The battle for News Corp and one last Rupert AGM in New York

August 10, 2011

Dear Mayne Report Readers,

after 10 rounds of AGM battles with Rupert Murdoch over the years, I was hoping to retire from the field and settle down to a more backroom role as a newly elected director of the Australian Shareholders' Association.

Flying around the country - and three times to New York for Rupert - asking questions at almost 400 AGMs over the past 12 years has been an expensive exercise and my wife has called time, declaring that's she's not prepared to re-mortgage the house to fund this activity.

Get a job, she said, we've got to educate the children!

Alas, the extraordinary phone hacking scandal engulfing the Murdoch family has generated a truckload of media interest and elevated some very obvious corporate governance questions which should ultimately play out at this year's News Corp AGM in October in New York. It's a must see event for anyone interested in transparency and accountability.

The key questions are obviously whether the Murdochs should retain management control over News Corp, whether they should retain their gerrymandered voting control and whether the 87% of shares held by non-Murdoch interests are adequately represented by the 7 nominally independent directors.

After the extraordinary testimony by Rupert and James Murdoch before the UK Parliamentary committee, the 2011 News Corp AGM will be one for the ages.

Donate to fund the eleventh and final round with Rupert

The transcript of last year's 12 minute exchange with Rupert has been viewed more than 10,000 times since The Guardian broke open the hacking scandal again on July 4 and if you'd like to help facilitate a similar exercise this year, please click on the image below.

Each New York exercise costs about $4000 and if you'd prefer to snail mail some support, try PO Box 925, Templestowe 3106.

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Columns and commentary about Murdoch's Waterloo

I've been pumping out truckoads of commentary about News Corp, media regulation and corporate governance on Crikey and The Drum over the past few days as follows:

How to cross-examine Rupert Murdoch
Crikey, Tuesday, July 19

Ranking the 16 News Corp directors for independence
Crikey, Monday, July 18

Why Australia needs an inquiry into expanding Murdoch domination
The Drum, Monday, July 18

Mayne: it's time for Rupert to go
Crikey, Friday, July 15

With BSkyB bid dumped, why isn't Foxtel's Austar offer under pressure?
Crikey, Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rupert's crisis blows up $6 billion in a week
The Drum, July 13, 2011

Murdoch kills paper, bodycount rises
The Drum, July 8, 2011

Why hacking scandal should impact on Australia Television bid
Crikey, Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Deluged by media requests

There has also been a stack of television and radio interviews over the past month.

Lead letter in The Australian Financial Review

Good on the The AFR for running the following letter on July 19, in contrast to the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun which refused to run a similar letter the previous week, although it was reproduced in this piece for The Drum. Anyway, here's The AFR letter.

Media inquiry far from naive

News Corp shares have tanked almost 20% since July 6, the world's most powerful family is under siege, senior executives are being fired, the British PM is under enormous pressure, arrests are into double figures, the police chief has quit and the UK is openly pursuing numerous inquiries into media conduct, ethics and ownership.

And the response of The AFR's media editor Neil Shoebridge is a comment piece (July 18) headlined "Calls for reviews naive and half-baked"?

Political kow-towing to powerful media families such as the Murdochs and the Packers has been one of the most unseemly elements of Australia's democracy for many decades. The Brits have called time on this sordid practice and its about time we had a good look at ourselves too.

At the moment Australia still has the world's most powerful, albeit now disgraced, family controlling 70% of our newspapers from New York. The Murdochs are also poised to seize management control of an Australian pay-TV monopoly if Foxtel's $2.7 billion Austar bid is approved.

You also have the incredible situation of Rupert Murdoch's eldest son Lachlan Murdoch being backed in by James Packer to be the CEO of Network Ten who then butchers the company's sports and news offering, despite a clear of conflict of interest given his seat on the News Corp board and the benefit these moves give to Foxtel, Fox Sports and Sky News.

The Murdoch interests are also aggressively grasping for a $223 million government contract through the Australia Television tender process in an attempt to further extend their already excessive reach and influence over Australia.

Surely, but surely, in light of the biggest media scandal in history, a humble little Senate committee to examine all of these things in Australia isn't something to be railed against.

Stephen Mayne

Tweeting away like never before

The fall of the world's most powerful family has been a very Twitter-focused exercise, not unlike what we've seen during the Arab Spring revolutions.

Here are some of our recent @maynereport Tweets with useful links to coverage from around the world:

Thursday, August 4

Latest Jonathan Holmes column on press regulation for The Drum is well worth a read. Agree with it strongly. See:

After 92 comments, decided to join the fray responding to Brendan O'Neill's account of Monday's Q&A in The OZ. See:

Tuesday, August 2

About to meet with someone in Sydney regarding assistance for ASA on Murdoch governance campaign leading up to October News Corp AGM in NYC.

Phone hacking: News International mass-deleted emails, tech firm says via

Back in hotel room after Q&A. No hard feelings with Brendan and lots of feedback over Christine Nixon defence. Good night.

Monday, August 1

Sitting in the Sydney hotel before Q&A ploughing through Christine Nixon's book. She has been so unfairly targeted by News Ltd.

Thank god Nick Leys is replacing Overington in The OZ Media Diary. Today's effort produced more corporate grovelling to the News Ltd bosses.

