Rupert Murdoch hates the ABC. This is obviously not a hugely surprising statement. And I also can’t say I’m that surprised that one of Murdoch’s most obedient puppets, Cori Bernardi, has been using the ABC’s factual analysis of a political story about spying to call for funding cuts to the ABC. On behalf of the commercial interests of Murdoch. In the same vein as the Abbott government’s determination to destroy the National Broadband Network, to make sure super-fast broadband doesn’t provide Australian consumers with a competitive internet TV service to rival Murdoch’s Foxtel monopoly, Bernardi is using his political power to find ways to do commercial favours for Murdoch. Fair enough too – it’s not like Murdoch’s media campaign to elect Abbott as Prime Minister should go unrewarded. Isn’t that how the world works – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?
The Abbott government’s concern for the commercial interests of Murdoch are very touching – the spirit of mate-ship is alive and well. But what I’m not seeing talked about is just how bad a businessman Murdoch is. You see, the only reason he needs the Abbott government to corruptly defend his business interests, is because his business model is broken. He doesn’t have the business acumen and foresight to innovate, and so instead, he has to use his old-boys-club of politicians, who he supports with political campaigns to ensure they are deeply indebted to them. And wasn’t Abbott the perfect choice. The perfect tool. Because Abbott’s values are so anti-innovation, anti-progressive, and completely and utterly fixed in trying to pull Australia backwards to the old days when middle-aged-white-men could be stupid and uncharismatic, but go to a private school and therefore have successful careers, that Murdoch found his kindred spirit. He doesn’t have the skills to innovate his newspaper business or to produce a quality product (hacking phones does not count as innovation), and he needed someone to try to stop his competitors from innovating ahead of him.
Murdoch loved the old days when the only people who could write the news were working for him. Murdoch loved the old days when you either had the newspaper delivered to you each morning, or you bought it from someone on a street corner on your way to work. The readers only had one option, and so did the advertisers. So they had to go with Murdoch’s paper, whether it was a quality product or not. The readers couldn’t talk back then. And they definitely couldn’t write anything themselves, unless it was a letter to the editor which the editor could decide to publish or not. Oh how Murdoch hates people like me. People who use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube to reach thousands of other like-minded people. People who couldn’t find quality articles to read on the internet, so decided to write them for ourselves, not for money, just because we enjoy it. While Murdoch is paying people to write articles which get only a handful of likes on Facebook, the independent media is churning out more free content that anyone has time to read, which can go viral at the click of a link on an iPhone. Perhaps if Murdoch was a good businessman, he would have worked out that people like Chris Kenny, and Grace Collier, and Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman and the rest of the Liberal Party propaganda squad might be ticking the box in their hatred of progressive political policy, but certainly are not good enough writers, or popular enough writers to draw readers to News Ltd sites. So why are they being paid?
In reality, the ABC shouldn’t be a threat to Murdoch. But it is, because it’s doing something his loss-making business hasn’t worked out how to do. The ABC is delivering news, and some opinion, in an online format that people want to read (and they are far from perfect, but also far better than News Ltd at doing this). Apparently Murdoch thinks this is unfair. Because the ABC doesn’t need to make a profit, he thinks they shouldn’t exist. But that’s not how the world of competition works Murdoch, in the capitalist economy you so admire. Because the truth is, if the ABC did have advertisements on it, and did have to make a profit to survive, it would still get more readers and therefore would make more money than News Ltd websites and newspapers. An advertisement is not going to put me off reading a quality article. I might even watch an advertisement video on a news website, if it was the only way I could access the quality content provided on the site. The reason I don’t read News Ltd news is because the vast majority of it is as infantile and irrelevant as it is untrustworthy and un-factual. I choose not to purchase a ticket behind News Ltd’s pay-wall, not because I read the ABC instead, but because the content behind the News Ltd pay-wall is not of a quality that I would pay for.
It is ironic that Murdoch’s inability to innovate, and to produce a quality product that is attractive to digital consumers, has led him to campaign against a faster National Broadband Network, which was going to be paid for by the government. This was an infrastructure that an innovative business owner in the digital age would see as a huge opportunity. And the government is paying for it so the commercial sector doesn’t have to! But to Murdoch, progress is a threat. Old people often don’t like change. I just wish Murdoch would stop blaming everyone else for his own inability to run a profitable news business. And rather than spending all his effort trying to elect people who will take Australia backwards to try to destroy his competitors, why doesn’t he take a look at his own business and put some effort into fixing it instead. Or my preferred option – give up altogether.Follow @Vic_Rollison