Aus­tralian PM steps up war of words with me­dia gi­ant Mur­doch

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By MARTIN PARRY in Syd­ney Agence France-presse

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd in­ten­si­fied a bit­ter war of words with Ru­pert Mur­doch on Fri­day as the head of the me­dia mogul’s Aus­tralia arm quit in a shock move dur­ing an elec­tion cam­paign.

Rudd, fac­ing an up­hill bat­tle to win Sept 7 polls against the Tony Ab­bott-led con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion, has be­come a tar­get of the Mur­doch me­dia and he ac­cused the ty­coon of an or­ches­trated plan to get rid of him.

“Fact num­ber one is Mr Mur­doch has said in black and white that he wants Mr Ab­bott to be prime min­is­ter of Aus­tralia, (and) no one dis­putes he con­trols 70 per­cent of news­pa­pers,” Rudd told re­porters in reaction to the sur­prise an­nounce­ment that News Corp Aus­tralia chief Kim Wil­liams had quit.

“We also know as a fact that Mr Mur­doch sent out his right hand man to Aus­tralia, Mr Col Al­lan, (and) we know as fact a large num­ber of his edi­tors were called to a meet­ing last week.

“What we know from that meet­ing, be­cause those edi­tors have spo­ken to var­i­ous peo­ple, is the mes­sage that was given to them was: Go hard on Rudd, start from Sun­day and don’t back off.”

The mogul jet­ted in his trusted Aus­tralian lieu­tenant, New York Post edi­tor-in-chief Al­lan, last week to shake up his ti­tles.

Days later Wil­liams, who came from a pay tele­vi­sion back­ground, re­signed af­ter over­see­ing some bru­tal cost-cut­ting and staff re­duc­tions as the group tran­si­tions to a more dig­i­tal plat­form.

Mar­garet Si­mons, di­rec­tor of ad­vanced jour­nal­ism at the Univer­sity of Melbourne, said Wil­liams was the vic­tim of in­ter­nal News Corp pol­i­tics, with the old news­pa­per hands win­ning their bat­tle to have him re­moved.

“News Limited has al­ways been dom­i­nated by its news­pa­pers, as op­posed to News Corp, and its most pow­er­ful peo­ple have tra­di­tion­ally been the edi­tors of the mast­heads,” she said, re­fer­ring to the Aus­tralian arm by its old name.

“Right from the early weeks he (Wil­liams) was in con­flict with other peo­ple.

Wil­liams has been re­placed by Ju­lian Clarke, a long-time com­pany man who was most re­cently chair­man of Mur­doch’s Melbourne-based Her­ald and Weekly Times group in Aus­tralia, whose ti­tles in­clude the Her­ald Sun.

Wil­liams took the job 20 months ago, mov­ing from his role as head of Fox­tel, a News Corp joint ven­ture that is Aus­tralia’s largest pay tele­vi­sion com­pany.

In an in­ter­nal memo to staff, he said he was leav­ing with “a heavy heart and a mixed bag of feel­ings”.

Mur­doch said he was “so pleased” to have Clarke take the helm at News Corp Aus­tralia.

Mur­doch con­trols two-thirds of Aus­tralia’s news­pa­pers and has a stake in broad­cast­ers Sky News and Fox Sports.

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