After a year of discovering who really runs Australia, The Power Index is finally set to reveal the country's fifty most powerful people.
Throughout July, Paul Barry and The Power Index team will be counting down the most influential people in the nation from business, media, politics, sport and culture.
The Power 50 / 2012
Chairman of the Seven Network
Born in: Melbourne
Home Town: Sydney
Kerry Stokes is one of our last old-style media moguls, with controlling stakes in Australia’s top TV network and its second-largest magazine group via the Seven Media Group, plus Western Australia’s only daily paper, The West Australian.
But the one-time street kid and TV repairman has never been interested in throwing his weight around politically Packer or Murdoch style. And as he told The Power Index, "I don't believe I have power. If I did, I might be tempted to use it."
Nevertheless, ‘Little’ Kerry has had his moments, like in 1996, when Channel Seven pulled a Today Tonight expose of Victorian premier Jeff Kennett's share dealings, minutes before it went to air. Stokes protested he knew nothing about the decision, but later dismissed journalists responsible for the story, which Channel Seven’s managing director claimed could do the network "enormous damage in Victoria".
More recently, in 2007-8, Kerry flexed his muscles at The West Australian by buying a 20% stake and gaining control of the board, which then sacked editor Paul Armstrong. "The West Australian seemed to be at war with everyone," Stokes told The Power Index, "its suppliers, distributors and readers, and the public service." Stokes says it was about "bringing the newspaper back to a standard we want it to be in this state".
Others wish he’d raise standards at Seven’s Today Tonight, which has been described as "cancerous", "amoral", "sensationalist", "sordid" and a "disgrace". But it clearly makes too much money for Stokes to interfere.