By Margo Kingston
March 16, 2013
Here’s a history lesson on the long road to media dominance by Rupert Murdoch, aided by both big parties, via two chapters in my book. The Liberals said yes to Murdoch under Howard, and will keep saying yes. They are partners, or rather, Abbott is Murdoch’s puppet.
I also tell the story of how I lobbied minor parties to stop Murdoch’s law in the Senate in 2003, and describe Fairfax journalists’ long struggle to preserve our values of fearless independent journalism.
Murdoch papers’ incendiary reaction to Conroy’s reforms – led by Murdoch’s top executive in Australia Kim Williams – means Murdoch’s empire has something to lose. Two things, actually – less chance of even further dominating Australia’s MSM, and more chance of its journalism being just a little bit accountable to the ethics of journalism.
There is no chance the media reforms, weak as they are, will pass without strong action by citizens. Wilkie, Oakshott, Katter, Windsor and Thomson need to be convinced to negotiate with Labor to agree to a reform package they can sign up to and vote for quickly. They must understand that Labor has been crazy-brave to put up even this minimalist reform package, and that Labor must get this done quickly or bleed to death from Murdoch media’s relentless attacks.
Over to you. Apart from anything else, your NBN needs you.
UPDATE MARCH 17: Here are the key extracts from Conroy’s Insiders interview today:
Fixing Howard’s gift to Murdoch to become even more dominant
In 2007 the Howard government weakened our cross media laws that were introduced by Paul Keating. And we said from that day we would be campaigning to introduce a public interest test because we didn’t believe leaving the door open for further concentrations of media in this country were healthy.
I mean around the world: in the US, the top two newspaper groups cover about 14 per cent. Even in Canada, a country more akin to ourselves in terms of geography, 54 per cent coverage from the top two. In Australia it is 86 per cent coverage. We’ve already got one of the most concentrated media sectors in the world and we don’t believe it should be allowed to be shrunk any further.
Why self-regulation needs to be strengthened
I’ve been entertained by the claim that this is a solution looking for a problem. Well let me read you some quotes from evidence given publicly to the Finkelstein Inquiry. It may come as a surprise to you, Barrie, they didn’t get a lot of coverage in the mainstream media.
Let me read to you Professor Ken McKinnon who was a former chair of the Australian Press Council. He said: “I had an editor say to me if you promise not to uphold any complaints from my paper we will double our subscription, is that a deal?”
We have the current head, Julian Disney, he said: “The possibility of reduced funding remains a significant concern fuelled on occasion by the comments of publishers who dislike adverse adjudications or other council decisions. And the Council’s almost total reliance on funding from publishers, and especially from a few major publishers, is widely criticised as a crucial detraction from its real and apparent independence.”
And just finally, if I could, one more, another head chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Dennis Pearce: “Indeed we had one period where The Australian newspaper did not like an adjudication we made and they withdrew from the council for a period of months”. And Mr Finkelstein asked: “Was that a direct consequence of the particular adjudication?” And he said: “It was indeed. They said our adjudication was wrong and they were not going to publish it, and they didn’t”.
So, people who want to argue … Read the rest of this entry »