Murdoch, Rinehart, Stokes, the big players in the extremely concentrated media ownership battle. Although there is an upsurge of media users and producers, the diversity of media ownership is declining. Rupert Murdoch is the main stakeholder in News Corp Australia whose newspaper titles account for 59% of the sales of all daily newspapers with sales of 17.3 million papers a week and this makes it Australia’s most influential newspaper publisher. Australia’s other large publishing company is Fairfax Media and it publishes newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review. In 2012 the mining billionaire Gina Rinehart increased her stake in the company to 14% and made her the media group’s biggest shareholder.
In response to Rinehart’s move, Joe Hockey said in an interview with ABC radio that he was comfortable with her increasing her stake in Fairfax and that “It comes down to the quality of the paper, the quality of the editorial…it arguable does not matter who owns the media company.” His argument was counteracted by media analyst Peter Cox who says that Rinehart is increasing her stake to boost her influence in national affairs and commented, “What is the point of spending that money on it if you’re not going to have an influence?”
Greg Hywood (Fairfax Media chief executive) has called on the government to improve cross-media ownership rules put in place by the Keating government in 1987 to allow media companies to own television, radio and newspaper assets in the same city and for the new set of regulations to factor in the migration of audiences and advertisers to digital platforms. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is reviewing the “two-out-of-three rule”, which prevents a single entity owning more than two of a newspaper, TV station and radio licence in the same market. This was imposed in a pre-internet era and when there was a very different view of what diversity of voice meant.
Both sides raise very valid points and I am still sitting on the fence about the issue. I see the benefits of various different types of ‘ownership’ e.g. a concentrated group of people owning the media and what it publishes vs. a free market where anyone can be a citizen journalist and have a say. A controlled ownership provides more funding to produce quality pieces and educated individuals who specialise in journalism but also fewer perspectives, interactions and discussions between audiences. A negative with few owning the media, they more of a saying power in what is publish and there some sides may not be published and therefore create bias but there is also the negative of citizen journalists having little factual evidence to support their claims.
Flew, T, FactCheck: does Murdoch own 70% of newspapers in Australia?, Published August 8 2013, Accessed March 27 2014
AAP, Doesn’t matter who owns Fairfax – Hockey, Published February 1 2012, Accessed March 27 2014
White, D, Scrap cross-media ownership rules: Fairfax, Published February 24 2014, Accessed March 27 2014