IN RECENT DAYS there’s been some argey bargey about Rupert Murdoch’s intervention in the election campaign, so early and so viciously.
He sees himself as a kingmaker who can, from distant New York, even after voluntarily relinquishing his citizenship for financial gain, call the shots in an election campaign in faraway Australia.
Kevin Rudd is fond of saying that Murdoch has “a democratic right” to direct his newspapers to go in hard against the government, but he does not. He has no more “rights” regarding Australian politics than any other foreigner.
Indeed, it could be argued Murdoch has less rights than other foreigners, as he gave up his Australian passport willingly, as a mature man, not by some accident of birth. He made a deliberate decision to deal himself out of Australia in any moral sense of the word. And he did it for the least honourable reason of all: to make money.
Australia became too small for Murdoch’s ambitions, so he left it. Now he wants to style himself as an Aussie, and come back to his homeland, again to make money.
Nevertheless, it is Australia that spawned Rupert Murdoch, a pox on the world’s media and its culture. and Australia has a lot to answer for, to the world.
Our nation is still a small place, where the odd billionaire or two (particularly if they own the lion’s share of its media) can push politicians around to effect beneficial changes (beneficial for themselves!) in the national agenda.
Under attack for unethical practices everywhere else, Murdoch seems to have retreated to his spawning ground where he can still kick butt and be thanked for it by cautious lawmakers, anxious not to get on his wrong side. Call Australia “Murdoch’s Last Redoubt”.
With his brittle newspaper businesses approaching terminal decline, propped up by other parts of the News business empire, particularly Foxtel in Australia, Murdoch has nowhere else to go. It’s “Australia, or bust” for Rupert Murdoch. Australia is where he’ll make his comeback, and show the world he’s still top dog.
The bottom line of Murdoch’s opposition to Labor being re-elected is this: he owns a media company specializing in news, publishing, music, sport, television and film.
The NBN will render that investment almost worthless.
Of particular concern must be the Foxtel division of his Australian enterprise. It relies on outdated, proprietary technology and linear programming, delivers moderately high performance only for a premium price, is shedding customers, and is under threat from ubiquitous ultra-fast broadband – and all the television, sport and cultural opportunities it offers – about to be installed Australia-wide, in the form of Labor’s NBN.
Beleaguered as it is, the Foxtel monopoly still qualifies as Murdoch’s Australian cash cow. It props up his beloved, but loss-making newspapers here, giving the News operation in this country the vague appearance of being a proper business, instead of the plaything of a sentimental old man yearning for the smell of printer’s ink, and the aphrodisiac of naked power.
Murdoch has stripped himself of his young wife, has acceded to the forced break up of his international News Corp conglomerate, has cut a swathe of retrenchment and sackings through long-standing and loyal staff members, has spent millions buying up TV rights from such diverse organizations as the AFL and the BBC, and has generally cleared the decks for action.
Ever styling himself as an “anti-Establishment” figure, he is out to prove that he knows best. Australia, his last redoubt, is the laboratory where he intends to prove to the Establishment naysayers and bean counters of New York and London that he can still cut it, that the old ways of influence peddling, monopoly and political bastardry are still the best way to operate a corporation.
A large chunk of everything that is shown on our cinema screens, bought in a bookstore, played on a cricket or football pitch, written about politics, or viewed on Pay TV pays a tithe to Rupert Murdoch for the privilege. He has a finger in every pie, perhaps an entire fist.
The NBN – Labor’s NBN – will kill that stone dead. Not today, not tomorrow… but the funeral bells are tolling.
The story of modern technology is about personalization and down-sizing, customization and a somewhat counter-intuitive return to cottage industry, where mass customization will be the norm.
Ten years ago, for example, hard disk “non-linear” film editing technologies were so expensive and scarce that companies such as AVID scored special film credits at the end of blockbuster movies, right up there with Kodak, Panavision and Dolby.
Today, there are thousands of such software packages, available for as little as $50, running on PCs or laptops that are an order of magnitude more powerful than the special hardware platforms that companies like AVID used to lever their editing software into the major studios.
Kodak is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Film is hardly ever used to shoot movies, and more and more is being phased out of cinemas for projection purposes.
Panavision, long famous for the quality and expense of its camera equipment and for setting standards that others could only hope to emulate, finds itself now as just one of many companies offering high quality optical gear to the film-making community.
Today, from JB Hi-Fi, you can buy a camera more powerful and of higher quality than the flagship Panavision kit of ten years ago, for under $1,000. Editing software is ubiquitous. Ditto for color-grading software, used to make the output of these cheap cameras look “more film-like”.
