Stephen Conroy
Stephen Conroy

Conroy, Turnbull join to fight Gina

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Stephen Conroy and shadow minister Malcolm Turnbull joined yesterday in declaring that Gina Rinehart should sign up to the charter of editorial independence and not try to turn the Fairfax mastheads into mining industry mouthpieces.

Senator Conroy and Mr Turnbull warned that failure to preserve editorial independence would hit readership.

The issue has been cited in the board's resistance to Mrs Rinehart's request for seats on the board. Jack Cowin, a likely Rinehart board appointment, when asked recently which way Mrs Rinehart would take editorial policy, said she would have a stronger right-wing view than probably the average liberal journalist, but added that she had not interfered with news policies at the Ten Network.

Senator Conroy said Mrs Rinehart had indicated that she was ''only interested in influencing the editorial content of Fairfax'' while the board had a strong position on editorial independence.

He said there were genuine concerns that interference would destroy the credibility of the Fairfax mastheads. ''Their readership respects and admires the charter and what it represents, and if you were to start turning it into just a pro-mining industry gazette, well I don't think you would see the rest of the shareholders in Fairfax be too excited about the collapse in readership.''