Australia begins investigation into Murdoch’s domination over its media industries
— 3 minute read — By Derry Salter
Half a million Australians have signed a petition calling for an inquiry into the domination of Australian press by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The inquiry will officially look into the diversity of Australian media as well as its impact on democracy.
In 2011, Australia was ranked third in the world for media concentration, only just behind China and Egypt, both of whom have state-owned media. Murdoch’s empire in Australia owns 70 percent of the print media, including the major national newspaper, The Australian.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched the petition to parliament at the beginning of November, calling for a Royal Commission – the highest form of public inquiry in Australia – referring to Murdoch’s empire as a “cancer to democracy”. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has surprisingly stood in solidarity with Rudd after he was a frequent victim of a News Corp smear campaign whilst in power. Rudd and Turnbull’s petition looks into the relationship between digital sites and the news media, particularly Google and Facebook, however its main focus was on Murdoch’s News Corp, which it cites as a threat to free speech and public debate. It further aims to draw attention to the relationship between Australia’s coalition government and News Corp and alleges that News Corp has consistently attacked opponents “by blending editorial opinion with news reporting”. The report is set to be concluded by March 2021.
News Corp newspaper The Australian responded with a scathing report suggesting that the Rudd-led petition included more than 1,000 fake names generated by a virtual private network by an IT worker in Bangladesh. Both Rudd and Turnbull took to Twitter to challenge these accusations which Rudd argued were a “Murdoch smear of our petition calling for a royal commission continues” as well as citing such claims as “another bald-faced lie”. Murdoch has yet to comment on Rudd’s accusations.
2020 has proved a challenging year for Murdoch’s media empire which reported a 31 percent decline in revenues in Australia in June as a result of a majority of print advertising moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Australian inquiry only set to reduce revenues even further.
Although a report concerning the petition is months away, the inquiry is a beginning of a calling-to-account for Murdoch and his global domination of the media.