The only thing out of reach of would-be modern film-makers – and they’re just one small example – is easy access to the means of distribution.
Enter Labor’s NBN.
A little-commented aspect of Labor’s NBN is that upload speeds can be as fast as download speeds, if the user upgrades and uses the extra bandwidth. An upload speed of 100 mbps per second is easily fast enough for an ambitious film-maker to stream his or her latest creation, not just to a select paying audience in cinemas, but to the world. The NBN will be offering speeds of up to 400mbps to users who have a use for that bandwidth.
Once every home in the nation is enabled as a potential filming, editing, special effects and broadcast facility, Murdoch’s domination of cinemas with his trashy blockbuster product can be bypassed.
Of course not every homeowner will turn into Cecil B. De Mille, but enough might to take the edge of Foxtel and FTA television profits.
You BET he doesn’t want the NBN.
But there are other uses for the NBN besides making movies or documentaries destined for a wide audience.
Writers can completely assemble learned works, text books, novels, or whatever they fancy on a home laptop and publish it via the internet, to be read on Kindles, or just with a browser.
Citizen journalists can write about politics or sport, or cooking, or travel and publish their efforts from wherever they happen to be at the time of publication.
Another nail in Murdoch’s lumbering old-technology coffin: his domination of news.
His empire, based on control of several anachronistic means of production that only Big Money can presently provide – printed newspapers, bound books, cinemas, subscription television broadcast – is under direct threat from Labor’s NBN. It is a killer app, as far as Murdoch’s business model is concerned.
Publishers of all kinds of creative material will no longer need to pay the Murdoch ferryman for a ride to the other side of the river. The NBN is a bridge across that river, and its being built with public money, for the benefit of the public.
If Australia’s Labor NBN is built, other countries will be quick to emulate it, lest they be left behind.
It’s not just Murdoch, and with him other publishing companies and television enterprises, that are threatened by an NBN.
Lazy Big Business movers and shakers, the pin-striped “bizoids” so beloved of the financial papers, too used to being similar large fish in the small Australian pond, as Murdoch is, will see their rent-seeking ways challenged as smaller, tech-savvy businesses go around them, under them or straight through them.
In my own area of expertise I can source metric standards from the internet, develop new software to crunch the numbers, create 3D emulations of the particular part, send a 30 megabyte “build file” via email off for 3D fabrication and have the a practical, working part in my hand in a week… without leaving my office.
Thousands of small businesses and creative designers are doing just this, right now. Labor’s NBN will permit hundreds of thousands more to join the bandwagon.
As parts and applications get bigger and their distribution to various fabricators becomes more intense, Labor’s NBN – eventually, with only modification to switching gear at exchanges, capable of many hundreds of times it current advertised speed of 100 mbits – will easily cope with this increased traffic.
By contrast, the Coalition #Fraudband, copper-based system, which may well meet current demands, will fall over within a few years, too clogged with the extra data to be effective.
Faced with the obsolescence of the “sheep’s back” as the national economic standby, the end of the mining boom, and the imminent desertion of Australia by international car makers, what does Australia have left to fill the manufacturing and technology vacuum?
Should we continue to bribe car manufacturers to stay here? Should we pass special laws to limit wage increases as a regressive way of increasing the profits of vested interests and their tired business models?
Or should be increase productivity and innovation, not just by tweaking outdated methods, but by inventing new ones, in many cases new approaches to commerce and industry that have been lying dormant, waiting for communications technology to catch up with them?
The NBN as a means of communication of ideas, as well as finished product specifications, without having to pay a tax to the business models of the past and their indolent proprietors, is simply a no-brainer.
Labor’s NBN will enable savvy entrepreneurs to go fully peer-to-peer, cutting out the middle man.
Of COURSE Rupert Murdoch, and his bizoid mates don’t want it to be built! That’s a no-brainer, too.
The diversions now running in political argument – it’ll cost too much, Murdoch allegedly welcomes the NBN, Turnbull’s straw men of this morning where he argued like a slick lawyer trying to bamboozle a drowsy judge with tech-speak about nodes and insinuated obfuscations about who’ll charge more – are completely beside the point.
The only questions that need be asked of Labor’s NBN are:
1. Can we afford NOT to build it?
2. How soon can we get it?
Labor’s NBN will be another world first, capable of almost infinite expansion, future proofed until the laws of physics are repealed.
