Kevin Rudd has been a vocal critic of Rupert Murdoch’s monopoly on Australian media for some time, going as far as describing the media magnate as “a cancer on democracy”.
In recent months, Rudd has been calling for a royal commission into the ownership and lack of diversity in Australian media.
He’s got a point. Murdoch runs more than a media company – it is a political entity forwarding its commercial and ideological interests.
Murdoch has grown News Corporation into a cross-media empire that includes newspapers, magazines, websites, television channels and providers, and even an NRL team.
But one of News Corp’s strongest assets is its television division, which includes Foxtel, Fox Sports, Sky News, Business and Weather, and A-PAC. Murdoch’s influence over Australian media can’t be understated.
As Prime Minister, Rudd experienced that first hand. He has outlined his less-than-stellar experience in his new book, Kevin Rudd: The PM Years, and did a Reddit AMA as promotion.
After fielding questions about racial tensions, global politics, climate change and where he keeps his tomato sauce (the fridge), Rudd was faced with questions about the failure of the NBN.
He took the chance to throw some pretty wild – and groundbreaking if found true – accusations at Murdoch and News Corp.
Rudd accused the conglomerate of directly sabotaging the NBN to ensure the sustainability of Foxtel.
“A key piece of evidence for Murdoch’s determination to kill the NBN (that is the Fibre to the premises version that we launched) can be found in the compulsory filings by News Corp on the New York stock exchange back in 2013 – the year of the critical election. Under the rules of the New York stock exchange, publicly listed companies have to inform shareholders of any technology based threats to the core business operations of the company. News Corp were therefore required back then to state explicitly that their television operations were subject to significant challenge by internet based competitors unless News Corp acted to protect their interests. From memory that was in July 2013.
The election was held in early September. It was no coincidence that when the Liberals came up with an NBN that was only Fibre optic to the node (therefore killing the last link between the node and the household) that News Corp embraced it with open arms. Abbott and Turnbull actually launched their policy at Fox Studios in Sydney, fully owned, of course, by News Corp. I believe it’s critical given the enormous loss to Australia that this resulted in (both in terms of the undermining of this essential piece of national economic infrastructure; plus the sheer waste of billions of dollars of public investment) that it is essential that a royal commission establish all the facts on how this scandal came about.”
It makes complete sense for Murdoch to protect his monopoly over Australian media consumption in such a way. It has been a widely held theory since the capitulation of the NBN under Malcolm Turnbull, but now it could prove to be true.
If News Corp did deliberately sabotage the implementation of Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises NBN for commercial reasons, it would mean the entire country of Australia is suffering from substandard communications technology purely because a corporation wanted to protect its interests in the country.
If Foxtel and News Corp had to confess their interests in killing #nbn to the @NYSE then surely they'd also be obliged to confess the potential of a biblical-grade fine from a potential investigation/lawsuit/Royal Commission that would also harm profits? #auspol @AustralianLabor
— Nick Ross (@NickRossTech) January 8, 2019
If Rudd has a modicum of evidence behind his accusations, it certainly calls for a royal commission into the enormous loss to Australia’s infrastructure and economy.
For the record, the estimated final cost of the revised FTTC NBN, which is slower than the initially proposed FTTP NBN, is $51 billion dollars.
Rudd proposes how to deal with Murdoch’s corruption in his book, Kevin Rudd: The PM Years, which you can purchase here.