Emperor Rupert’s not at war with the NBN: It’s democracy he has a problem with


full opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay
6 August 2013
Image: David Shankbone, Creative Commons

opinion/analysis Put your soy latte down. Stop glaring at the front page of the Daily Telegraph. Breathe slowly and deeply, and listen to me closely: News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch has not sent a political assassin Down Under specifically to kill Labor’s evil National Broadband Network project so it doesn’t wipe out Foxtel’s revenues. No, it’s the people’s right to choose which frustrates Murdoch, not Labor’s little side project.

If you are at all active in following the constantly shifting, poisoned morass which we know as Australia’s techno-political mediasphere, you’ll be aware that one of the most insidious thought bubbles which has floated to the top of the nation’s public consciousness over the past several days has been the idea that News Corporation — and specifically its much-reviled chief executive Rupert Murdoch — is trying to kill the National Broadband Network. Or, perhaps more accurately, as the project still hasn’t really gotten out of the gates in terms of its rollout, feed its parents the wrong meds so their genius offspring never makes it into the real world.

If you’ve been a long-time follower of the NBN debate, this idea is an extremely seductive one. How better, after all, to explain the constant and virulent attacks which major News Corporation newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and The Australian have waged on the NBN project over the past several years? How better to explain the failed attempt to impugn the character of its chief executive, Mike Quigley? How better to explain the constant wave of misleading or even factually incorrect articles that have been at pains to point out microscopic faults in the NBN plan? How better to explain the fact that those same newspapers have levelled almost precisely zero criticism at the rival NBN policy promoted by the Opposition, despite the fact that it shares many elements with Labor’s own vision?

Yes, the argument that the preservation of Foxtel is behind News Corp’s frenzied, almost spastic, attack on the NBN over the years is a potent one.

After all, at this stage, despite his upbringing in Melbourne, it must be said that Australian would probably be prepared to believe almost anything about Murdoch. His US megalith Fox News is generally regarded in Australia as the worst kind of right-wing propaganda machine, pandering to the fears of the ignorant and ill-informed with the underhanded aim of feathering the nest of the rich; Murdoch’s UK operations have been forever tainted by The News of the World’s phone hacking and police bribery operations, and many locals are even suspicious of the slanted coverage which they’ve come to expect from The Australian’s climate change coverage.

In this context, Murdoch more or less has an aura that reminds one of Star Wars’ Senator Palpatine … in his latter years. It hardly seems a stretch, given Foxtel’s penchant for locking up content in a way that makes it impossible for non-subscribers to access, that its ultimate owner would stoop to requesting his vast publishing business to try and destroy a national infrastructure project, to ensure the open nature of the burgeoning Internet platform fuelled by the NBN didn’t result in Foxtel’s coveted crown jewels being stolen.

Australians’ suspicions appeared to be confirmed over the weekend when respected journalist Paul Sheehan claimed in a comment piece for The Age that Murdoch had sent a key executive, Col Allan (known as ‘Col Pot’ after the Cambodian dictator) to Australia to take Kevin Rudd’s head and return it to the Great Lord in a little black carry bag. Such an image would usually be accompanied by a little side shot of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott simpering ingratiatingly.

Wrote Sheehan: “Rudd’s greatest failing, in the eyes of News Corp management, and the greatest threat he poses, is his $45 billion NBN, a massive project announced without any serious costing. News Corp has formed a view it represents a threat to Foxtel … Foxtel’s co-parent, News Corp, is engaging in a more structural response. It wants to kill the NBN threat at its ultimate source – Kevin Rudd.” And there’s a great deal more, along those lines.

And, as if on queue, News Corp delivered. The Daily Telegraph’s front page the day after Sheehan published his article, the day after Rudd announced the election date in September, appeared perfectly targeted along the lines The Age journalist had suggested. “Finally”, the Tele soberly informed its readers, “you now have the chance to KICK THIS MOB OUT”. Rudd, at his dictatorial best, looms over the caption, his head oddly disconnected from the rest of his body, as though his neck was already under Murdoch’s guillotine.