The Coalition’s #Fraudband is already obsolete, before the first sod has been turned.
#Fraudband is perfect for Foxtel’s purposes, as long as there are few competitors vying with Murdoch to use it.
The #Fraudband model has room for only one Pay TV provider.
Labor’s NBN has room for literally thousands, from one-man-bands to small community outfits, even to languishing experiments like Fairfax TV (languishing because they can’t get the bandwidth necessary to put out high definition product).
With Labor’s NBN, Murdoch’s antiquated Foxtel model with its klunky hardware, contract-based sign-up protocols, and absolutely shithouse, canned American program content (Pawn Star Wars or Repo Men anybody?), will be just one of many enterprises going after the viewer’s dollar. The Big Fish will be reduced to a minnow among minnows overnight.
Murdoch’s defenders claim that he’ll still be able to control Pay TV in Australia because his buying power will allow him to gobble up premium content… so why should he be scared of Labor’s NBN?
To this, I say: “Complete codswallop!”
Once Labor’s NBN is up and running, Murdoch’s tied programming and strategic buys won’t be worth a stamp, as by-passing his programming bottleneck, going direct to the originators, becomes a national sport.
Want to watch the BBC? Just log on to bbc.co.uk. Bugger Foxtel. Problems with BBC programming being tied to UK-only viewers? Use any one of hundreds of proxy servers to bypass it. And it’s not even illegal to do so.
Want to watch the footy? It won’t be long before the various football governing bodies realize where the real action is. And, to hurry them up, someone will certainly re-broadcast their best efforts straight off Foxtel, for free (and yes, for a time, that will be illegal… until Big Footy twigs that joining them is easier than beating them).
Make no mistake, Murdoch, already smarting from his disastrous investment in My Space, and his dwindling revenue from dead-trees newspapers sold in checkout queues, a laughing stock among his fellow board members in New York, doesn’t understand the power of something like the NBN… except for one thing: he knows it’s an existential threat to his entire empire. But as much as he can expand his own business, the NBN will allow other competing businesses to expand further and faster.
Commercial oblivion is staring Murdoch in the face.
The one remaining gold brick in his withering Australian operation, Foxtel, is about to turn into a lead balloon.
And if it works here in little Australia where he can buy and sell political parties and governments, imagine what will happen once other countries – where he doesn’t have so much influence – catch the NBN bug.
Ditto, and ditto again for the other lazy bizoid types who thought digging up dirt, making cardboard boxes, buying and selling property, money lending and a host of other tired old business models were a sinecure on the path to billions.
Once ordinary people start talking to each other, by-passing the commercial Siegfried Lines of the past, so lovingly built on bribery of political parties with trifling donations that reap hundreds of times the investment… once this happens, the death knell of old business will be sounded and we, as a nation, can get on with it. We can lead the world.
Labor’s NBN is, therefore, THE key policy of this election.
Labor’s NBN links everything else together – productivity, innovation, manufacturing, communication, health, education, social interaction and national infrastructure.
It will allow new industries to burgeon in ways that have either not been thought of, or that haven’t been possible… until now.
Don’t listen to quibble-talk about the cost of this versus the cost of that, or whether asbestos in pits should veto national infrastructure development.
Don’t take any notice of Turnbull’s disgraceful and hypocritical lawyer talk about the details on page 45 of the third appendix to the NBN subcommittee report (or whatever piffling detail he’s using as a smokescreen on the day).
Take no notice – especially if you live in a regional area and are using the NBN – of Warren Truss’s dissembling about how no-one in regional areas has the NBN, or will get it in the future. They do and they will.
And, by the way, if you DO live in a regional area…
… consider the possibilities that the NBN will bring to your town as businesses either remain there, or migrate to it, to sample the delights of innovation in the beautiful environment you are so justly proud of. The Holy Grail of decentralization will be one of the NBN’s greatest benefits.
I say again: the NBN is a no-brainer.
That simple statement is all that Labor politicians have to say, to cut to the chase on this issue.
They have let themselves get caught up in the undergrowth of fear, uncertainty and doubt about costings, alleged pork barreling, and rollouts.
Labor needs to talk about the forest, not the trees.
“It’s a no-brainer” is all they have to say. You’ll be able to hear a pin drop as that simple concept sinks in, and heads start nodding eagerly in agreement.
Of all the prizes up for grabs at this election, the demise of the Murdoch empire via the NBN is the most glittering of them all. Two birds with one stone. Throw in the end of Abbott, and you’ve won the trifecta.
You only need half a brain to realize that.