Sky News Australia’s YouTube channel now has more subscribers than ABC News: 1.31m to Aunty’s 1.129m. When your best prime-time show, Andrew Bolt’s, regularly has about 80,000 viewers that’s impressive. The Murdoch platform may have chief political reporter Kieran Gilbert front and centre of the publicity photos but the channel’s popularity has nothing to do with news.
The secret to Sky’s success online is provocative rightwing commentary. When News Corp journo Miranda Devine told host Paul Murray this week that US president Joe Biden had a “cognitive impairment” without providing any evidence, it went viral. That clip – “Joe Biden needs help from Jill Biden as he is ‘cognitively impaired’” – got 1.2m views in two days. Although Sky is a subscription channel, anyone can watch the YouTube videos for free.
“She was prompting him because he is cognitively impaired,” Devine told Murray from New York, where she is writing for the New York Post. Biden is “foggy”, “does weird little outings”, “loses his train of thought” and “stumbles over words”, she said.
Judging by the more than 10,678 comments below the clip, many, if not most, of the viewers are not based in Australia. “I trust Australia [sic] news more than America news,” said one viewer. “Good Day Mate.” The conspiracy theories are allowed to run wild in the comments.
The tone of Sky News commentary was something News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller was quizzed about when he appeared before the media diversity inquiry last month.
Asked by senators about the proliferation of rightwing views, Miller said Sky News covered “a range of opinions” and “often asks a range of people to appear”.
He was responding to earlier claims by the star witness at the inquiry, Kevin Rudd, who claimed Sky News had the potential to build an “alternative political ecosystem out there on the far right”.
There’s the “archdeacon of hard-right conservatism in this country, Alan Jones”, Rudd said. “My concern is: where does this land over time – because I’ve seen the ecosystem unfold in the United States.”
On the bubble
The ABC won’t confirm it is planning part two of Inside the Canberra Bubble for Four Corners, but government sources tell Weekly Beast the broadcaster has asked for interviews ahead of another program to air as early as Monday. Unusually, Four Corners had not yet announced by Friday morning which program would run in the Monday slot.
It is fair to say the ABC and Christian Porter’s office are not the best of friends, but the tension over the ABC’s reporting boiled over at the attorney general’s emotional Perth press conference this week.
One of the matters Porter returned to often was whether he was being fairly treated by the media.
“Something that I am just personally struggling to even wrap my head around is that all of this has happened and I have never been contacted in any substantive form by anyone putting to me the details of what appears is now being alleged against me,” Porter said.
“No journalist has ever put the detail of the allegations to me in a way that would allow seeking a response. Not ever.”
Porter’s office later clarified the comments, saying journalists from other media organisations had contacted them after Louise Milligan’s story was published on Friday afternoon but the ABC had not contacted him before airing the allegations of historical rape.
The ABC told Weekly Beast it was true they did not seek comment from Porter before Friday, but they did approach the people to whom the letter was sent: Scott Morrison and senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Penny Wong.
They clarified that they had not inquired about the alleged rape last year because it was not part of the program.
“All the allegations reported in the November 2020 Four Corners episode Inside the Canberra Bubble were put to the two ministers named in the program – in detail,” an ABC spokeswoman told Beast.
“They were given more than two weeks to respond. Alan Tudge did not respond to any of the questions put to him. Christian Porter provided a brief response addressing just one of the questions put to him.
“The story did not include any rumours or innuendo. It only included first-hand corroborated accounts for which there were on-the-record sources.
“The story on Friday 26 February reported that the AFP had been notified of a letter sent to prime minister Scott Morrison and other politicians detailing an alleged historical rape by a cabinet minister in the federal government.
“The story did not name any individual or link the allegations in the letter to any individual.
“It is standard practice to seek a response from an individual who is named in a story. When the individual in question is not named, for legal reasons, it is not usual practice to seek a response.”
No truce on Seuss
There was one story that caught the imagination of the Sky lineup this week and it wasn’t the crisis faced by the attorney general, Christian Porter, which was barely mentioned.
Andrew Bolt argued we’ve “stepped through the Orwellian black mirror” and Chris Kenny, Paul Murray and Peta Credlin were all very upset that And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer would no longer be printed.
It was a case of too soon when Nine confirmed it had greenlit a TV drama based on the life of Sydney con woman Melissa Caddick just two days after her remains were identified after washing up on a remote beach.
Police revealed last Friday that campers had discovered a shoe and decomposed foot which DNA showed was that of the missing woman. Within hours, Nine and its streaming service, Stan, were claiming the territory and speculating about Australian actresses who might play the eastern suburbs woman.
On Sunday, Nine’s head of drama, Andy Ryan, told the Australian the mystery of Caddick’s disappearance and the missing millions “has all the elements of a gripping crime thriller, as well as a moving personal tragedy”.
“Most likely candidates, we’re told, are Rachel Griffiths, Toni Collette, Danielle Cormack, Asher Keddie and Yvonne Strahovski,” the Oz reported.
Former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello was adamant there was no division on the Nine board when he unveiled the new chief executive, Mike Sneesby, the boss of Stan.
“The board is not fractured and the board is totally behind Mike Sneesby and this is a decision of the board,” Costello told journalists at a press event at Nine’s shiny new TV studios in North Sydney on Wednesday.
“He will have every support of the board,” he said. “And I want to make this clear. There is only one corporation here – Nine Entertainment.”
Costello was determined to dispel any notion that the legacy newspaper division that houses the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age had been diminished when its boss, Chris Janz, was overlooked for the top job.
Costello took his upbeat message of unity to the floor of the newsroom where he introduced Sneesby to the hacks, telling anyone who would listen that there would be no more board departures, following the sudden exit of CEO Hugh Marks and Patrick Allaway in a matter of months.
Anyone who fears that Costello, a Liberal party powerbroker, is running the show at the mastheads should be reassured that the 63-year-old former politician has been known to ask editors to show him “how to get a story on the internet”.
On Thursday, Sneesby took in more of his vast empire, visiting his other charges at Nine radio: breakfast host Ben Fordham and mornings host Ray Hadley.
ABC overhauls line-up
Once again the ABC will mark International Women’s Day on Monday with all-female line-ups and programs that celebrate the achievements of women and girls.
The ABC’s radio networks, including ABC Classic, Radio National, triple j and local radio will have all female presenters across the day, along with female guests and artists.