Nine Entertainment’s print journalists have slammed the company’s decision to host a $10,000-a-head Liberal Party fundraiser at its Sydney studios.
The corporate fundraiser, held on Monday night and hosted by Nine chief executive Hugh Marks, was attended by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher.
It is reported to have raised at least $700,000 for the Liberal Party.
But the print journalists at the company’s three metro mastheads – The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review – said the function raised the question of where the newspapers’ political loyalties lay.
Letter sent to Nine CEO today Hugh Marks over staff concerns about Nine hosting a Liberal fundraiser. We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised. Endorsed by house committees of Age, SMH and AFR. pic.twitter.com/hseQSjkSIs
— Ben Schneiders (@benschneiders) September 3, 2019
On Tuesday, the house committees from the newspapers wrote to Mr Marks and Nine’s managing director of publishing, Chris Janz to outline their concerns.
“We strongly object to our reputation for independent journalism being compromised by the hosting of party political fundraisers. This can only serve to make the job of working journalists more difficult,” said the letter, which was released by the journalists’ union, the MEAA.
“Our mastheads have done much to expose the corrupting influence of money on politics. It is vitally important that we remain independent of the political process.”
The newspapers were part of the former Fairfax network, which was taken over by Nine late in 2018. The journalists said Fairfax mastheads had a long history of political independence.
“If this has changed and we are now associated with the Liberal Party, this should be conveyed to staff,” they said.
“A decision to host fundraisers for Labor or other political parties would be of equal concern.”
Later on Tuesday, Nine said it took the newspapers’ charter of editorial independence seriously.
It told the ABC that it took an active role in the democratic process by speaking to all political parties about issues that affected its business.
The company said it was involved in a Labor Party event on Tuesday.
Monday’s Liberal night was organised by the party’s fundraising arm, the Australian Business Network, and reportedly based in a studio at Nine’s Willoughby base.
The company is due to move out of the Willoughby studios for new Sydney offices.
Other Liberal political guests who attended included Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Education Minister Dan Tehan, Cities Minister Alan Tudge, and the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Jane Hume.
Former treasurer and former deputy Liberal leader Peter Costello, who is the chairman of Nine Entertainment, did not attend.