Quarterly Essay: Bad News - Murdoch’s ‘Australian’ and the Shaping of the Nation
This year has seen unprecedented scrutiny of Rupert Murdoch’s British interests. There’s even been talk of ‘the end of imperium’. Some of that has spilled over as far as our shores – where it all began for the Murdochs. In Australia, News Limited market dominance is impressive: by its own admission, News Limited controls 70 per cent of Australia’s newspaper readership market. The empire’s flagship publication is The Australian, our only national masthead and – though a perennial loss-maker – a key tool in News Limited’s arsenal of influence.
In ‘Bad News’, Robert Manne, one of Australia’s leading essayists, investigates how The Australian shapes debate in this country.
Throughout the year, the Wheeler Centre holds events to coincide with the publication of each Quarterly Essay. Given the subject matter of Robert Manne’s latest essay, we felt that it was appropriate to offer The Australian right of reply, and to hold the event as a debate rather than a straight interview with the essayist. We were thrilled when Paul Kelly agreed to be part of the event, and, in Crikey editor Sophie Black, the event had a moderator who was agreed upon by both sides. The event booked out, making Paul Kelly’s decision to pull out of the debate (and The Australian’s decision not to send anyone else to participate in his absence) at such a late stage regrettable. In the end, an act of ventriloquism seemed to be called for.
In place of its author, Paul Kelly’s response to Manne - ‘Robert Manne throws truth overboard’, published by The Australian on 14 September, 2011 - is read by actor Max Gillies. The version read by Gillies was edited for time: no meaning or context was altered, but the section of the article discussing the Larissa Behrendt affair was removed. Read the full script of Kelly’s article here.
Robert Manne’s many books include Making Trouble and The Words That Made Australia (as co-editor). He is the author of three Quarterly Essays, In Denial, Sending Them Home and Bad News. He is a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at La Trobe University.
Sophie Black is head of publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the national to writers scheme The Next Chapter, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest. Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media, where she headed up titles such as Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Daily Review and SmartCompany. In 2013, she delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director. She sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and the human rights publication Right Now.