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Media under the microscope

Mass media not that interested in Aboriginal initiative: John Howard’s initiative to sort out Northern Territory aboriginal settlements has had one plus for him: he has kept Kevin Rudd quiet for a week. Since Howard’s release of the totally unexpected plan to take over Aboriginal communities, the main political criticism has come from Aboriginals themselves and social academics. If this NT initiative was aimed at wedging Labor (which we believe it was), it hasn’t worked. Rudd immediately said he supported the campaign. The TV media most watched by voters - NINE, SEVEN and TEN news - has not given a big run to goings-on in the NT. [29.06.07]

Remote issue for most voters: In Sydney, The Daily Telegraph, and in Melbourne, The Herald Sun, have shown limited interest. On the other hand, the two Fairfax broadsheets - The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age - have come out against the scheme all guns blazing. On Wednesday, The Age was particularly tough, with a big front page story headed - ‘The Government is using these children to win the election’, along with, ‘This is our black children overboard’. Its headings were all quotes from angry residents of the town who had stories of neglect by governments (the NT Government as well, of course). For most voters, the plight of Aborigines in Northern Australia is a long way removed from their daily lives. Unlike the Tampa and children overboard (which was used to generate fear of terrorists), there is nothing threatening about Aborigines. [29.06.07]

Stating the obvious: In the fourth test in Melbourne, Michael Slater, former test batsman and part of the NINE’s TV cricket commentary team, enthused to viewers that Ian Healy was about to interview an Australian team member. “We get wonderful access to the players”, he added. Hardly surprising in view of NINE having exclusive TV rights to cricket and the cricket nabobs will do anything James Packer wants. [19.01.07]

Upset at Kirribilli House: On Christmas eve, the Sydney Morning Herald featured an interesting story leaked to them from a guest at John Howard’s Christmas party at Kirribilli House. The SMH had a pix of Packer escorting his mother Ros and Lady Packer into the grounds of Kirribilli House. The story said in part –“PBL chief James Packer and Channel Seven boss David Leckie engaged in finger-pointing, expletive-laden exchanges as Mr Howard and his wife, Janette, mingled in the exclusive crowd . . . Mr Packer was heard to say to Mr Leckie "You were f ***ing rude to me on the phone", to which Leckie replied "Well you were f***ing rude to me, too". Witnesses said Mr Packer repeatedly pointed his finger towards Mr Leckie, who stormed out. The spate was apparently over Packer blocking a deal between Foxtel and SEVEN. [19.01.07]

Most voters don’t realise that their PM is quite a social lion in Sydney. Not only does he have a Christmas party for an exclusive guest list, but he also has an equally exclusive crowd to Kirribilli House for a New Year’s Eve party. On top of that, there is his Australia Day reception at The Lodge, although the guest list to this show is somewhat down-market compared to the Kirribilli House affairs. All of this is, of course, paid for entirely by the taxpayer. [19.01.07]

SBS spending up big: SBS will commit almost $95 million to independent Australian producers TV, film and online content in the next four years. Almost 40 hours of drama production are currently underway in Victoria, NSW and WA. General Manager of SBS Independent, Ned Lander, has told the Screen Producers Association there are 141 hours of documentary and factual entertainment programs and 34 hours of entertainment programs. [19.01.07]

ABC funding: Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, has announced extra funding of $19.1 million in 2008/09 to boost the ABC’s capacity to provide locally relevant TV and radio coverage. [19.01.07]

Petrol rage: The Sydney Daily Telegraph has been beside itself with rage over what it claims is the rip off by oil companies in refusing to pass on to motorists the benefits of reduced world crude prices. The Tele is also wailing about the “slow death of the independents” (Service stations not tied to the big four of Shell, Caltex, BP and Mobil). It’s a pity the Tele didn’t take some interest in the legislation which passed the Parliament last September. By changing the Petroleum Sites Act and putting forward a mandatory OilCode (which won’t work), the government effectively handed over the retailing of petrol to the oil majors. More particularly because of shopper docket petrol discounting by Caltex/Woolies and Shell/Coles they already have some 70% of the market and rising. Woolies is currently offering a 10c shopper docket discount to shoppers who spend $80 in its supermarket, and there would be a lot of customers who do. The independents can’t afford to match the standard 4c a litre discount, let alone a 10c discount. On Wednesday we had the Acting Prime Minister, Mark Vaile, having the gall to complain that there had been a 30% fall in crude oil prices but only a 15% reduction at the pump. This is a gross act of hypocrisy from a senior Coalition minister who supported the legislation to hand over petrol retailing to the oil majors. Remember, Labor could have blocked the legislation because Barnaby Joyce voted against it. Yet Labor decided to vote for it on vague assurances Peter Costello would bring in changes to the Trade Practices Act which Labor was seeking. [19.01.07]

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