Gina Rinehart’s $200m foray into Fairfax is deeply troubling to me but I don’t much idea of what should be done about it. Ms. Rinehard sees Fairfax at historically low prices as it switches from print to electronic-based journalism. The 15% stake she will end up with does not give her control of Fairfax but it will give her a board seat and it will give her influence at a cost which is only about 1%b of her latest wealth estimate of $20b. When she took a 10% stake in Channel 10 a new feature of its journalistic offerings was the shock-jock journalism of Andrew Bolt. Fairfax has a 171-year tradition of reasonable independence but Rinehart has, in the past, proved determined in getting her own way. Rinehart’s endorsement of climate change denialism and her staunch interest-group-based views of mining tax reform raise fears that she might be tempted to use her comparatively low cost stake in Fairfax both as a cheap investment and as insurance against policies that may adversely impact on her commercial interests.
It is a worrying prospect that almost all the print media in Australia will soon be controlled by either Rupert Murdoch or by the Fairfax group with Gina R. sitting on a substantial stake. Australians do not have a lot of sense in recognising interest group arguments. Its not just the concentration of control that worries me but also the ability to distort and control political debates in Australia. The Murdoch press does not have strong truth credentials on issues that vitally affect our nation’s future such as climate change. If the Fairfax media are exposed to influence by someone who puts great weight on the views of ragbags like Lord Monckton then we do have real problems ahead.
But hey! This is capitalism. Why should she not have a 15% stake in Fairfax?