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goodbye Packer hello Packer « Previous | |Next »
December 29, 2005

It's hard to avoid all the eulogising commentary about Kerry Packer the media baron. He is heralded as a great deal maker, made the shift from newspapers to television, encouraged news and current affairs on television, changed the face of world cricket, was a great Australian nationalist etc etc. The culture of Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) was a bully boy one, and Packer pretty much ruled his media empire through fear and intimidation. Kerry Packer was a corporate dictator who reckoned that what was good for his Nine Network was good for Australia.

Packer's cultivation of strong links to the anti-democratic NSW Right resulted in government protection to Packer from new competitors. The Hawke-Keating media ownership rules to establish national television networks (ie., companies could not own daily newspapers and television stations in the same market) helped make Kerry Packer a billionaire. In many ways Kerry Packer was a conservative voice of the Fordist past---television was a mass medium for mass market based on a one-way transmission of programs from a central source. Packer delayed Pay-tv and opposed multi-channelling (the creation of sub-TV channels through digital transmission) to ensure Nine maintained its dominance.

Channel Nine, like Fairfax, is old media and it is on the skids --it has been in decline the last 5years or so. Hence the shift to, and expansion of, the gaming interests by PBL.

Now, James Packer, the dutiful son takes over the empire. He's not in the same league as a deal maker, as the corporate failure, and public humiliation, of the One.Tel debacle, in which in which the Packers' public company PBL lost $400 million, highlighted.


What does the change of the boss of PBL mean in terms of the likely shake-up in cross-media and foreign ownership rules in 2006? The proposed reform to the media landscape will be minimal. There will be no fourth commercial TV network, no early switchover from analogue to digital TV, no takeover of the declining Fairfax newspapers by PBL. The restriction of electronic media to protect the interests of established providers is technologically archaic now that Australians with a broadband connection are able to access music, movies and information on-line from anywhere in the world. That places free-to-air TV at real risk.

Presumably, PBL's recent shift to the internet (ninemsn and online classified advertising) will keep going. As will the shift to use of mobile phones to deliver content, including TV pictures (eg., the Hutchison-owned 3 network broadcasting of live cricket this summer to 3G phones).

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:12 AM | | Comments (0)