Midsumma Poised To Claim Victory

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Victory, by Tom Newby

Here’s my prediction: the News Corp deal with Midsumma will not be broken, despite opposition from several former board members

While Midsumma wait for the heat to go out of the argument over their controversial sponsorship deal, they are quietly preparing the case to go through with it. As soon as they judge the rage and grief over the death of Tyrone Unsworth has faded, they will regretfully announce that the deal has to go ahead.

Midsumma are poised to claim victory, with sources saying 70% of survey respondents “enthusiastically” support the News Corp deal. If true (the survey didn’t measure levels of enthusiasm) it would put the membership at odds with a substantial swathe of the LGBTI community, who have taken to social media to demand Midsumma break the deal.

And as we have already explained, the survey was clearly slanted to produce exactly this kind of result. However, it did offer an opportunity for respondents to add their own comments. Those of one former board member are at the end of this post.

Midsumma have apparently decided that their online critics are an unrepresentative minority with an irrational distaste for News Corp. They appear unconcerned at the potential damage to their image from the dozens of homophobic News Corp stories on Facebook tagged “Proud Midsumma Sponsor” – there was yet another attacking Roz Ward again today Friday. And they are unwilling to test the waters by opening the survey to non-members.

LGBTI journos at News Corp are also reportedly keen for the deal to go ahead, fearing the consequences for themselves if Midsumma walks away. But is the deal really worth the damage to Midsumma and the potential split of the community?

Poor Value

The value of the deal is, to say the least, questionable. If, as some assert, the aim is to reach closeted and possibly endangered LGBTI teens in suburban and regional areas, the Herald Sun and the Leader papers are hardly the ideal media.

A very high percentage of Leader copies go straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin without even being glanced at. If they are read at all, it’s principally to find your local gutter cleaning service, or a seniors tai chi class.

Instead, research shows that a huge percentage of under 25s don’t seek out newspapers at all. They get their news from online sources, the most gay friendly of which are Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and Guardian Australia. All geographically target advertising to reach the areas you want. And they’re free to access online. Meanwhile, News Corp papers online sit behind paywalls – although for the tech savvy, they’re not that hard to circumvent.

The alleged reach of the News Corp deal is nothing like as great as it at first appears.

Finally, there’s the quality of the coverage Midsumma can expect, especially when it comes to reviews of shows and exhibitions. Fairfax are streets ahead of the Herald Sun in this regard, and the Guardian is pretty good, too. The Herald Sun: not so much.

Founder Member Responds

I can’t improve on Chris Gill’s response to Midsumma, so I’m quoting it in full, with permission. Chris was involved with the very first Midsumma (1988/89) and edited Melbourne Star Observer at the time. He strongly believes, along with other former board members to whom I have spoken, in the importance of Midsumma as an opportunity for community development, and to strengthen individual and collective resilience. He stresses that he is thankful for all the volunteer work that makes Midsumma happen every year. He wrote the following in the Comments field of the Midsumma survey.

News Corp is using Midsumma as a fig leaf to disguise its naked homophobia – evident in its editorial coverage of LGBTIQ issues such as safe schools, marriage equality, and its campaign against the Australian Human Rights Commission.

It’s a very bad look for Midsumma to be associated with such an organisation as a ‘gold sponsor’.

I strongly believe Midsumma needs to develop a sponsorship policy which, among other things, assesses whether the organisation being considered is

a) anti-gay,

b) neutral, or

c) demonstrating good practice on LGBTIQ rights (in employment practice, in its public statements and positions, and in its policies and procedures). And

d) will association with the organisation pose a risk to Midsumma’s reputation?

As a standard bearer for our community, Midsumma, should approach and solicit sponsorship only from those companies that can demonstrate good practice on LGBTIQ rights, and Midsumma should only accept unsolicited offers of sponsorship from companies that can be shown to do not harm to LGBTIQ rights.

News Corp does not fit either of these categories.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)