Figures bear out political savvy

WAS the Federal Govern-ment’s rejection of the Royal/ Dutch Shell takeover bid for Woodside Petroleum deft political instinct or answering the parochial calls of the media?

Whatever the case, the internationally controversial decision has proven to be in line with negative sentiment expressed towards the bid in broadcasts between January 1 and April 30.

A Rehame report comm-issioned by Business News on the media’s coverage of the takeover bid reveals a massive 41 per cent of the coverage in the electronic media was negative compared to positive mentions which totalled just 10 per cent.

The Federal Government’s involvement in what started out as a largely WA issue cemented media interest in two major issues, foreign ownership and the Govern-ment’s role in the increasingly emotional debate ahead of a federal election.

The Rehame media moni-toring found that the media reported on the “groundswell of public opinion in light of the looming federal election and made its decision with a view to gain voters.”

Between January and April this year Rehame recorded more than 4,000 mentions of the takeover bid in the elect-ronic media, making it one of the biggest issues for the year so far and pushing it well beyond any usual takeover coverage.

“Over the analysed period Treasurer Peter Costello re-ceived more media attention than either Shell or Woodside spokesperson, with Shadow Treasurer Simon Crean and the Prime Minister John Howard the next most often quoted,” the Rehame report stated.

Public sentiment displayed in talk back radio clearly defined public opinion as “overwhelmingly negative” with negative comments making up 72 per cent of calls on the topic.

The Rehame report claims “the majority of callers expressed dismay at the possibility of Shell taking over Woodside in Australia and were happy when Treasurer Costello blocked the move.”

The emotive expression “selling the farm” was popular among the nation’s talk-back radio callers.

The Rehame report stated the decision to reject the bid for Woodside was seen as a win for the ordinary people and a rejection of big business but it was also interpreted as a savvy political move from a government so close to election time.


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