Executive decision: Lachlan Murdoch turns back on media inquiry to reopen Fox News | The Weekly Beast

News Corp co-chairman declines Senate communications committee invitation. Plus: Daily Telegraph names and shames ‘index case’

Lachlan Murdoch will be en route to reopen Fox News offices in Los Angeles on Monday when the Senate media inquiry reconvenes to consider YouTube’s temporary ban on Sky News Australia.

The co-chairman of News Corp has declined an invitation from the Senate communications committee, saying he hasn’t been in an executive position at the Australian arm of the media company for some 10 years and it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to appear as a witness.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young had wanted to ask Murdoch, 49, to explain his role in the direction of Sky News Australia and News Corp’s other media outlets.

But now Senate watchers will have to be content to watch Sky After Dark presenters Alan Jones, Rita Panahi and Rowan Dean answer questions about their shows, some of which were removed by YouTube because they were in breach of the platform’s Covid misinformation policy.

Weekly Beast understands Murdoch told the committee the right person to answer questions would be the executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, Michael Miller, or chief executive Robert Thomson.

Murdoch and his family have been living in Sydney since March, and Fox’s executive chairman is returning to Los Angeles next week to reopen Fox News’s operational head office while Sarah and the children remain in the harbour city.

Fox has told its 9,000 staff to return to their offices from 7 September, after working from home for several months.

Sound and fury

Murdoch’s residence in Australia for the past five months may go some way to explaining why the local newspapers have been even more aggressive in their pursuit of the ABC, public broadcasters long being a particular target of the Murdochs. The attacks on Aunty have increased in volume and ferocity in recent months, particularly in the Australian newspaper, and most recently in the company-wide attacks on Four Corners for their two-part exposé of Fox News.

With Lachlan in Sydney watching Fox News under attack, it’s perhaps more understandable why there were an extraordinary 45 articles in two days across the Australian mastheads.

The acrimony reached a crescendo this week with blanket coverage in the Daily Telegraph of ABC journalist Mark Willacy’s reportage on SAS culture.

“Plainly, the ABC’s news and current affairs divisions have been captured by a left-wing activist element,” the Tele editorial thundered.

“Almost all the ABC’s recent crusades on its news and current affairs programs were aimed at bringing down conservative individuals and entities.”

News Corp unmasked

Many people were appalled by the Daily Telegraph’s decision to track down and name and shame the Bondi limousine driver labelled the “index case” by NSW Health. The man in his 60s had transported international flight crews and was the first case in the Sydney outbreak.

The Tele not only splashed his face and photograph on page one under the headline BUSTED, it appears the paper dobbed him in to the police for not wearing a mask too, resulting in a $500 fine.

And they've published the story above an ad from Clive Palmer's political party, whose political leader yesterday called the NSW Chief Health Officer a 'demonic vax-cultist'. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/GAw6efDdKv

— Matt Bevan (@MatthewBevan) August 31, 2021

“After being seen maskless by The Daily Telegraph at a bus stop on Tuesday, he quickly donned a face covering before being picked up in a car,” Danielle Gusmaroli reported. “Eastern Suburbs police issued him with a fine at 3pm.

“‘Officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command received information relating to a breach of the Covid-19 public health orders by a 63-year-old Bondi man,’ a NSW Police spokeswoman said.”

Gusmaroli did not reply to a request for comment.

Once the Tele had flushed the driver out, the Australian newspaper pounced, publishing an “exclusive” story and photographs that detailed the “grief, bitterness and death threats” he had suffered since being identified.

What the paper failed to tell its readers was that its sister paper had reported him to police for not wearing a mask. Instead, they said he spoke to the Australian “after images emerged of him not wearing a mask while waiting outdoors at a bus stop”.

‘No confidence’ in Press Council

If you think the press regulator should take a dim view of the invasion of privacy of the Bondi man, don’t hold your breath because another notorious case of press invasion during Covid has been rejected by the Australian Press Council.

In July last year, the Courier-Mail branded a pair of teenagers from Brisbane’s African migrant communities “Enemies of the state” in a front-page story that to many amounted to a ritual public humiliation.

News Corp stablemate the Herald Sun called the two 19-year-olds “Dumb and dumber” and “reckless” and the Daily Mail called them “coronavirus-infected teenagers”.

The coverage unleashed a torrent of abuse against the women on social media, much of it racially based.

But the press council says it was a matter of public record that the women had been charged for failure to comply with Covid-19 travel restrictions and so “their reasonable expectations of privacy had been diminished”.

