The ability to profit from the application of these principles is central both to the influence and
independence of the press. It is interesting to note, however, the readiness of senior executives
in major media companies to conflate the national interest with their commercial interests. For
example, Ken Cowley, chief executive of News Corporation Ltd in Australia, told a parliamentary
inquiry into the print media industry: ‘We take the view, as simple as it is and as corny as it
sounds, that what is good for your country is good for your business and what is good for your
business is good for the paper, its readers and our employees.’ (Hansard transcript, House of
Representatives Select Committee into the Print Media 1991, p 481)
This tactic was used against the Age in 1862, the Melbourne Herald in 1877–78 (Mayer 1968,
p 18) and the New South Wales Labor Premier withdrew some government advertising from
the Sydney Morning Herald in 1931 (Bowman 1988, p 71). This was revived in a spectacular
fashion by the Wran government in New South Wales in 1984, when it withdrew its pages of classified job advertisements, worth $1.5 million a year, from the Fairfax publications and placed
them in the News Ltd papers. The public announcement attributed the decision to cost saving,
but it was generally seen as a means of punishing the Fairfax press for its critical coverage
(Steketee and Cockburn 1986, p 172). Similarly, the conservative Bjelke-Petersen government in
Queensland withdrew advertising from the Courier-Mail, the state's dominant newspaper, after
it published a series of uncharacteristically critical articles in 1986, and diverted the state's
multi-million dollar advertising budget to the short-lived Brisbane Sun (Bowman 1988, p 71).
These companies were the Herald and Weekly Times based in Melbourne, but with a stable of
newspapers in most capital cities, many suburban and regional papers, radio networks and
several television Channel Seven stations; John Fairfax Ltd, which owned daily newspapers in
Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, suburban and regional newspapers, a stable of magazines,
radio network and an interest in several television stations in the Channel Seven group; News
Limited with newspapers in Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney, suburban newspapers, some magazines and extensive interests in the Channel Ten television stations; and Australian Consolidated
Press, which owned the largest magazine group, some suburban and regional newspapers and
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The Media & Communications in Australia.
Contributors: Stuart Cunningham - Editor, Graeme Turner - Editor.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin.
Place of publication: Crows Nest, N.S.W..
Publication year: 2002.
Page number: 115.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may
not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.