Australian Networks Block Anti-Murdoch TV Commercial (Video)

Rupert Murdoch CEO Summit 2011
Ben Gurr - WPA Pool/ Getty Images

LONDON - JUNE 21:  Chairman of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch listens during The Times CEO summit at the Savoy Hotel on June 21, 2011 in London, England. The summit included News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, chief executives of Goldman Sachs, Santander and Vodafone and Labour Leader Ed Miliband.

Political activist group Get Up, whose ad shows one of the mogul's newspapers being used to scoop up dog feces, accuses the networks of censorship.

SYDNEY – The influence of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian tabloids on the general election here continues to raise eyebrows even in the final days of the campaign. On Thursday, online activist group Get Up accused Australian networks of censorship for failing to air a TV commercial that it created and that criticizes the media mogul, saying he is trying to sway Australian voters through his newspapers.

The 40-second ad shows a young man opening his morning newspaper, one of the Murdoch-owned tabloids, saying,: "It was great when you could pick up a paper and get, well, news. Recently, the Courier Mail and the Daily Tele have been using their front pages to run a political campaign instead."

He adds: “Their owner, U.S. billionaire Rupert Murdoch, has an agenda to get rid of our current [Prime Minister].”

At one point, the ad shows the newspaper being used to scoop up dog feces and ends with the tagline, “Thanks Rupert Murdoch, but Australians can choose our own government."

News Corp tabloids here have run a sustained campaign that started on day one of the official election period when Sydney’s Daily Telegraph ran a photo of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on its front page with the banner headline ”Kick This Mob Out."

The commercial was funded by Get Up members and the $500,000 to pay for the airtime was raised via a crowdsourcing campaign through the group's website. 

This week, Network Ten, partly owned and chaired by Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan Murdoch, and the Seven Network both refused to air the ad, while it screened on the Nine Network in Brisbane just four times before it was pulled.

A Seven spokesman told local newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, owned by News Corp rival Fairfax Media, that the channel didn’t want to run an ad that was “distasteful,” while Ten and Nine declined to comment.

Fairfax also chose not to run the video on its newspapers' websites as paid advertising as it has made a virtue out of its independence during the election campaign.

Editor Darren Goodsir said: "I felt that The Sydney Morning Herald should continue to focus on its own independent editorial attributes rather than take money from a lobby group to attack another news publisher."

However, Fairfax has been running the ad in news stories about Get Up's failure to get the ad on air.

Get Up said it would register a complaint against the networks with the country's anti-trust regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, on the grounds that the networks are blocking free speech.

Get Up director Sam McLean told ABC Radio: "All three [commercial broadcasters] have said it's for the reason that they don't want to criticize another media organization. We think that's an outrageous breach of our right to freedom of speech."

He added: "This is the major TV networks cooperating together to suppress criticism of the media in an election period when Australians ought to have the freedom to express their opinions and to criticize and speak truth to power. The TV networks have gotten together to stop us doing that."