Friday, May 9, 2014

Aunty ABC vs Uncle Rupert in the Asian theatre

Old mate Duncan Riley - a former Liberal Party apparatchik, but I try not to hold that against him - blogs from Thailand about why he thinks the Abbott government's decision to bone the Australia Network is wrong.
The tl;dr version is that nearly everyone in South East Asia who has some form of pay TV has Australia Network.
Oh, and if you’ve never left Australia: you can walk around the worst slum in Bangkok and see each house with a pay tv dish.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the subtleties of “soft diplomacy” but I do have a degree that includes Marketing: The Australia Network must, at some level promote Australia in the region.
$270m roughly over 10 years or $27m a year isn't a lot of money to broadcast Australian TV shows and culture across Asia.
It really isn’t.
Of course the reason that Abbott is doing this is to appease his old mate Rupert Murdoch, who have had AN in their sights since Sky News lost a (questionably run) tender on the contract under Gillard. Murdoch has long sought to get footholds in Asian pay TV markets, and the AN has evidently been an easy option for Asian providers to get a bit of cheap English language content from the region without having to pay Murdoch for the privilege. Boning the AN would give Murdoch a much better negotiating position.

If there is anyone whom Tony Abbott owes big time for his seat in the big chair at Parliament House, it is Uncle Rupert. You only have to look at Terry McCrann's recent stuff defending the deficit levy, or the Daily Telegraph's blaring headline today attacking Howard's middle class welfare, to know how much in lockstep the News Ltd papers are with Cabinet messaging. (As an aside: I am perfectly fine with that... I have faith that the vast majority of the Australian public are smart enough to twig exactly what is going on, and adjust their reactions to News Ltd journalism accordingly, and all is well.)

The falderol over the debt levy - which, in its new watered-down form where it only kicks in at $150,000 earnings rather than the original $80,000, is in typical Abbott administration fashion a near-complete waste of time and effort for all concerned - hides a number of these sort of minor but still important pennies that are being pinched for reasons other than straight budget propriety. Look for more of these sops to special interests to dribble out in the days ahead, and the government's credibility to crumble as a result.


  1. Good post. I am not quite as sanguine as you about the effect of Rupert's tabloid papers, though. People can be conned - they are by high publicity given to the handful of "there's no proof it's a problem" climate change denying scientists in the Rupert press.

    The story today about welfare - people like me thought this was nothing new, but many, many others would have thought "bloody hell, that sounds bad!", either forgetting or not knowing that (as Sinclair Davidson posted today) when it suits them, Coalition favourites like Costello will claim it as a positive. I actually had to give credit to Sinclair for pointing out today that the story is a beat up (pretending this is something new), rather than boosting the story in support of his "we must have smaller government" ideology.

    I wonder if Sinclair is getting his head and voice on ABC so often at the moment because the lefty ABC like his attacks on Abbott from the right?

    The whole internal brawl going on at Catallaxy is pretty hilarious, but also become very tedious.

    Into this milieu, I'm waiting for Judith Sloan to remind us that she thinks that Newstart should actually be increased. She flew that kite a couple of years ago, but (to the best of my knowledge) never, ever said it at Catallaxy. Come on Judith, speak up.:)

  2. The civil war at Catallaxy is delicious entertainment, like a choir of castrati doing Gilbert & Sullivan. Libertarians are the court jesters of the conservatives when the right is in government. The tide of comments is gradually turning against Davidson and towards Kates. The slow realisation of the ultimate unpopularity of libertarian thought is dawning on the usual suspects - they need that sort of kick up the arse every so often. They are having a collective Karl Rove moment. But like Rove, they will bounce back unapologetically before too long without shame.

  3. As for the kicking to welfare, it's all a show. Howard and Costello trotted out a lot of small government rhetoric but blew out spending to unforeseen levels, just like Dubbya. It takes a rightwing government to really lock in socialism, just as it takes a leftwing government to have the courage to enact austerity. Abbott is another big government conservative, and the Kouk's point you quoted about taxes being raised to fund his pet projects is right on the money.

    Of course the ABC likes Sinclair at the moment, they get to both criticise the government and do it from the right. He is Father Christmas for them.

  4. I enjoy the irony of the Australian saying Australia has to reduce spending when if News Limited di that there would be no Australian at all as it only loses money for Rupert!