The New York Times has an excellent interactive graphic on key players in . Worth a bookmark:

Sunday, July 31

With Trinity Mirror shares down at 44p, it doesn't have cash to buy Sun. Also copping it over hacking. See Greenslade:

When combined with Panorama show on Murdoch screened by SBS tonight, this NYT piece makes for interesting reading:

If social media is helping blow away dictators from Egypt to News Corp, why not China? Agree with this in The Observer:

This Wolff extract on the Murdoch children is really interesting as contemplate Women's Day cover on "family feud". See:

Bruce Guthrie (after a couple of Crownies) has just told RRR he was burgled 2 months before his Herald Sun trial and 6 lap tops were taken.

Tuesday, July 19: bring back Chernin, leak vs leak, Wall Street Journal and

Chase Carey to CEO under chairman Rupert is no good. He's too weak. Solution is Rupert resigns entirely and Peter Chernin back as exec chair

Crikey story: tactical tips from the person who has asked Rupert more public questions than anyone. See:

This Wall Street Journal comparison between Wikileaks & phone hacking is a disgrace. After Monday editorial, is sad day for great paper:

Clear chaos now inside News Corp. Family split, board split, leak and counter leak. See Fairfax wrap:

Andrew Sorkin is best NY Times biz writer & now co-host on CNBC's Squawk Box. See his take on Murdoch governance:

Crikey has the best global account yet of the amazing hack attack on News International. See:

Anon News Corp board member rebuts Bloomberg to Reuters, claims full support for Rupert. Joke that board hasn't met:

More than 100 comments on piece for The Drum & lots of support for seizing the opportunity to probe kowtowing to moguls:

This Labour MP Tom Watson is really going Rupert. He's trying to get the Serious Fraud Office involved. See:

Ken Aulettta & Michael Wolff are the 2 best New York media writers. See Auletta's very dark take on Rupert's prospects

This idea that too much media competition leads to dodgy behaviour is ridiculous. Like competition in any market, it just needs regulation.

Jeepers, this list of 40 good hacking links has delivered 8000 views to our 2010 AGM battle with Rupert.

Bloomberg reporting Chase Carey to be CEO. If Rupert goes non-exec chair at least that will save investors his $20m annual salary.

The Murdoch scandal will come down to the empire's abuse of power. This Guardian piece on compromised cops is a beauty:

Rupert Murdoch Has Gamed American Politics Every Bit as Thoroughly as Britain's | The Nation

This transcript of questions to Rupert at 2010 News Corp AGM has had 6000 views. Hope UK pollies ask Rupert about it:

Cool. “: Phone hacking resignation statements: visualised and listed

Monday, July 18: ranking director independence, Wall Street Journal editorial, Miliband soars

Great New York Times article on cowboy running News America who Rupert retained despite $655m in settlements. See:

Murdoch board revolt looms. Crikey just emailed story ranking the 16 directors 4 independence. Send it on

ABC's The Drum has just published this piece on Murdoch power abuse in Oz. See why we need an inquiry:

News Corp tank is now above 6% this morning in Oz. More than 20% wiped since July 6. Doing live TV chat with BBC World at 12.05pm (30 mins)

What is plunging faster? News Corp shares or Gillard's poll ratings. Who will last longer? Rupert or Julia? News Corp value down to $A36.2bn

Robert Thompson overplayed loyalty to Rupert in this WSJ opinion piece. Crazy to sing Les Hinton's praises:

At last the News Corp independent directors are stirring & leaking their concerns to rival Bloomberg. Big move

Brooks still being questioned after 12 hours, police chief Stephenson quits, suspect News Corp shares will fall in OZ trading starting 10am

Acceptance of free health spa from former News ed was the beginning of the end for head of Met police

This long Sunday Times feature on The Australian's website has an interesting combination of Murdoch spin and insights:

If beating up on Murdoch lifted Ed Miliband's ratings by 7% in 2 weeks, it makes political (and moral) sense 4 Julia Gillard to follow suit

As Tony Abbott still grovels to Murdoch press in Oz, he should consider how UK Labor's opposition leader has gone. See:

MP chairing committee which will grill Murdochs was invited to Les Hinton's 2009 wedding to a Gordon Brown adviser. See

Hackgate, the movie. This is too funny. Brilliant casting. Bet it will be over 10,000 views by morning:

Gasp: "The Telegraph revealed Sir Paul (Met chief) was offered hospitality by News Corp 15 times between April 07 & Mar 2010, accepting 14"

Sunday, July 17: Brooks arrested and 60 Minutes

Rebekah Brooks arrested - about time. Next will be BSkyB ditching James Murdoch as chair. See directors:

Biggest ever hit on Down Under ": transcript of Ray Martin's expose on

First Ray Martin launched Bruce Guthrie's book, then he slaughtered the Murdochs on 60 Minutes. Who else will join the revolution?

With such a shocking history of power abuse, Oz politicians will not be able to resist following Miliband's Murdoch call

Watching some old videos about Rupert

Finally, check out this playlist on Youtube from our various battles with Rupert over the years: 11 rounds with Rupert Murdoch

Plus we do love this stitch up of current New York Post editor Col Allan: Skewering Col Allan on Channel Nine's Sunday program

Sign up for campaign and governance Tweets

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That's all for now. If you can support our October trip to New York, that would be great. If not, no problems and just keep doin' ya best.

Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.