And now Australia’s lawmakers decide to get tough on Murdoch

Australia's Parliamentarians are looking at setting up a Senate inquiry into media practice and ownership in the wake of phone hacking scandal.


Following Britain and America’s lead, Australia’s Parliamentarians have decided enough is enough and are looking at setting up a Senate inquiry into media practice and ownership in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Australian prime minister Julia Gillard is considering whether to open a full inquiry, though Attorney-General Robert McClelland has ruled out new laws to regulate the media.

The full extent of Murdoch’s stranglehold over Australian media is frightening to behold:

• He owns seven of the 11 metropolitan and national dailies;

• He owns 77 per cent of the Sunday newspapers;

• He owns around two thirds of suburban news sheets;

• He owns a big slice of the magazines in Australia;

• He has many TV interests; and

• In Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide you can only pick up a newspaper that’s been printed by Murdoch.

Leader of Australia’s Green Party, Senator Bob Brown, is leading the campaign for reform of the media – and has been attacked by the Murdoch-owned The Australian for so doing. In an editorial in today’s paper, the Australian insists its titles “have nothing to fear from any inquiry into media behaviour”, yet deride Brown’s calls for an inquiry as a “tilt at windmills”.

Brown told Five Live Breakfast this morning:

“I have to declare here that the greens cop it, you only have to pick up today’s editorial in The Australian newspaper to see them getting into me, but I’ve got broad shoulders, I’m used to that, but we don’t have the plurality even of Fleet Street, which enables you to pick up something else. Fairfax owns the other four newspapers so we’ve really effectively got a duopoly and it wouldn’t be legal in the United States but we’ve got it here…

“In a properly funcioning democracy it is the role of elected representatives to take this on, to have a proper review and if there’s changes to be made then that will be good for the media as well as the general public.”

Listen to it:

Senator Bob Brown on Rupert Murdoch (mp3)

As Brown says, as well as insisting they have nothing to hide, Murdoch’s Australian have accused a rival publication, The Age, of phone hacking – yet are still opposed to an inquiry. The Murdochs may be facing the UK Parliament next Tuesday, but you can bet they’ll fight like Hell to avoid having to face Australia’s legislators anytime soon.

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  • Anon E Mouse

    How long before Piers Morgan and the Mirror Group gets dragged into this lot I wonder…

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  • Nicholas Roberts

    The UK newspapers are one small set of a single, global newspaper production system which has included the New York Post for many years and now the WSJ.

    140 newspapers share a single production system where all news is shared. So a crime in one newspaper is a crime for all.

    The cancer metaphor is important because, like any multinational corporation, it has an integrated production system. In the case of the newspapers at News Corp, roughly 150 newspapers share a single platform. There is very deep intermingling between newspapers brands, within locations such as Wapping, the news factory for News of The World (and The Sun, The Times etc) and between geographic locations.

    Economies of scale in newspaper production drove the consolidation of newspaper production on a single platform, and the need to syndicate finished stories and rapidly share leads and editorial processes within the corporation and against competitors means there is a very big chance that the NoTW toxic tabloid journalism contagion will spread. The criminal content did not remain isolated in Wapping, instead it would of been spread throughout the 150 newspaper network.

    Cross media would also have ensured the textual content would of been spread into other formats like TV. In Australia FoxTel and Sky, in UK BSkyB, the US Fox.

    News International’s newspapers are a small set of a single, unified, global, newspaper production system. Its integrated principally by the digital pagination and advertising system, which operates on the same software as airlines or banks. Its a real-time market for matching ads to editorial and selling content. There are 140 newspapers around the world ALL sharing the same production system. The printing presses are also part of the system, and KRM has made massive investments in these news factories over the years.

    So, an editor in Australia can see into the news desk of the News of the World and see what is happening! Staff are moved around the empire all the time. Journalists and editors loyal to Murdoch, and prepared to do the dirty work are rewarded and the industrial fuedalism of personal loyalty is very strong.

    In this global news factory network, the cheapest form of content is sleaze, then sport. Next is gossip. Then opinion. In the UK its ok to do all of this, there is a market. In the US, the Republican moral majority does not allow titties on television, but Fox News is built on gossip. Research is expensive and often reveals unwelcome truths for the proprietor or his advertisers. Sleaze, sport, gossip and opinion are cheap and can be used to attack enemies.

    Fox News is tabloid journalism for the TV age. I hate to think what is being done at MySpace.

    It will be hard to contain the criminal liability just to the UK papers when the business and editorial systems are global. 140 newspapers which now includes the WSJ

    Just like the financial systems spread contagion in realtime, so too the toxic journalism and criminal content is automatically syndicated worldwide

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  • Mr. Sensible

    Not a lot of plurality there…

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