Empires, Elections and Mobs: does Rupert own them all

During the 2013 election Kevin Rudd claimed that “Murdoch is entitled to his own view, he owns 70 per cent of the newspapers in this country.” While incorrect, Flew. T (2013) reports that News Corporation owns 23 per cent of the newspapers. News Corp has ultimately become Australia’s most influential industry body controlling circulation up to 65 per cent (Flew. T, 2013). It’s an interesting statement regarding ownership and political opinion around Murdoch’s agenda. The 2013 federal election showed the remarkable influence that Murdoch has in the media.

According to ABCs Media Watch (Episode 32, 2013) over 293 articles were produced by the Daily Telegraph during the election. Up to 134 were anti-Labor and only five were deemed to be anti-Coalition. Murdoch’s papers have never been shy of using their front pages to push his political agenda; on the first day of the election The Daily Telegraph produced this headline:

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Subsequent headlines followed:

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This is not the first time the Murdoch press has produced such an act within their papers. In the 1992 British election, Murdoch’s papers slanted toward conservative politics, expressing that Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Karl Marx supported the Labour Party whereas the Queen, Elvis and Winston Churchill were illustrated as supporting the Conservatives (Hobbs. M, McKnight. D. 2014). Following the introduction of Fox News in the U.S, the 2000 election saw Republican voting had shifted from 0.4 in the 1996 elections to 0.7 per cent in towns that had Fox News (DellaVigna. S, Kaplan. E. 2006).

Many argue that these are all aspects of a free press. However when media is controlled by one person, who allows papers such as The Australian to lose up to $25 million per year in order to push his ideological agenda (Zappone. C, Hawthorne M. 2012), it becomes difficult to moderate when society holds certain institutions obligation to tell the truth. Considering that most swinging voters may make their decision late in the campaign, marginal electoral results may be a result of editorial influences (Belot. H, 2013). Dennis Muller states that News Corp never just picks a candidate. Murdoch will pick candidates through ‘self-interest and what he thinks will otherwise benefit the business’ (Belot. H. (2013). Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed concern over editorials produced by News Corp stating that “facts published were so ridiculous that it distorted the public discussion” (Kehoe. J. 2014).

This came at the time when The Australian labelled current PM Tony Abbott as ‘a gift to our nation,’ who currently is seeking to relax regulation and media ownership (Kehoe. J. 2014). The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was initially established to provide greater diversity but has concentrated the market reducing the number of owners (Australian Collaboration, 2013). If anything following the 2013 election, the last thing Australia needs is a decrease in government funding for public broadcasters such as SBS and the ABC. This would lead to a further concentration of ownership.

References:

Belot. H. (2013) Murdoch’s might: how much do newspapers influence elections? Crikey.com.au retrieved 15.04.15 <http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/08/28/murdochs-might-how-much-do-news-corp-papers-influence-elections/&gt;

DellaVigna. S, Kaplan. E. (2006) The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, retrieved 12.04.15

Flew. T. (2013) FactCheck: does Murdoch own 70% of newspapers in Australia? TheConversation.com, retrieved 16.04.15 <http://theconversation.com/factcheck-does-murdoch-own-70-of-newspapers-in-australia-16812&gt;

Hobbs. M, McKnight. D. (2014) ‘Kick This Mob Out:’ The Murdoch media and the Australian Labor Government, Global Media Journal Volume 8 Issue 2, retrieved 15.04.15 <http://www.hca.uws.edu.au/gmjau/?p=1075&gt; 

Kehoe. J. (2014) Julia Gillard blasts ‘biased’ Murdoch News Corp, Financial Review <http://www.afr.com/business/media-and-marketing/publishing/julia-gillard-blasts-biased-murdoch-news-corp-20141028-11ctmj&gt;

Media Watch, Episode 32  (2013) The final Tele tally, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Transcript retrieved 16.04.15 <http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3844761.htm&gt;

Zappone. C, Hawthorne. M. (2012) Axe hangs over News titles, The Sydney Morning Herald, retrieved 17. 04. 15 <http://www.smh.com.au/business/axe-hangs-over-news-titles-20120627-212u9.html&gt;

Unknown Author, Australian Collaboration (Revised 2013), Democracy in Australia – Media concentration and media laws, retrieved 17.04.15 <http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/Democracy/Media-laws.pdf&gt;

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