Yes, yes, yes. You can see the narrative unfolding right before your eyes. It has everything. The dark forces of evil (Murdoch and News Corp) are closing in, trying to kill fast broadband and take schoolboy Kevin’s toys, in an effort to shore up a failing business model which the Internet has made irrelevant. And of course, Fairfax is here to make sure we’re informed of the Evil Empire’s dastardly plans, flush with the success of holding corrupt NSW politicians to account …

The only problem is the gross inaccuracy of the whole thing. In its rush to create a scandal, what everyone involved in commenting on this situation has forgotten is that Murdoch and his clutch of News Corp executives don’t hate the NBN and want to destroy it. In fact, they have many reasons to welcome it, and generally have been doing so.

Take Murdoch’s comments last time it looked very likely that there was going to be a change of Government in Australia. The date was November 14, 2006, John Howard’s Coalition administration was on its last legs and Mr Rudd was about to become Kevin ’07. The Australian itself tells us what Murdoch said about broadband:

“It is a disgrace,” said Mr Murdoch, who was guest of honour at a function attended by the Prime Minister and Telstra chief Sol Trujillo last night. “I think we should be spending – the government with Telstra should be spending – $10 billion or $12 billion on it (so it gets to) every town in Australia – they do it in Japan, they do it in South Korea, we should be able to do it here. We are being left behind and we will pay for it.”

At the time, Labor hadn’t even launched its NBN vision yet. Murdoch’s target was (gasp!) the Coalition. Senator Helen Coonan, Communications Minister at the time, was forced to defend the Government’s honour and Australian broadband speeds. The Sydney Morning Herald tells us: “Mark Armstrong, head of Sydney’s Network Insight Institute, a non-profit technology lobby group, said only someone with the power of Mr Murdoch could put broadband speed and access on the national agenda.”

But it didn’t stop there.

Those with long memories will recall that two years later, in November 2008, Murdoch gave a series of speeches as part of the Boyer Lectures. The title of the series was “A Golden Age of Freedom”, and in one of the lectures Murdoch went on what I can only describe as an absolute rant against Luddites and anyone who stands in the way against technological change. I thought these paragraphs particularly pertinent to today’s debate:

“… whinging about the technology will get you nowhere. The only way to deal with new technology that up-ends your job or your business model is to get out in front of it. Otherwise it will get out in front of you.

The challenge is clear. But so is history. Each improvement in information technology we have seen in the past—beginning with Gutenberg’s press and continuing with radio and television—has opened up access to more news and entertainment for millions more people who previously couldn’t get or afford it. There is no reason to think the trend will be different this time. Except that this time, the access will be universal—and the impact will be more profound.

History also shows that with each new advance, existing businesses are forced to become more creative and relevant to their customers. Once upon a time, the media and entertainment companies could count on the huge, up-front investments that discouraged competitors from entering the business. But, in many sectors, the barriers to entry have never been lower—and the opportunities for the energetic and the creative have never been greater.

This competition is becoming more intense every day. Because technology now allows the little guy to do what once required a huge corporation.”

Murdoch’s attitude towards the NBN and the development of new technology continues today. Only yesterday the News Corp mogul tweeted: “Oz politics! We all like ideal of NBN, especially perfect for Foxtel. But first how can it be financed in present situation?”

What we’re seeing here is not an executive who is anti-technology, a Dark Lord enshrined in a tower on the slopes of a volcano plotting the demise of Australia’s favourite broadband project. What we see is an intelligent, articulate, and yes, highly ruthless, businessman, who is both frustrated by the current state of affairs regarding broadband in Australia, but also sees opportunities to develop his company’s assets further if that situation should change. Murdoch does, of course, have other flaws; but more on that later.

Further evidence of the fact that News Corp does not hate the NBN comes from similar comments made by senior News Corp and Foxtel executives over the past several years. Kim Williams, chief executive of Foxtel for a decade up until 2011, when he became chief executive of News Corporation in Australia, said in an article published by rural media outlet The Land in October 2011: “The NBN will be a very useful and exciting development for entertainment especially in regional Australia. It equalises the transaction between rural and city communities and will bridge that digital divide”.

And in a speech to the 2011 Aastra conference: “For us broadband, including the coming NBN, presents two substantial opportunities. First, it allows us to expand out the choice, control and the personalisation we offer Australians through our core presentation.

Late last year we started to activate the internet connection into over 900,000 deployed iQ set top units. Foxtel On Demand offers customers access to thousands of TV episodes and hundreds of movies. It signifies the direction of our investment. This is to provide that which we know consumers are seeking in a way that provides a contemporary solution with simplicity at its heart which represents exceptional competitive value. This enhances the utility of Foxtel, expands our value proposition and accordingly enhances our customer retention.

