For many Australians, Fairfax Media is a benign alternative to Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. Well-meaning people buy Fairfax newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age because they believe they present a fairer picture of the news. But just how fair is Fairfax?
A clue lies in the business interests of its board of directors. Bloomberg says Fairfax director Robert Savage was the director of Smorgan Steel Group from April 2000 to August 2007. Is it in Fairfax’s interests to report climate change honestly, when doing so could harm the steel industry?
Savage was also chairman of Mincom Limited for five years until May 2007. Mincom supplies software solutions to the oil, gas and energy industries. Is it really in Fairfax’s interests to report any environmental issues fairly, when doing so could step on the toes of cronies in the oil, gas and energy industries?
Mincom also supplies software solutions to the defence industry. It boasts that it “knows what it takes to keep the military, aerospace, and defense industries’ critical assets running”. When a Fairfax director has spent years dedicated to keeping the defence industry running, could Fairfax’s hopes for peaceful solutions be tainted in any way?
But wait, there's more: Mincom also supplies software solutions to the mining industry. When Fairfax's directors have such connections, is it really interested in reporting mining issues fairly?
It certainly seems not. When Julia Gillard got rid of Kevin Rudd and his proposed mining tax, the Sydney Morning Herald fawned over her.
And it fawned over Gillard again this federal budget day. Rather than lambasting the Prime Minister for targeting struggling welfare recipients instead of obscenely rich corporations, it caricatured her on the front page as a tough-talking mining boss. The accompanying headline read: “You’re hired: Why every Australian needs to get to work.”
Ironic, then, that the very next day, Fairfax announced it had no interest in keeping its own journalists in work. It said it was pressing ahead with plans to sack a further 82, despite a bitter battle with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
It’s hardly surprising that Fairfax is riding roughshod over the union. Another Fairfax director, Roger Corbett, is also an independent director of Wal-Mart stores, one of the most anti-union companies in the world.
The truth is that Fairfax is not interested in reporting fair facts. Just like Rupert Murdoch, Fairfax is interested only in making money. Any facts that seriously contest this ideology are reclassified as "opinion" and demoted to the opinion pages - if they are printed at all.
Last month, the multi-award-winning journalist John Pilger told an audience of 400 at a screening of his new film in Sydney that the retired editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald, David Bowman, subscribes to Green Left Weekly "to find out what the hell is going on".
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