Dick Smith: 'Is News Ltd trying to bankrupt me?'

As the stoush between News Limited and famed Australian businessman Dick Smith heats up, Smith has questioned the media company's motives following its refusal to publish one of his magazines.

In recent days, News Limited has refused to publish a magazine created at the behest of Dick Smith, which contains full-page ads supporting Dick Smith's food products, as well as a number of articles directed at News Limited, which Smith said aim to “answer their criticism of me”.

Meanwhile, Smith said West Australian Newspapers and a number of Fairfax publications, including The Australian Financial Review, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, will be running the magazine.

While Smith has been very critical of News Limited, the media company has also hit back at the accusations.

Smith told AdNews he had engaged in correspondence with News Limited chief executive Kim Williams, but said he was told he could put the magazine on his website and didn't need News Limited.

“I have never been given a proper reason, and I can't find out why they won't run it.

“Dick Smith foods used to be an $80 million business, now it's an $8 million business. I'm trying to get it going, and if this magazine is not going into 70% of the country's newspapers, that could be the death knell.

“If News Limited refused to publish Harvey Norman material, the company could go bankrupt. Maybe that's their plan with me. Maybe they've said 'We won't run it, and he won't get sales'.”

While Smith did not seem to genuinely believe there was a conspiracy at News Limited to bring his company down, he said: “I just can't think of any other legitimate reason.”

Smith also said he may initiate a book-burning of the copies of the magazine that News Limited has refused to take on. He argued he will get international coverage if he burns hundreds of thousands of copies of the magazine outside News Limited's offices in Sydney and Adelaide.

“If they won't take them, I might organsie a book-burning. I'll get the fire brigade over and burn the magazines. It will show the hypocrisy of a company that talks about freedom of the press but then censors it.”

However, News Limited has hit back at the accusations, providing AdNews with the following statement:

“We wish Dick every success in turning around Dick Smith’s Foods. News Limited is more than happy to run adverts for Dick’s food products at any time.
 
“However, we reserve the right not to publish editorial content that denigrates our company. It’s like offering a corner shop $20 to put a flyer up in its window which says ‘this is a terrible corner shop’ – you simply wouldn’t do it.”

News Limited had earlier released the following statement:

“Contrary to his accusations of censorship, Dick’s views are well known to our readers given we publish his articles and opinions regularly, the most recent being op-eds in The Australian on 16 April and 9 January this year.

”The 16 April op-ed contained Dick’s views on population growth – precisely the topic he is accusing us of censoring.
 
“Dick is more than capable of printing, distributing and publicising his magazine. The magazine is available to all Australians to download from his website.
 
“Further, Dick’s views are well known to Australians as he regularly appears on national and local news and current affairs shows.”

The conflict between News Limited and Dick Smith has been building for a while, and came to a head earlier in the year when Smith tried to publish an ad in News Limited publications but was denied access.

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