The second opportunity broadband provides us is an effective, increasingly ubiquitous and affordable distribution mechanism. This enables new, flexible packages to fresh market segments not traditionally open to Foxtel. That explains why late last year we launched Foxtel on Xbox 360 – where we provide 30 channels of Foxtel over the internet, directly to televisions via Microsoft’s remarkable Xbox 360 console. We signed an agreement with Telstra in February to provide a similarly strong offering to Telstra’s T-box which will be available in a couple of months. Other new products are in the development wings. All will be delivered via broadband direct to your television set and if you are a BigPond customer they will be zero rated.”

Current Foxtel chief executive Richard Freudenstein has also defended the potential impact of the NBN on Foxtel, although he’s less enthusiastic in general about its opportunities. An article published by The Australian in March, 2012, states: “Mr Freudenstein denied the NBN or faster broadband would harm Foxtel. ‘I don’t see it having any particular impact on Foxtel in the short term. The most cost-effective way to deliver video into someone’s home will always be satellite or even terrestrial signals. The NBN pricing model does not make it a particularly effective way to deliver video into your home.'”

So why isn’t Foxtel afraid of the NBN? Why would it view it as an opportunity?

As Williams told the Aastra conference, the first thing to realise is that the rollout of the NBN will significantly enhance the reach of Foxtel’s services. Even with Austar under its wing, Foxtel currently only has around 1.7 million subscribers in Australia. The issue is that historically, pay television has only been able to be delivered through HFC cable platforms (operated in Australia by Telstra and Optus) as well as satellite dishes. Both of these mechanisms are clunky and difficult to deal with — HFC cable because its spread is limited to certain areas in Australia’s capital cities, and it specifically doesn’t go into many apartment blocks, and satellite because it requires a hunking great dish to be put somewhere on your property.

In comparison, the NBN will run into every home and business premise in Australia by default. As long as a few deals are struck with retail ISPs to facilitate data quota not being blown for customers through online video streaming, Foxtel will have a much larger captive audience for its product.

And what a product it is and will be.

Right now, when it comes to premium content in Australia, Foxtel enjoys an unprecedented level of control over the top parcels of content which Australians want to access. It regularly locks up shows like Game of Thrones, True Blood, the Newsroom and others in Australia, buying exclusive rights from content makers such as HBO, and it also regularly buys out the top sports rights — as long as the Government allows it to do so.

The reason Foxtel can do this is because it has the financial muscle to bring to the table. If you’re a company like HBO, the key concept you’re grappling with, in terms of a high-budget show like Game of Thrones, is the idea of risk. If you’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars on a TV blockbuster (Game of Thrones reportedly costs between $50 million and $60 million a season to make), then you want to know you have guaranteed distribution partners in major countries, so you can recoup that loss. In addition, you have to be conscious that not all shows will do well with audiences — meaning that profits from your top shows will sometimes subsidise losses from lesser shows.

Where Foxtel comes into that chain is that, because it offers a massed subscription model, it can step in earlier in the negotiation process to licence premium content and lock out local rights, compared with smaller companies such as Quickflix and FetchTV, which are attempting to do the same thing but don’t have as much financial muscle. Doing so shores up HBO’s own risk in terms of distribution and gets Foxtel the best content, every year.

With about $2.2 billion a year in revenue, Foxtel even dwarfs the revenues pulled in by Australia’s major free to air television networks. Wondering why premium shows like True Blood don’t show through the free to air channels? Yeah. Foxtel is willing to pay more for them. And under an NBN model, Foxtel will be able to target more Australians, more easily, with less up-front costs, with its fantastic content.

Yes, it’s possible to argue, as Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has argued very well this week, that Foxtel is worried about stand-alone IPTV providers such as Netflix coming to Australia and eating its lunch by offering TV and movies to Australians in the same way it is very successfully doing in the US.

However, I would also point out that there’s nothing to stop Foxtel, with its highly entrenched model and customer base in Australia, matching its rivals play for play. And, in fact, it already is. Just last month Foxtel launched its Play IPTV service, which offers not only ‘channels’ of the kind which Foxtel offers through traditional pay TV platforms, but also pay per view content on demand.

