Murdoch's Australia head departs as election battle heats up

Fri Aug 9, 2013 1:37am EDT
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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp appointed a new chief executive to its Australian arm on Friday, a move Prime Minister Kevin Rudd linked to mounting attacks on his government by Murdoch's local newspapers during a divisive election campaign.

Murdoch named former newspaper executive Julian Clarke to run News Corp Australia, the country's dominant newspaper publisher, replacing former pay TV boss Kim Williams, who announced his retirement after less than two years in the job.

Rudd told reporters the shakeout came after Murdoch sent key lieutenant Col Allan from New York to Australia to increase attacks on his government and its A$38 billion ($35 billion) high speed broadband plan ahead of the September 7 elections.

"The message delivered very clearly to them was 'go hard on Rudd. Start from Sunday and don't back off'," Rudd said on Friday.

News Corp did not respond to requests for comment on Rudd's allegations. Some media analysts said the change of executives was more likely linked to the split of News Corp into its entertainment and publishing arms earlier this year, rather than politics and the heated election campaign.

But there is no question that the Murdoch press in Australia wants Rudd defeated come September's election.

Leading Sydney newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Monday ran a front page headline saying "Kick this mob out" over a photo of Rudd on the first day of an election campaign.

Murdoch's main Queensland daily on Friday continued the anti-government campaign, with a front page headlined "Send in the clown" over a photograph of Rudd and his surprise candidate for a key seat, a former popular state premier Peter Beattie.

Melbourne University media analyst Margaret Simons said News Corp had long been against the Labor government under both Rudd and his predecessor, prime minister Julia Gillard.   Continued...

News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch listens to remarks while participating in the Wall St. Journal CEO Council on "Rebuilding Global Prosperity" in Washington November 16, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque