News Corp bias against Kevin Rudd showed up in independent study, diary reveals
By Mark Kenny
Kevin Rudd’s repeated claims of systematic anti-Labor bias in his treatment by News Corporation newspapers ahead of the September election were fuelled by an independent assessment of media reporting commissioned by the Labor Party.
The revelation underlines the extent of frustration within the government as it reeled from its bitter leadership instability and the late switch to Mr Rudd, whom many in the ALP had openly criticised.
The previously confidential study, obtained by Fairfax Media, was undertaken at the request of Mr Rudd’s key adviser, Bruce Hawker, as the pair wrestled with what to do to rebuild the former prime minister’s reputation and improve Labor’s poor communication with voters in time for an election due within weeks.
It found that Mr Rudd was subject to “unfavourable” reporting in The Daily Tele-graph at “over twice the volume of unfavourable coverage of Kevin Rudd and the ALP than The Sydney Morning Herald”.
The analysis, which goes some way to explaining Mr Rudd’s unusually direct references to media bias throughout the campaign, was undertaken by the media assessment and measurement firm iSentia.
It compared 1256 newspaper reports carried in News Corporation newspapers The Daily Telegraph in Sydney and Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail and Fairfax Media’s The Sydney Morning Herald.
The comparison covered three periods starting just before Mr Rudd replaced Julia Gillard in June, then during early- to mid-July, and finally over a fortnight taking in the first few days of the election campaign called on August 4.
“Kevin Rudd was positioned as incompetent in 215 News Corp articles and self-interested in 120,” the study concluded.
“The implied message that Kevin Rudd displays negative personality traits appeared in 143 News Corp articles.”
In his campaign diary published this week, The Rudd Rebel-lion, Mr Hawker makes reference to the study and reveals he had counselled Mr Rudd on more than one occasion during the campaign against repeatedly hitting back at News Corp mastheads during daily press appearances.
Labor MPs were furious at their treatment after The Daily Tele-graph began its campaign coverage with a front page headline on day one of the campaign exclaiming “Finally you now have the chance to . . . KICK THIS MOB OUT”.
Labor insiders also suspected that the coverage in News Corp publications intensified under the influence of veteran New York Post tabloid editor Col Allan.
“Unfavourable News Corp coverage was most prevalent in the last two-week period analysed [July 26-August 9), which coincided with the calling of the election and the arrival of Col Allan at News Corp Australia,” the iSentia analysis concluded.
“Of The Daily Tele-graph’s coverage, 54 per cent [251 articles] was unfavourable towards Kevin Rudd and for The Courier-Mail this proportion was 46 per cent ,” iSentia found.
“In contrast, 29 per cent [118 articles] of The Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage was unfavourable towards Kevin Rudd.”
However, it also found that the Herald was “the leading source of unfavourable press coverage of Tony Abbott and the Coalition”.
It concluded that overall 42 per cent (or 119 articles) of its coverage of Mr Abbott and his party was “unfavourable”.
Among several other revelations in Mr Hawker’s book is an account of the period immediately after Mr Rudd was replaced in 2010.
Mr Hawker writes that he played a pivotal role behind the scenes on behalf of Ms Gillard during the protracted 17-day period of negotiation to form government with the Greens and two independents. This included helping to convince the previously conservative-aligned independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor to back Gillard over Mr Abbott. The Sydney Morning Herald.