While Netflix is focused overseas and local players such as FetchTV and Quickflix are still getting their technology and licensing deals in place, Foxtel already has it all — massive market power, massive revenues, the ability to gain exclusive content deals, and technology in place to take advantage of the Internet.

Sure, Australians’ love of IPTV services such as YouTube will chip away at that, and so will the smaller online content players. Turnbull even points out that sports organisations such as the AFL and NRL may even start their own IPTV services over the NBN in a way which may eventually challenge Foxtel’s dominance of live sports broadcasting.

However, right now, all of that change looks a long way off, and meanwhile Foxtel has to be looking at the development of the NBN as a government-funded infrastructure expansion effort which will allow it to target a hugely larger audience. This is one company which is not coming from a standing start, and remains, as Murdoch said on Twitter, ideally positioned to take advantage of the NBN. It’s also possible in the long-term that the construction of the NBN will cause the whole content pie will grow, including Foxtel’s share of it — rather than seeing value destruction of the type many people predict. The only way Foxtel can lose through the rollout of the NBN is if it ignores the situation or gets its model wrong. As I wrote last week about Foxtel’s IPTV service Play:

“I haven’t really checked out Play in any depth, but what I will say initially is that it appears to represent something close of a straight port of Foxtel’s existing subscription television service across to IPTV. It should be obvious by now that this isn’t really what customers want — if that’s what they wanted, then they probably would have already subscribed to Foxtel’s infrastructure-based platform. Some customers want a smorgasboard, but what the evolving generation of younger customers want — and bear in mind when I say “younger”, what I’m really talking about is the generation of people below about 45 — is on-demand content. They don’t want a category of sci-fi/fantasy television shows, they want Game of Thrones. They don’t want a sport category. They want the English Premier League specifically. And so on.”

In short, if Foxtel evolves its current model to handle the broadband new world order, as US giants such as Netflix have clearly been able to do, then it will very likely emerge from the broadband revolution with the very vast majority of its market power intact. It just need to keep evolving its model along the lines that customers clearly want. Foxtel can kill Foxtel — but its rivals probably can’t.

There is also the fact, as Turnbull points out, that it’s not as if the Coalition’s rival NBN strategy is all that different from Labor’s vision anyway. Getting broadcast-quality television into people’s homes requires only a few Mbps. Many of us do it right now, using current broadband platforms such as ADSL2+, HFC cable and even 3G/4G mobile broadband. As FetchTV chief executive Scott Lorson said recently with regard to the Coalition’s NBN policy: “There is very little difference for us between 20 megabits per second and 100 megabits per second in terms of our ability to deliver the service. One element we do like in the Coalition’s proposal is that it will roll out faster and cheaper.”

In short, the Internet television revolution, to the extent that it’s not here already, is coming inevitably (no matter who wins the election), and Murdoch and his executives are highly aware of this fact and already moving to intersect. As the News Corp chief executive said in his Boyer Lecture: ” … whinging about the technology will get you nowhere. The only way to deal with new technology that up-ends your job or your business model is to get out in front of it. Otherwise it will get out in front of you.” That’s what Foxtel is doing right now with its Play service. And it will keep pushing along these lines, to ensure its power is maintained, even though the medium its products are delivered on changes.

So what’s the deal? Why have News Corp newspapers taken an antagonistic approach to the NBN, if it’s not about Foxtel? Pure and simple: It’s about regime change.

It should be obvious by now that News Corp’s Australian newspapers are quite conservative. They always tend to support the Coalition more than they do Labor. They are broadly pro-national security, pro-law and order and pro-business, and against the recognition of climate change, against the relaxation of social norms and, most of all, against any kind of societal or economic change they see as dangerous. Rudd, with his ambitious policy reform agenda, has always frightened many on the conservative side of the fence (just as Abbott, with his minimalist, conservative, policy approach, has always frightened progressives).

In the US, through outlets such as Fox News, News Corp has for many, many years taken an activist stance in the political arena, rather than a journalistic one. Observers of the Tea Party phenomenon in the US will be aware that without with the stimulus of a major media outlet such as Fox, the conservative organisation would not have gained the prominence which it has. In the UK, News Corp has used its media influence along similar lines, with mastheads such as The Sun and The Times pushing hard for changes in government when Murdoch and his executives have seen fit. And of course, in Australia, The Australian and the Daily Telegraph, as well as other News Corp newspapers, have waged a constant campaign against Labor, especially ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard, for some time.

