Why Ten and Fairfax boycotted media bosses' letter to Gillard

By By David Blight | 4 July 2012
Parliament House. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Both Ten chief James Warburton and Fairfax boss Greg Hywood were notably absent from a letter sent to the Prime Minister by seven leading media bosses, urging her to hold back her push for stricter media controls.

Both leaders have chosen to abstain from signing the letter, which was uncovered this morning by The Australian. The two media chiefs have provided different reasons, with Fairfax saying it prefers to make its own submissions, and Ten saying the letter was too newspaper-centric.

The government's push for stronger media regulation has been increasing for some time. Most recently, the Labor Government has been pushing for a public interest test into media ownership, and potentially a third media inquiry.

A public interest test for media ownership has already been touched upon in both media inquiries, with the government's convergence review calling for such a test and the independent Finkelstein inquiry also addressing the issue.

But the topic has again reared its head, sparked by a number of recent issues with the media, including concerns about Gina Rinehart wanting to have editorial control at Fairfax, and News Limited expressing strong expansionist plans.

In response to this, seven leading media bosses have co-signed a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard asking her to dismiss Labor's proposals, saying they will damage the freedom of the press.

The letter was uncovered this morning by The Australian, and was signed by Nine Entertainment's David Gyngell, Seven West Media's Don Voelte, AAP's Bruce Davidson, APN's Brett Chenoweth, News Limited's Kim Williams, Foxtel's Richard Freudenstein, and Sky News's Angelos Frangopolous.

However, notably absent from the list were Fairfax chief Greg Hywood and Ten boss James Warburton.

A spokesperson for Fairfax said: “We prefer to make our own submissions.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ten told AdNews: “We didn't sign because we thought it was too newspaper-centric. We agree with the sentiment in the letter about the public interest test, but the rest of the letter related to the newspaper industry.”

According to The Australian, the letter rejected the government's attempts to impose public interest tests on the media, and argued that government intervention into the media will have a negative impact on press freedom.

The group of chiefs also wrote to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

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