- The Guardian
- Issue #1951
Last month, the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee held an inquiry into “the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia.” The inquiry came off the back of a tremendously successful nation-wide petition spearheaded by former ALP Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling for a royal commission into Australia’s media landscape, which amassed more than 500,000 signatures.
As a result, Rudd appeared before the committee to present his reasons for why a royal commission was necessary and to answer questions. Among his detailed list of reasons for the need for a royal commission into Australia’s media landscape were: monopolies, in any form, are bad, and breed corruption as media monopolies can control or “bury” scandals of their preferred party; media monopolies “destroy alternative voices” as was evident in the Murdoch empire shutting down 112 regional newspapers; and a concern surrounding media monopolies’ encouragement of political extremism à la Fox News in the United States.
Several organisations made submissions to the inquiry, including News Corp – the organisation owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Michael Miller, Executive Chairman of News Corp Australia, rejected Rudd’s general characterisation that News Corp’s operations were unethical, stating it was evidence that “[t]his is not democracy failing, this is democracy working.” In fact, despite the overwhelming evidence that News Corp runs a media monopoly, Miller, when responding to Victorian ALP Senator Kim Carr about the claim that Australia has the highest media concentration in the world, stated “I don’t agree with the concept that we are concentrated.” However, this is a straight denial of the facts. Murdoch’s media empire owns more than half the market share of Australian newspapers, according to a Guardian (UK) data analysis (14/11/2020). And according to Rudd, virtually own all the newspapers in Queensland. Yet Miller likes to pretend diversity exists, even within his own newspapers. In answering a question from the Senate committee, he stated that “There are days I don’t agree with the views of our editors, I don’t always agree with the opinions of our columnists.” Miller’s attempt to act as if this is evidence enough that the newspapers under Murdoch’s control operate autonomously is a farce. Immediately after the Senate inquiry in eight separate newspapers, in eight separate cities, from The Daily Telegraph to NT News, the same front-page article “Why Rudd is wrong on News” was run!
It is not surprising that the Coalition, who benefit greatly from Murdoch’s coverage, is lining up to take shots at the idea of a royal commission into Australia’s media landscape. The following week, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher sent Governor-General David Hurley a letter advising him not to green-light the proposed inquiry. Yet Fletcher, in response to the actions undertaken by Facebook, stated that “it is not acceptable to the government of Australia or any sovereign nation that giant global corporations are controlling the information that comes to our citizens” – irony at its finest!
The lack of a rich, diverse media landscape enables the ruling class to maintain power as they control the narrative around policies and events. Alternative voices must cut through so that other sides can be heard and truths can be told. Without such a voice, the working masses will be duped into believing narratives that fit agendas that don’t work for them. If you want to support independent media, get a subscription to The Guardian – Workers’ Weekly today!