The degree of each media outlet’s rabidity varies. In the US, Fox News is probably at the extreme end of the scale; whereas in the UK and in Australia, News Corp publications will occasionally support Labor parties if there is substantial appetite for change, such as when Kevin Rudd swept to power in 2007, or when the News Corp empire supported Tony Blair back in 1997. But in general, these outlets have represented forces against substantive societal change — not for it. In this sense, the NBN is only one high-profile target for News Corporation. It was a Rudd-backed idea from the start, and now, with the project demonstrably late and not yet delivering on its aims, it represents an avenue of attack for the Murdoch press. Rudd himself clearly realises this. “I think he’s made it fairly clear through one of his editors the other day that he doesn’t really like us and would like to give us the old heave-ho and get his mate Mr Abbott in,” Rudd said of Murdoch this week.

Now, in a certain sense, much of this is not a bad thing. Because for all that the News Corp newspapers scream about Rudd, there are other options for readers — Fairfax newspapers, for one, or the ABC, or independent media outlets such as Crikey, Mumbrella, Delimiter, New Matilda, and so on. The list grows every year. Whether News Corp’s conservative values come from Murdoch personally, or whether they represent a cynical attempt to sell more newspaper and bump up TV viewing, they are still a worthwhile part of the wider media millieu.

However, in a different sense, Murdoch’s attacks on Labor and Rudd personally, feel a fair bit off to many Australians due to the media concentration issue here. Australia is not the UK, where the media regularly takes a political angle and has open biases for different causes. Neither is it the US, where fact has been thrown out the window in the war for television ratings. Murdoch’s attack on Labor is not journalism; but an attempt to force the hand of democracy, to change the electorate’s mind artificially; reflective of an arrogance which does not inform the public, but attempts to persuade it the rightness of one view. This sort of activity, conducted by one or a handful of journalists or commentators, is not an issue. But people don’t like it when all the resources of a giant empire like News Corp, with its dominance of the Australian media, are directed towards making one point. It feels like we’re being preached to.

The problem is, Australians still, by and large, expect ethical journalism to be practiced, and for major media outlets to maintain at least a modicum of objectivity. In this sense, Murdoch’s extraordinary intervention in the election campaign (and its likely lack of impact) will be seen as evidence that the newspaper medium itself is desperate and dying. As Fairfax columnist John Birmingham wrote this week:

“There is one possible real world outcome from the hilarious comedy stylings of every journalist taking the Murdoch coin at the moment, however. It’s the further contraction of the newspaper reading audience as even more punters abandon the format in disgust.”

And they certainly don’t need the National Broadband Network to do that.


  1. Murdoch is only really interested in destroying Labor. Traditional media is dying. Recent outbursts of gall really only emphasise this unfortunate fact.

    NBNco, being everyone’s favourite punching bag of late, is simply first against the wall, as his revolution comes. It’s whole purpose, it’s entire reason for being, is to open up high-speed access and ubiquitous service to many.

    It’s the antithesis of pay-wall. Of pay-per-view. Of subscription. All the models Newspaper mastheads (physical and virtual) rely on, as advertisers move elsewhere, to more lucrative models.

    • I usually prefer the term “legacy” media over “traditional”, as it really gives more context to the fact that new media is replacing old media continuously.

      • I chose “traditional” because in the strictest sense, it’s conservative thinking. Reject change and or seek to control it. Murdoch can’t, in essence, control the NBN.

        New media, by it’s very definition isn’t traditional. It’s also in many cases far from the very controlled and deliberate message of old-boy media. Mastheads have (in some cases many) decades of history and, tradition, they draw on.

        Increasingly, the war has turned to direct attacks, peddling an actual message, rather than the quality reporting that allows one to draw conclusions (perhaps with a little nudge in the right direction).

        But this is hardly surprising. We live in a consumptive age, where people expect to be “feed” and don’t have, or make time, to properly engage in debate and expend energy to remain informed.

        Sound-bytes are the new “editorials”; investigative reporting died a long time ago. Shotgun news, if you will. Blunt, violent and frequently sprays shrapnel in an attempt to have something stick.

        Is it any wonder people have moved on.

