Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney.
Another day, another media controversy for the Murdoch clan. Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan has been accused of a possible breach of Australian broadcasting laws. Avaaz, a New York-based global campaign organization that boasts more than 14 million members, today called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to launch an investigation into Lachlan’s Australian media holdings. Avaaz claims more than 300,000 members in Australia. It wants ACMA to determine whether the Murdoch scion is in a position to exercise control of News Corp.’s Australian arm News Limited, as he is a director of News Corp. The group contends that it would create an “unacceptable three way control situation” in breach of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which forbids anyone from controlling a commercial radio licence, a commercial TV licence, and a newspaper in the same licence area (in this case, Sydney). Murdoch is the chairman and a major shareholder in Network Ten and in the DMG Radio Australia network. News Limited controls 70% of Australia’s newspapers including the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the national broadsheet The Australian and owns 25% of the dominant pay-TV provider Foxtel.
“Lachlan Murdoch’s strong associations with his father Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation and Chairman of News Limited, suggests that the two may be in a position to exercise control together as ‘associates’ within the meaning of the Act,” Avaaz says in its submission to ACMA.
The organization quotes a recent article in The Australian in which columnist Mark Day, a former Murdoch editor, commented on the appointment of Kim Williams as CEO of News Limited. Day wrote, “It is today widely understood that Rupert Murdoch would like his son to return to the business. When Williams was appointed chief executive, Rupert took the chairmanship of News Limited, leading to speculation he was about to take a greater interest in Australian affairs. I do not believe this is so. He is merely keeping the seat warm for Lachlan.”
An ACMA spokeswoman told Deadline she could not comment because she was unsure whether Avaaz’s submission had been received by the chairman, Chris Chapman. However ACMA previously has said that while it deems Lachlan controls both a TV network and a radio network, it does not believe he is a controller of News Corp.