“The council acknowledges that the headline is provocative given the language used and the prominence of the women’s images alongside it … [but] accepts that the reporting reflects the seriousness of the women’s actions and risk to the community and was not due to any personal characteristic of the women involved.”

The Queensland African Communities Council says it has “no confidence” in the media regulator.

Oz coverage condemned

Five months after the head of the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne gender clinic alleged the Australian newspaper published disinformation and attempted to destroy her professional reputation over its coverage of the treatment of transgender children, the watchdog has found the paper breached three standards.

Since 2019, the newspaper wrote 45 articles and opinion pieces on trans and gender diverse children and in particular the work of head of the clinic, Associate Prof Michelle Telfer.

The council confirmed the Australian had breached press standards by publishing material that contained inaccurate information, failed to take reasonable steps to ensure fairness and balance and inappropriately targeted Telfer, causing her substantial distress.

Telfer says the council confirmed the Australian had published 45 articles that contained inaccurate information, lacked fairness and balance, inappropriately targeted her and caused distress.

Here’s the outcome of my complaint to @AusPressCouncil. It confirms @australian published 45 articles that contained inaccurate information, lacked fairness and balance, inappropriately targeted me and caused distress. The truth and the facts matter. They are worth fighting for. pic.twitter.com/PWMDx2ADDe

— Michelle Telfer (@michelle_telfer) September 2, 2021

But editor-in-chief Christopher Dore has used his daily editorial to dismiss the complaint as the “hurt feelings of an individual who has held themselves out to be the expert in this field”.

“It is possible to conclude that the complaint made to the APC is another example of the cancel culture tactics used to stifle debate,” Dore said. “We will not shy away from uncomfortable topics that deserve attention. Our loyalties will always reside with our readers and our dedication to seeking the truth. We will never stop asking questions that hold those in positions of authority to account. This is particularly so when the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children are at stake.”

Lend him your ears

Actor and theatre director John Bell AO OBE has been chosen to present the ABC Boyer Lectures. Shakespeare: Soul of the Age, broadcast on ABC Radio National from 7 November, will examine over six lectures how Shakespeare’s life and works are relevant to contemporary issues, such as political self-interest, gender inequality and the growing need for good governance.

What can Shakespeare teach us about life and leadership today?
Acclaimed Australian actor and theatre director, John Bell, will answer this question in the ABC’s 2021 Boyer Lectures. https://t.co/1LP5wJ770x #BoyerLectures pic.twitter.com/2PrrKA3THc

— ABC Radio National (@RadioNational) September 2, 2021

In the first of six lectures he’ll draw from his career spent performing and directing Shakespeare on stage to offer a personal reflection on what the writer says about how to live a “good life”.

From hero to zero

Kyle Sandilands has gone from hero to zero in record time after mocking the Paralympics. In July the shock jock was praised for his viral Get Vaxxed Baby video, which urged people to get vaccinated. But this week his comments about the Paralympics have plunged him back into controversy.

“I saw some poor bloke who ran for the high jump and veered right because he was blind and landed on his arse, on the ground,” Sandilands said on his popular radio show.

“Then when they were playing soccer, the blind people, I was thinking, are you joking? They’re throwing themselves on the ground like sausages to block the ball.”

Disability groups are calling for a boycott of his sponsors. Chris Edwards, Vision Australia advocate, who himself is blind, told Weekly Beast: “Paralympians and other sports people who live with disability have the same passion and commitment to exceed in their fields as anybody else … To denigrate their performance on the basis of their disability is extremely insulting, not only to Paralympians, but to anyone who lives with a disability.”

The chief executive of Ability Works, Sue Boyce, said “words matter”.

“Especially words and statements made by people in the limelight who have the potential to influence community attitudes and be a powerful force for change.”

Sandilands told his viewers on Friday: “I said all these things, but I wasn’t negative towards the contest.

“I just said I saw some stuff and was shocked ... it was quite the eye-opener,”

Warne sledges Woman’s Day

Shane Warne has taken aim at Woman’s Day for a story which suggests he has got back with his ex-girlfriend Liz Hurley. The legendary cricketer said the magazine “totally made up” the story and used 10-year-old photographs of the couple and anonymous quotes in the “exclusive”: “Are Shane Warne and Liz Hurley back together? There are some major clues they might be”.

“For 30 years my children and I have put up with your lies and fabricated stories – well not anymore,” Warne said in Twitter in a series of tweets. “You should not be allowed to just make things up. You are going to apologise to the public for your continual lies and my family as this is an absolute disgrace – AGAIN!!”

We tried to talk to Woman’s Day and its publisher, Are Media, formerly known as Bauer, but had no response to multiple queries.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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