        • No worries, I understand.

          I used to be quite optimistic about new media, myself. I thought it would correct a lot of the wrongs of traditional media. But as time goes on, I find that more and more it is merely repeating those errors. You’re right, investigative journalism is pretty much dying. Or even basic research. It’s a sad state of affairs. Personally, I don’t even know where the media in Australia is going any more. I know that I have a good spot where I can write what I want and get paid moderately well, but I despair of what much of the rest of the media is doing. At least we’ll always have the ABC. As bad as it can be sometimes, it does tackle the major issues pretty well.

          • Until Rupert and the Right Wing Conservatives have their way and either privatise the ABC or muzzle it in some other way such as making it entirely Dependent on advertisers

  2. Well written and researched Renai, I have always said the FTTN will be advantageous to News Ltd (Look at all the News Ltd. subsidiaries Foxtel helps subsidise , not only in Oz) expanding it’s customer base. Considering the fact of it’s resources and established monopoly status making it difficult for competitors.

    Worth reading article and comments


    “Foxtel’s patchwork approach to internet TV is finally coming together, but it’s important to read the fine print.”

    “If you’re watching on the internet you’re treated as a second-class citizen simply due to your choice of gadget, despite the fact you’re a paying customer. Foxtel’s seemingly enlightened approach to the brave new world starts to look cynical when it still enforces these artificial restrictions just to be difficult.”

    On Mobile Telstra can pride an unmetered service (Contention anyone?).

    However that is not the whole story, it is the potential future evolution of the NBN (Possibly a HFC like mullticast to the node with an RSP provided “box” with the future upgrades to 10 and 40GPON.)

    It is potential future competition factors that are their concern.

    Rupert originally was concerned about climate change and his media reflected that, however as the opposition grew so did the stance change

    Note there were two key factors that the change in slant can be traced to
    1) Being precluded from being the international Satellite and Radio “Voice of Australia”
    2) Whilst supportive of the need to upgrade our comms, and the original Labor FTTN NBN, it all changed with the change to the FTTP NBN

    This in addition to the other factors you have mentioned, they have great skill in incrementally over years building a “National” mind/belief set then playing to and using that constructed over time belief set to “Guide” the voters and thus the government.

    So I disagree that he is anti Democracy, to him the structure of democracy is but a tool for control and power, just look at the stridency for a absolute unchallengeable majority for the government, effectively destroying the benefits of democracy and reducing Government to a sequential dictatorship whilst maintaining the illusion of Democracy

    • Cheers, thanks for your kind words!

      I’ve got a few things to say here. Firstly, I think the key issue with Foxtel is how it manages the transition to an NBN world. If it treats NBN customers the same as its existing customer base, and starts to innovate in its product offerings, opening up its channels (for example, so that any Internet customer could buy access to an individual channel, instead of a package), then it will do really well. Done well, Foxtel offers most of what Australians want from premium content, delivered online. And we’re prepared to pay for it.

      However, if the company persists with the lock down control mentality we’ve seen from it to date, even with its existing customer base, then it’s going to do poorly, and customers are not going to react well. It will continue to see customers desert it for more flexible platforms.

      In terms of Murdoch and democracy, I agree that “to him the structure of democracy is but a tool for control and power”. Unfortunately, he has taken his media outlets in this direction, when he could have been acting as a force for enlightenment and positive progress in western democracies.

      I believe Murdoch is an intelligent and well-educated, erudite man, and I also believe he is very willing to embrace new technology. But I wish he would stop his media outlets pandering to the masses so much. Or, at least if he is going to pander to the masses, I wish he would make his media outlets do so in an intelligent fashion, rather than the sort of stuff we’ve seen from the Daily Telegraph this week, where pretty much everyone can see through the rhetoric.

      • If he believes democracy is a tool for control and power then don’t expect enlightenment and positive progress, it is incompatible with the philosophy of control and power. He could be cool, but he isn’t. He will embrace new technologies in a stodgy clinging way that advances his power and his control. And good luck to him. I for one will not be buying.

        • “I for one will not be buying.”

          And that is perhaps the most powerful factor here. The power of the consumer is the most potent power which can oppose forces like News Ltd. If you don’t buy their products, they can’t exercise the control they want over you. And if enough people don’t buy their products, they can’t exercise the control they want over society.

