Concentrating on Australian newspaper ownership.

Australia has the highest concentration of media ownership in the developed world. This concentration is particularly prevalent in the newspaper business where 11 of the 12 major daily newspapers are distributed by just two conglomerates: News Corp and John Fairfax Holdings. Along with owning 8 of these publications, News Corp also maintains control over a large portion of regional and suburban newspaper distribution.

In a democratic nation such as Australia, high concentrations of media ownership can result in a select few organisations and their owners controlling the power of mass communication. These concentrated ownership structures are concerning because they can lead to Journalistic freedoms being suppressed, abuses of power by those in control and a media landscape lacking in a diversity of opinion. (Jones P. Pusey M. 2011)

In recent years there have been examples where major Australian news publications have used their power to heavily promote agendas that correlate with the owner’s personal ideologies. A key example of this emerged between August and early September of 2013 in the lead up to the Australian federal election. News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph, which is owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, ran a total of 293 political stories during the election campaign; 143 of these stories where deemed to be anti-Labor and 5 anti-Liberal. During that same campaign The Daily Telegraph printed 43 pro Liberal stories while only 5 were judged pro-Labor.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

To this end, it is well known that Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corp, is a supporter of the current National Liberal Party, and of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. In fact, he is such a firm believer of this political party that a 2013 news article by David Knight expresses that when Murdoch met then opposition leader Abbott in 2011 “he told his editors he liked him.” When one considers this high praise, along with the fact that the Daily Telegraph is producing overwhelmingly pro NLP content it is not hard to infer that Murdoch may be using his influence over his newspapers to push his own political agenda.

During that same 2013 election campaign, Mr. Murdoch publicly shared his belief via twitter that “Australians just sick of Gillard-Rudd incompetence and infighting wrecking Great County”. This admission, coupled with headlines like “kick this mob out” and “Australia needs Tony” have led commentators including veteran Canberra Times journalist Jack Waterford to suggest that some of Mr Murdoch’s papers are now ”megaphones for the Liberal Party.”

Photograph: The Daily Telegraph
Photograph: The Daily Telegraph

However, Mr Waterford also suggests in the same article that Mr Murdoch’s newspapers ”power to change minds is very limited” and a Crikey news editorial from January 2013 year claims that only 48% of people in New South Wales actually trusted what is said in the Daily Telegraph. This indicates that perhaps it doesn’t make much difference what the newspaper owners say, however, as Media Watch explains, whether or not the Daily Telegraph’s editorials helped swing votes or not, there is no question it was trying to.

References,

Pusey, Michael and McCutcheon, Marion (2011), ‘From the Media Moguls to the Money Men? Media Concentration in Australia’, Media International Australia, No 140, pp. 22-31

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2 thoughts on “Concentrating on Australian newspaper ownership.

  1. Hi Eddie,
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog post. It provided a lot of information that I have never thought about when considering the power of corporate owners. Your focus on the media concerning the election was a great example on how one person views and opinions when published can have the power to create change on a whole person view. With the astonishing facts that you have given us, it does make us question where do we really get our own opinions from or have we already be persuaded by what we have read or seen. But like what you have said at the bottom of your blog post ” as Media Watch explains, whether or not the Daily Telegraph’s editorials helped swing votes or not, there is no question it was trying to.” This quote sums it perfectly it doesn’t matter if the public knew it wasn’t true it was the fact that the media has power to do this and control what we see.

    It would of been very interesting to see what other corporate owners such as other newspaper or magazine would have said on this topic. To study the difference whether they went more liberal or labor. In which maybe we might be able to see another example of media control.

    Another then that very good job!
    Regards Chelsea

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  2. A very informative blog post Eddie.

    I think the claim put forward by Jack Waterford regarding media ownership is quite interesting. Even though he owns a gigantic arm of the media it could very well be argued that Rupert Murdoch’s influence can only extend so far — we have to trust in the intelligence and independence of readers as well!

    As we learned in the fourth BCM 110 lecture: a person controlling the media can be very dangerous (Hitler and the Nazi propaganda) but restricting certain media forms and what they can report on is essentially no better. This ties-in with the idea of the public sphere too: discussion is to remain separate from government but it’s also to be made accessible to all. Mediating the public sphere goes directly against the latter and so it’s perhaps best if we can appreciate the wide variety of media forms available rather than selectively hating on some.

    All-in-all: a great blog post. You kept me engaged all the way to the end.

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