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.
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.”
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.
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