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Gina Rinehart & Fairfax

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?

9 comments to Gina Rinehart & Fairfax

  • James

    I can think of no examples from the 20th century when concentrated media owned by wealthy chums ended in tears… Not one.

  • Jim

    Would you be willing to take a bet that people will get most of their media from mainstream media organisations in 20 years?

  • JB Cairns

    I agree on all counts

  • ken n

    Getting a seat on the board is a long way from having any editorial influence. Look at the ABC board.
    Even if Rinehart got control, what would happen? If she moved the editorial position towards those issues that are in her interest, the papers would lose readers fairly rapidly. Perhaps take a few from News, but almost certainly hasten the decline of print.
    If she appointed good managers – it is quite possible she is interested in it as a business – and spent money she just might slow or stop the decline.
    Though I am uncomfortable with the idea of Rinehart controlling such a big slice on print, I don’t think my discomfort is very rational.
    Much much worse if the government tries to control the outcome and selects who can own a newspaper.

  • Uncle Milton

    I agree with ken n.

    Having 15% and a board seat is not control; it’s not even financial and management control, let alone editorial control. And even if she did have editorial control, trying to turn the SMH and the Age into the Australian would be very difficult. For one thing, as ken says, they would lose readers in droves.

    But more importantly, the cultures of the organisations would be extremely resistant to any such move. The Howard Government tried to change the culture of the ABC by stacking with board with ideological cronies and it failed miserably.

    As it is, the Fairfax papers, which unlike the Australian, are not cross-subsidised by the profitable parts of a media empire, face a bleak future, as with most print media around the world. And that is with a fairly loyal readership and strong brands. It’s not all impossible that Reinhart, if she gets enough control, could wreck Fairfax completely and hasten its death. But successfully turn the Age and SMH into right wing rags like the Australian? Very unlikely.

  • Uncle Milton

    Let me also add that Fairfax is a pretty resilient organisation. It survived Warwick Fairfax; it survived Conrad Black; it survived Kerry Packer’s various attempts at control. It will most likely survive Gina Reinhart. Whether it survives the internet is the more difficult question.

  • hc

    I expressly state that 15% is not control but with the proposed liberalisatuon of media ownership laws her 15% stake will be used to determine who does exercise control when the inevitable scramble for control does occur. Ms. Reinhart is a very determined person – even in relation to her own family!

  • Fxh

    All of our newspapers have been owned by rich families. What’s so different about this heiress?

  • Bill

    Maybe she just wants to close ’em down. They dont make any money.