22 Oct. 2007

Whodunnit?

UPDATE: It was the club's chief executive, Maurice Reilly! See below...

So who cut the worm?
Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Hilary Penfold says she is unsure how the order to cut the feed was passed to her staff.

"Who knows where they actually were, they may well have been in the Great Hall for I know, but [it came] from someone on behalf of the Press Club," she said.
I suspect that "someone" was National Press Club vice-president and Murdoch man Glenn Milne. The NPC board held a special meeting yesterday, but still nobody is putting their hand up. Andrew Dodd at Crikey is on the case:
[T]he most extraordinary revelation from Nine this morning is that there was no agreement about the broadcast, either written or verbal. None at all! This contradicts claims by the National Press Club and the Liberal Party director, Brian Loughnane. It makes the statement by Glenn Milne, the vice president of the National Press Club, particularly interesting. Milne told AM this morning that the decision to pull Nine’s feed was justified because the network had broken an agreement...

The National Press Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Reilly, was the man designated to make comment. He didn’t return Crikey’s call. He was at a hospital in Canberra all morning as rumours flew around the capital that he’d taken ill. His office assured callers that he was fighting fit and that the Club will issue a statement today at 2pm.

The Prime Minister denied his office had any involvement this morning. But what about Liberal Party headquarters? Word from the Party’s Director, Brian Loughnane, is a bit confusing. His spokesman, Jim Bonner, told Crikey: “My understanding is that Channel Nine breached the requirement so you’ll have to talk to them.” When asked whether Loughnane authorized, or agreed to, or was consulted about pulling Nine’s feed, Bonner said: “That I don’t know about … the only thing I got from Brian last night is that Channel Nine breached its agreement. I’ll find out and get back to you.” He didn’t.
Dodd concludes that the decision to kill the worm "sounds more like an act of extreme pettiness on the part of the National Press Club than political censorship. Either way, it’s a very stupid way to behave."

I think it is worse than that - I think this is a blatant example of our deeply politicized media's unhealthy right-wing inclinations.

UPDATE: The Herald's Mark Coultan says it was the club's CEO, Maurice Reilly:
Reilly ducked the media yesterday. In a brief call he described himself as being in a "sea of lava" and referred calls to the club's vice-president, the News Limited columnist Glenn Milne.

Later, the club's board - which, unlike Oakes's description, is dominated by working journalists - defended Reilly and said it was not a matter of free speech but a breach of arrangements agreed by the "political parties". Labor disputed this, saying it never agreed to the ban on the worm.
The Liberal Party's director, Brian Loughnane, was approached twice and asked his opinion about cutting the feed to Nine, but said no. The real question is why he was even asked.

Furthermore, why did Reilly go ahead and cut the feed anyway, after Loughnane said no? Was somebody else involved in the decision-making process? Who?