the 'market's 18-wheel juggernaut.

    If politicians are unhappy with their treatment by newspaper owners, and unable to push regulation past the self-perpetuating power of that same media, they could establish a government funded newspaper, operated at arm's length?

    What about nationalising the NZ Herald if it ever looked destined to disappear?

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    About the pensions aspect of the WaPo deal.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Anthony Behrens Esq, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    America has the Koch Brothers. Australia has Gina Rinehart.

    Was just going to say that...with the addition that New Zealand also has Ms Rinehart

    Manawatu • Since Nov 2012 • 19 posts Report

  • James George,

    I have no liking for the Koch brothers but any comparison between Koch & Murdoch that finds the Kochs more 'evil' is an indication that the person making the comparison is relying on partisan political views from people such as the Democrat and warmonger Juan Cole or, holds partisan views them self in this case probably a tribal social democrat or similar ilk.
    The Kochs are odious elitist assholes but at least they probably believe what they are doing. Murdoch is a mercenary; the classic example of the corporate psychopath who will do anything at all if he thinks it will make a dollar.

    Since Sep 2007 • 96 posts Report

  • Tinakori, in reply to James George,

    Bruce Rudd? Who's he, Kevin's brother?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report

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