      • Control, Power and Money are common bedfellows.
        The best kind of dictator is the one whom lets the masses believe they are in control and choose the dictator.

        Giving the masses what they want, gives Mr Murdoch, Control Power and Money.

        One thing I do like about the Murdoch press, is that they don’t hide their bias, it’s blatant. Other media, such as Fairfax hide their bias, so it’s not always as easy to detect.

        Giving the masses what they want, is how Mr Murdoch makes money. It’s why his newspapers dominate.

        • +1 to all of this.

          That’s why I like that the Guardian has entered Australia, even digitally. Fairfax is trying to be all things to all people. But the Guardian has always tried to serve the more educated, often more left-wing members of the population. It is to be hoped that their coverage will help balance out News Ltd’s more right-wing, dumbed down material in Australia.

  3. Unfortunately, the hard evidence required to prove that someone is either lying, being deceptive or giving out misinformation or disinformation often only comes too late to reverse the effect of the outcome of the lying or deceit.

    By the time we find out if (or how much) that Turnbull, Abbot, Murdoch or other anti Labor NBN model supporters, or pro-Coalition NBN policy supporters are lying or deceiving on NBN related issues, it will likely be too late to do anything much about it, except alter who we vote for at the next election, or to alter our purchasing or consumption decisions involving Murdoch related entities (that is if there are any viable alternative purchasing or consumption choices).

    • A very, very intelligent comment.

      I see this a lot in my work. If you tell a certain lie often enough in public, even if it’s just an exaggeration, then even if the media chimes in to try and ‘correct’ what you’re saying (as I often do with politicians on the NBN), the damage has already been done. Corrections never run on page one, as they say.

      That’s why I personally always try to hold an open mind and question everything I hear — always have done. It’s only when that is your default position that you can objectively decide for yourself whether what you’re being fed is bullcrap or not. I don’t trust the source of information, and I don’t trust the context. I examine the information itself to see whether there is evidence that it’s true. That’s the only way to work, IMHO :)

  4. Great write up Renai.

    One thing you’ve missed though (and being missed by a lot of articles on this from other sources too) is the “new” News Corp.

    The split in the company effectively cuts the Australian part of the business (Foxtel and publishing) loose to fend for it’s self. Considering the losses the publishing side of things is incurring, Foxtel is the only actually money maker in the entire division. Without Foxtel, News Corp’s Austrailian interests would be in serious financial difficulty (even more so than they currently are).

    IMHO, this point is the “connector of dots”. While Rupert/News Corp can like the “ideal” of the NBN (and can see some obvious benefits to it), they really, really don’t like what it means for the revenue hit NBN competition will bring. Anything forcing them to drop the prices the cash cow charges just brings on the demise of “the papers” even faster.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think they are overly worried about it though. If they can “get Rudd”, the LBN wont offer the same challenges (3D and 1080p streaming will be near impossible in a family house).

  5. I think things will be better in the long-run for Foxtel than you anticipate, but I still agree with pretty much all of this post. They do have a virtual monopoly right now, the barriers to entry are prohibitive, and yes, you’re right, the sports organisations are looking at the NBN and thinking about developing their own platforms. All of this makes complete sense.

    I am personally a little impatient with it right now. It seems like, as a society, we should have resolved this ongoing issue of content distribution already. I mean … how silly is it that we have a society with only one subscription television provider, with the others struggling to get off the ground? How silly is geo-blocking? The whole thing just seems like it needs a re-think by the government and regulators. And yet I can’t see things changing substantially any time soon — not really until the early 2020’s, as you say, when the NBN is ubiquitous.

  6. Do remember that whils’t News/Foxtel may well have content contracts tied up at this time, such contracts have a time frame, the FTTP NBN will not be completed for 8 years, maybe 50% coverage in 5-6 years about when some of these contracts will be expiring. An opportunity for other cable providers.

    We my not Like the packaging and pricing,, but many especially families actually appreciate the “dead channels” and would actually opt for a packaged multicast mutimedia product which NBNCo can enable open level competition in.

    Sure the costs may be an issue for a new start up, however not a major issue for Time Warner etc, US or Foreign content, so what’s the difference lets not forget the AFL is considering 1G links to their major venues, initially a closed Venue only product, but builds the framework for a cable offering. Expect all the codes and sports to either do similar or ride on the coat tails

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