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Stokes gloves up against WA newspaper -

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LISA MILLAR: The Chairman of the Seven television network has vigorously attacked 'The West
Australian' newspaper for driving readers away.

In a strongly worded speech delivered yesterday, Kerry Stokes was scathing about the direction the
newspaper was headed, saying its editorial slant is "self-indulgent" and it's not a paper readers
want to buy. A very public slap in the face for its controversial young gun editor Paul Armstrong.

It's the latest manoeuvre by the Seven boss in his long campaign to gain a seat on the board of
West Australian Newspapers - owner of the state's only daily newspaper.

And the television mogul, who is the West Australian's largest shareholder, says he knows how to
fix the paper's dwindling readership problems.

From Perth, David Weber reports.

DAVID WEBER: Kerry Stokes was speaking at a business breakfast gathering of more than a thousand
people in Perth. He said it didn't matter what industry you were in. The customer was the person
that everyone should be focused on.

KERRY STOKES: The most important thing about the West Australian newspaper is it has lost focus on
what its customer is and its customer is the reader. And the readers have stopped buying the
newspaper.

Now I can go to a lot of faults about I believe of the West. I can criticise it technically, I can
criticise what they've done. But at the end of the day, for the past five years they've continually
lost readers.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Stokes said the paper had achieved a profit in its last report through cost
cutting.

KERRY STOKES: I'd encourage you all to go back and read in depth their last six months report and
you might see why it triggered some concern and anger on my part. I believe that when you get to a
point of cutting costs where you rely on your cost cuts to get rid of your customers to make a
bigger profit this quarter, you've suddenly lost sight of what the real objective is.

DAVID WEBER: Kerry Stokes hammered what he considered an inability to get the paper delivered
across WA. The Seven chairman predicted that next month's survey results were likely to show the
Sunday Times beating the Saturday edition of the West Australian.

Kerry Stokes said he didn't want to comment on the content of the West, but he did say this:

KERRY STOKES: It seems its editors are in conflict with everybody. The front page of the paper
invariably is not a paper which people want to pick up and pay money to read. It's not good having
self-indulgence and people writing what they think is really good. They want to know they're going
to get what it is they're paying for. And at the moment the West is living on its reputation more
than it's living on its delivery and its performance.

DAVID WEBER: Mr Stokes went on to say the West Australian was a great organ but it needed to be
fixed.

KERRY STOKES: We own 20 per cent of this company and we've spent $480 million dollars of Seven
Network's shareholders' funds. We actually believed the board's publicity. I should have actually
looked a bit closer. Having looked a bit closer I know now it can be fixed and even better than it
is now.

We don't want to control the company. This isn't about control. This is about bringing a newspaper
back to a standard that we want it to be in this state.

DAVID WEBER: Kerry Stokes said Seven had no debt and the company's only disappointing investment
was in the West Australian. An extraordinary general meeting for shareholders of the West will be
held on the 23rd of this month.

LISA MILLAR: David Webber in Perth.