SYDNEY — Rupert Murdoch’s already strained relationship with Australia’s conservative government has hit a new low.
As the government begins debating the fine print of digital TV policy, Murdoch is distributing a six-page brochure to voters, targeting conservatives whose hold on their seats is tenuous.
The brochure says the digital TV guidelines are being hijacked by existing TV networks that are robbing Australians of the chance to access the latest information technology. The booklet, which will eventually be sent to every Oz household, contains a form for householders to send to their parliamentary representative.
While Murdoch backed the conservatives’ rise to power in 1996, relations chilled when, in the face of a hostile Senate, nervy backbenchers, and infighting among Murdoch, Kerry Packer and Kerry Stokes, the government last year ditched promises to liberalize Oz’s restrictive media ownership laws.
Murdoch is barred from operating a TV network because he controls two-thirds of Oz’s newspaper market and is also considered a foreigner because he is an American citizen.
What pushed Murdoch into the contentious mail-out is expectations that the government will place severe restrictions on activities of datacasting, which is the only Oz digital area left open to News Corp. Prime Minister John Howard is furious with News’ campaign against his government, describing editorials in Murdoch’s papers as “digitorials,” while key ministers also quickly condemned the mail-out.