Fairfax fears the facts | The Jackal

22 Jan 2012

Fairfax fears the facts

On January 12, Warwick Rasmussen wrote an opinion piece for the Manawatu Standard called Greenpeace makes meal out of the Rena:

The online and television campaign features imprints left by oil-covered birds on plain paper, then ends with a dead bird covered in oil. The words then say that offshore drilling could cause an environmental catastrophe 1000 times worse than what happened with the Rena.

This is not the first time opponents have blurred the lines between two significant, but separate, issues. If Greenpeace's latest effort was to highlight the risk of large ships carrying huge amounts of oil and other potential pollutants, that would be fine.

But it has gone further than that to push its message about something quite different. It'd be a bit like campaigning against fossil fuels because people die in car crashes. There is a link, but not enough to campaign on.


That's why their latest effort to shock people into action is so unnecessary and borderline insulting to people who do care about the environment and environmental issues

Rasmussen ignores a very simple fact; the Rena disaster clearly shows that New Zealand doesn't have the capacity to respond to a relatively small oil spill. If we don't have the resources to cope with the Rena, we have no chance of responding properly to a larger oil spill from a rig in deep waters.

So why the misleading article you might wonder? Well Fairfax Media of course.

There's a tendency with many Fairfax articles to ignore relevant issues and developments in favour of a controlled and sometimes contrived message. This is a mechanism of propaganda that has been greatly exacerbated by Fairfax's centralization regime.

Fairfax's modus operandi is to take over the competition... and according to research done by Bill Rosenberg on News media ownership in New Zealand (PDF), Fairfax uses underhanded tactics to achieve their acquisitions:

But Fairfax is by no means squeaky clean. Part of its formula for buying INL’s newspapers was for New Zealand taxpayers to help it. Using a scheme that O’Reilly used with his New Zealand newspaper operations, the plan was to sell the mastheads of the newspapers (which INL had revalued in 1997 from $228 million to $673 million) to a US bank and lease them back. Tax advantages in both New Zealand and the US would have doubled the return on Fairfax’s acquisition – using a handy $33 million of our money in tax benefits.

Unfortunately for Fairfax, the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen intervened and legislated to close the loophole in 2004. Exactly how much ANM made a year from our taxes has not been revealed, but it would have stood to lose up to $200 million by 2006 if the 2004 legislation had been backdated to 2001.

Fairfax now owns around half (48.6% in 2008) of New Zealand's print media and is closely tied to right wing politicians with a vested interest in controlling the message.

Fairfax has a long history associated with right wing politicians... most notable being former Liberal Party Treasurer, Ron Walker, who along with David Kirk managed hundreds if not thousands of redundancies.

The former All Black captain, Kirk had no newspaper experience before he became CEO of Fairfax in 2006, which he left in late 2008 amongst reports of a power struggle.

In May 2008, Kirk funded a full-page advertisement opposing a $1.5 billion wind farm in Central Otago proposed by Meridian Energy, which has only recently been cancelled. Kirk is a former National Party hope and has worked as an executive assistant and chief policy adviser to then National PM Jim Bolger.

Fairfax has been implementing planned redundancies since 1999, which has resulted in editorial sharing, sub-editing, fewer stories from smaller rural areas and something I'm sure you've all noticed; reprints across various publications. This ultimately weakens the function of journalism; to investigate and report on the facts in an unbiased way.

Please visit fairfactsexposed for further reading on how Fairfax games the system.

“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” ― Malcolm X