Murdoch’s regional news takeover could help the Coalition win voters

Edited: 21/06/2021

Murdochtopus has many arms that work in unison with News Corp, one of those arms is a think tank called the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister the IPA wrote a list of 75 ideas for Abbott to think about which included: 

50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function.

51. Privatise SBS. 

The Abbott government and coalition government’s since, have cut funding to the tune of $783 million. By 2023 the cuts to the ABC will amount to $1 billion. Surveys continually show that the ABC and SBS are the most trusted news brands in Australia. So many cuts makes it incredibly hard to cut through the power of Murdochtopus and other conservative friends of the coalition in the media. 

Image by ABC News.

Australia’s concentrated media ownership is one of the highest of the world      

News Corp owns nearly 60% of the metropolitan and national print media markets by readership. The Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax merger in 2018, means that Nine is now the second largest media owner with a combined readership share of 23%.

80% of Australian free-to-air and subscription TV revenues are collected by three corporations: News Corp, Nine, and Seven Media Holdings.

Nearly 90% of the nation’s radio licences are controlled by News Corp, Nine, and Southern Cross Media (including their associated entities). 

Why we need an independent media and newswire 

News Corp, Nine and Seven controlling our information isn’t healthy let alone democratic. Our public broadcasters, independent media and the Australian Associated Press Newswire (AAP), fill the public interest journalism voids that commercial media can’t fill. Independent media focuses on audiences that get left behind, the issues that go unreported, holding power to account, and local issues that keep rural audiences informed and connected. 

News Corp’s regional newspaper takeover in 2016 didn’t just add to his news monopoly, it gave him the power to close them down completely or to force people to buy digital subscriptions. This is exactly what happened last May. Some rural areas now have no source of news at all, some have bought News Corp subscriptions only to find that they‘re filled wih city-centric news not relevant to them, or their communities.  

The AAP had a near death experience during the Covid lockdown in March last year when their two major shareholders, News Corp and Nine, decided to close it down. The reasoning for their decision was that the AAP couldn’t compete with free information from the Internet. The AAP was saved at the last minute by a group of philanphropists. Three-months later it became clear as to why they kept the profitable arms of the AAP for themselves, they were setting up their own newswire, NCA NewsWire, in direct competition with the AAP.  

To nearly lose the AAP like that is alarming, we need our national newswire to tell all of our stories, not just those deemed of importance by the media giants. The AAP released the details of their Charter of Independence a month after relaunching as a not-for-profit news service last year. News Corp doesn’t have one, and it’s been 3-years since the Fairfax merged with Nine and they still haven’t signed one. These charters are vital for public interest journalism

Media ownership report

I recommend reading the “Who controls our media” report. The report explains in laymen terms why it’s important for everyone to know about how media ownership such as ours, is not only unprecedented but dangerous for our democracy.  

“I have two young daughters and I work as a registered nurse and a nurse educator. Murdoch [controlled News Corp] recently purchased the one local newspaper on the Sunshine Coast, The Sunshine Coast Daily. Now Murdoch can provide one side of a story without any competition or opposition.” Sarah – Sunshine Coast, QLD.     

Sky News Australia has more YouTube reach than the ABC    

The distribution of content across all media platforms to reach as many people as possible is where the real power exists. Sky News Australia subscriptions have been climbing since their 2019 distribution deals with YouTube, Microsoft, Facebook and Taboola. Sky News YouTube subscriptions are currently at 1.75 million and climbing, whereas the ABC has 1.38 million and let’s not forget that Sky News is broadcast 24/7 in places such as airports, hotels, and Parliament House. 

News Corp is also the most distributed news brand on Facebook. Even if you don’t read Murdoch content, or watch Sky News, or listen to 2GB on the radio, the power of Murdochtopus means that you most likely will, in some shape or form. For eg. a front-page story via the Daily Telegraph or The Australian, can easily set the agenda for the day with other news outlets on TV, online and via the radio, following their lead and reporting about the same story. When only a few players exist their reach means that they don’t just set the agenda of traditional media and social media, they also influence our conversations and our minds.

Patience is a virtue, but lobbying and power gets the job done

In 2006 Murdoch got a taste of Google revenue via an advertising deal with his newly acquired MySpace that was worth $900 million. MySpace was taken over by Facebook in 2009 due to his focusing on monetisation of the platform rather than innovation. From then on Murdoch complained that Google was stealing from him by displaying snippets and links to his content. 

In 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) found that Google’s use of snippets and links was not theft. By 2021 the much-hyped mandatory Media Bargaining Code of Conduct for Facebook and Google, bore fruit with paid partnership deals for all three of the media giants.

This monetary advantage penalises smaller media players that have genuine concerns that the new deals will push News Corp content, especially in areas such as climate change, to the top of search results rather than that of the experts,   

Cheap NewsFlash app by Foxtel set to launch in the last quarter of 2021

NewsFlash will live-stream content from news services that include Sky News, and Fox News. Reports say that it will cost around $5. A cheap app like this is a good way to attract new eyeballs as well as to keep newer audiences of Sky News, after Win TV ended their deal with them by signing a 7-year deal with Nine.   

What can we do?

The petition created by former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was the largest e-petition in Australia’s parliamentary history. Over 500,000 people signed it for a Murdoch Royal Commission. The petition led to a Senate inquiry into media diversity which we can support.   

There is the voluntary Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation but the code isn’t mandatory and unfortunately has no teeth yet. Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Tik Tok and Redbubble are the only ones to have signed up so far. 

We can also get behind and support the Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI). The PIJI have done research that found that a not-for-profit (NFP) news sector might be a viable solution. This approach could help to increase media diversity as well as to build sustainable new financial models. 

“News is an essential service – as highlighted by successive national emergencies. Its diversity and coverage are essential to inform our citizens, strengthen our community and safeguard our democracy.” PIJI.

Sky News is already poisoning the minds of our loved ones just like Fox News did in America

Fox News has not just destroyed families it’s killed democracy there by taking away the ability of American’s to talk with one another, without getting angry and without shutting each other down. Regional Australian’s watching Sky News are already displaying the same symptoms.

Maybe we need to take a long hard look at the 1989 Liverpool campaign in the UK . Liverpool City successfully boycotted the Sun, a Murdoch publication, after it’s role in the false reporting of the Hillsborough disaster. Sales have never recovered.

If we don’t speak up now we’ve forever lost the propaganda and misinformation war playing out right now.

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