Tall timbers come down: End of independence for Tasmania's daily press

Kirkpatrick, Rod and Tanner, Stephen (2005) Tall timbers come down: End of independence for Tasmania's daily press. Australian Studies in Journalism, 14: 124-145.

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Author Kirkpatrick, Rod
Tanner, Stephen
Title Tall timbers come down: End of independence for Tasmania's daily press
Journal name Australian Studies in Journalism   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1038-6130
Publication date 2005-01-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Issue 14
Start page 124
End page 145
Total pages 22
Place of publication Brisbane, Australia
Publisher University of Queensland
Language eng
Subject 400101 Journalism
Abstract For the greater part of the twentieth century, three families ruled the Tasmanian newspaper world: the Davies family (Hobart), the Rolph-Rouse family (Launceston) and the Harris family (Burnie-Devonport). By the end of 2003, each of the three families had been dethroned: the tall timbers of Tasmania's newspaper environment had been toppled. The Davies family, which founded the Mercury in 1854, sold it and some minor titles to the Herald & Weekly Times Ltd (HWT) in 1986, about six months before Rupert Murdoch launched his ultimately successful takeover of HWT (Clark 1994: pp. 25-26). The Rolph-Rouse dynasty, in its third generation at the Examiner, disintegrated in 1990 when Edmund Rouse was jailed for attempting to bribe a newly elected Labor politician to support the minority government of Liberal Premier Robin Gray (Tanner 1995: p. 72). Rouse's jailing and the battering taken by shares in the media empire he controlled opened the way for Rural Press Ltd (RPL) to take over the Examiner. Aiding, abetting and even nudging RPL was Burnie's Harris family, a long-time enemy of the Examiner. RPL took 60 per cent of the Examiner and Harris & Co. 40 per cent (Tanner 1995: p. 83). In 2003, RPL seemed ready to do in Tasmania what it was doing in other states: exploit the economies of scale flowing from owning more than one newspaper or printing operation in close geographic proximity. It aspired to 100 per cent control of Tasmania's two regional daily newspapers rather than 60 per cent control of one. The aspirations were excited by some Harris & Co. shareholders, disenchanted with low returns on their investment in the company. And so RPL turned to its Examiner partner of thirteen years and made a takeover offer. But, after 113 years of running newspapers on the north-west coast, the Harris enterprise refused to turn over and go belly up. RPL found itself in territory into which it says it normally would not venture: making a hostile takeover bid. A bitter struggle ensued over four months before RPL gained a majority interest, with one Harris family member making the share sale that clinched the deal. On 29 December 2003, RPL became the owners of Harris & Co.'s newspaper, printing and associated enterprises (Crowther 2004a; Thom 2004). This article will examine the implications for Tasmanian public opinion and politics of the ownership and control of the state's two regional daily newspapers now resting in the hands of one proprietor.
Keyword Tasmania
Media ownership
Media concentration
Rural Press Limited
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status Unknown

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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Created: Wed, 20 Jul 2005, 10:00:00 EST