The relationship between state premiers and the Murdoch tabloids has been pretty tense throughout the pandemic, reaching a low point during Victoria’s hard lockdown last year when the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph made direct personal attacks on Daniel Andrews, labelling him Dictator Dan.
But this week relations between the Tele and the New South Wales government were positively warm and fuzzy. Rather than attacking the government’s measures to combat the virus, Daily Tele editor Ben English praised the city’s resilience and encouraged vaccination with a bold campaign.
Friday’s paper called out the social media influencers who were spreading “dangerous misinformation” about “vaccine risks, medical coverups, ‘lethal’ lockdowns, and questions about whether Covid-19 is actually harmful”.
On Thursday, the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, went so far as to congratulate the Tele on its “extraordinary” Sydney Strong and vaccination campaigns.
“I particularly want to congratulate the Daily Telegraph this morning,” Hazzard said at Gladys Berejiklian’s daily 11am presser, which had just revealed the worst daily numbers this year.
“The Telegraph is extraordinary this morning with the number of people who are in effect getting on the journey with us.”
The paper featured frontline workers encouraging people to get vaccinated, sent reporters into the heart of the south-western suburbs badly hit by Covid-19 and spoke to business owners and home schoolers.
“Sydney Strong reminds Sydneysiders that while strength and resilience will see us through this challenging time, vaccination is the pathway back to normality,” English said in an editorial.
Hazzard might not have made any friends at Murdoch’s daily broadsheet, however, with this comment: “I read the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, every morning … and occasionally the Australian.”
Clennell flying the red flag
Sky News political editor Andrew Clennell might be called out for leftwing activism by his own colleagues if he’s not careful. On Thursday the tough-talking reporter was frustrated when his question about Bunnings Warehouse remaining open was not answered by Berejiklian.
Clennell: “Why is Bunnings closed in QLD but not in NSW?”
Berejiklian: “Next question!”
Later, Clennell tweeted an article about the hardware giant written by a staff member who said staffers at Bunnings in Sydney have been asking the same question as he had for weeks.
Huge numbers shopping in store says worker ... I'm an 'essential worker' at Bunnings. Shut us down now | Red Flag https://t.co/x7BICNnVyD
— Andrew Clennell (@aclennell) August 5, 2021
The article certainly backed up his narrative but it was published in Red Flag, published by Socialist Alternative, Australia’s largest Marxist revolutionary group.
Kindness in tragedy
It’s not often the family of a victim of a tragedy praises the media coverage of their loved one. But on Friday ABC radio journalist Gavin Coote gave a shout-out to young NBN News reporter Isobella Evans.
Evans reported from the scene of the death of an 83-year-old woman after her car was struck by a train at a level crossing in Armidale. The woman was Coote’s grandmother.
Thanks for reporting on this @BellaEvansNBN - very sensitively told. It was my grandmother, she was such a tireless member of the Armidale community and will be missed. Hope it wasn’t too traumatic reporting from there today
— Gavin Coote (@GavinCoote) August 5, 2021
ABC managing director David Anderson is one media executive who knows first-hand what it’s like to be in the centre of the outbreak in south-western Sydney because he lives in Canterbury-Bankstown, one of the original locked-down LGAs. He’s been running the ABC from his spare bedroom for several weeks now.
This week Anderson has been holding town halls with ABC staff from all the state capitals via Zoom. The one question he always gets – because his border collie is asleep behind him – is “what is your dog’s name”. For the record, it’s Snickers.
Hate mail takes toll
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has contacted the Australian Federal Police after receiving some “pretty bad hate mail” on Wednesday night following a segment on Paul Murray Live which featured a video of the senator talking about Sky News.
“People have to realise that this channel regularly emboldens its viewers to go out and spew hate and vitriol,” Faruqi told Weekly Beast.
“It has real consequences for its targets. I’m certainly not the first person to be targeted by Sky News and I won’t be the last. There are serious problems with this poisonous channel. I’m glad Sky is finally in the spotlight and being held accountable for what it broadcasts.”
The Australian’s media writer, Sophie Elsworth, told Murray there was zero evidence of racism on Sky. “Seriously this woman is absolutely nutty,” Elsworth said.
One email Faruqi received directly referenced the segment: “After listening to your nasty spiteful rant about Sky News I am convinced that you’ve never watched it. You trot out the tired old race card and try to convince us to believe in you.”
Full stream ahead
With the majority of us now in lockdown streaming services have become – almost – an essential service.
While the government’s media reform green paper proposes an Australian content spend obligation for video-on-demand services of just 5%, support for a far higher quota is strong among viewers.
In 2019 communications minister Paul Fletcher said that Netflix, YouTube and other streaming companies could be forced to produce more Australian content, but two years later there is still no policy, apart from the low figure in the green paper.
Weekly Beast can reveal an Australia Institute poll to be released on Friday has found that 60% of Australians support requiring Netflix and other services to spend at least 20% of their revenue on Australian content, four times as much as proposed by the government.
The poll found almost 70% of Australians use an SVOD service, including Netflix which is the most popular, and in 57% of our homes. Sixty percent of Australians have some level of concern about children missing out on Australian history and culture due to the prevalence of American content on media platforms.
As we have previously reported the struggling screen industry also wants the major streaming platforms to spend 20% of their local revenue on new Australian drama, documentary and children’s content, to bring us into line with France and Canada.
News Corp empire strikes back
The response of News Corp to the internationally-covered story that YouTube had suspended Sky News Australia for a week was radio silence. There was not a single report in the Murdoch newspapers. Even the Australian’s Monday media section ignored it despite the story breaking on a Sunday.
The first mention of the crisis in the national broadsheet was in Peta Credlin’s column in the Australian on Thursday. “If you have watched Sky News you would know it puts myriad views to air each day,” Credlin said. “It isn’t the ABC with its groupthink; hosts can and often do disagree.”
And both Credlin and Sky News’s digital editor, Jack Houghton, invoked the Holocaust.
Good Lord. Further down, Credlin compares Sky News' YouTube channel being temporarily banned to... the holocaust pic.twitter.com/c6bzIQL18f
— Rob Stott (@Rob_Stott) August 4, 2021
— Dave Earley (@earleyedition) August 1, 2021
The Sky After Dark presenters did address the elephant in the room on air, albeit with a unique spin.
Andrew Bolt said a damaging lie had “spread around the world” following YouTube’s “suspicious censorship” of Sky News.
“Naturally, news outlets of the left are just cock-a-hoop that we’re blocked from posting on our hugely successful YouTube channel,” he said. “Something is not right about this. There’s something very dangerous about how debate is being censored by these foreign social giants.”
On Thursday night the ban was lifted and the channel triumphantly returned with a half-hour YouTube special: Uncancelled Sky News Australia Set Free.
“After being released from our YouTube suspension, join digital editor Jack Houghton as he takes you through some of the moments on Sky News Australia from this week that Silicon Valley stopped you from seeing.”