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Kevin Rudd launches petition for media diversity

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Kevin Rudd is urging people to take a stand against the Murdoch media empire (Screenshot via YouTube)

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has launched a petition calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and Australia’s subsequent issue of media concentration.

Rudd stated the petition would require the Australian Parliament to investigate “the abuse of media monopoly in Australia” and “to make recommendations to maximise media diversity ownership for the future lifeblood of our democratic system”.

In the video circulating via Facebook and Twitter, Rudd describes the Murdoch corporation, which owns 70 per cent of newspapers in Australia, as a “cancer on our democracy”. Rudd’s video and the subsequent petition has come in the aftermath of the Coalition’s recent Budget announcement which described unprecedented levels of debt. Rudd acknowledged the hypocrisy of the Coalition's Budget after years of scrutinising the ALP for their levels of debt and deficit during the Global Financial Crisis.

Rudd explained that the Murdoch press, alongside the LNP, has continuously pushed the narrative that the ALP are bad economic managers despite the information signalling the contrary.

Mr Rudd said:

“When my Government produced one-fifth the size of Morrison’s deficit and still kept Australia out of recession, Murdoch would abuse the news reporting to define us as bad economic managers.”

Describing the political influence and bias reporting of the Murdoch conglomerate, Rudd stated that:

“...in 18 out of the last 18 federal and state elections, Murdoch has viciously campaigned in support of one side of politics — the Liberal National Party.”

In this, he describes the Murdoch press as a vehicle to run negative campaigns against the ALP and favourable narratives of the LNP, ultimately having unmatched influence to affect election outcomes.

He acknowledged that the “sheer concentration” of media coverage has allowed the Murdoch media to run effective smear campaigns, political mistruths and blatantly support one side of politics.

Rudd also acknowledged the strategic decisions by the Murdoch media to ensure their political influence, including the ownership of 100 per cent of print newspapers within the state of Queensland. Queensland has become an increasingly important swing state, which essentially decided the last Federal Election. Numerous newspapers owned by Murdoch within the state of Queensland run at a profit loss simply to ensure media concentration within the state. 

Jordan Shanks, political commentator and YouTube comedian, stated that at the last Federal Election in which Labor lost the “unlosable election”, could be attributed to the swing state of Queensland.

Shanks stated in regard to the election:

“If you control the means of information, you control the democracy and the people who control the means of information in our democracy are Rupert Murdoch, the mining industry and banks.”

Rudd also demonstrated the Murdoch conglomerate's further concentration of media within recent years which has included:

“Nine Entertainment's takeover of the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald; News Corp’s acquisition (and then closure) of more than 200 smaller newspapers, undermining regional and local news; attempts to replace AAP Newswire with News Corp’s alternative; and relentless attacks on the ABC’s independence and funding.”

The Murdoch press has also been accused of influencing national policy within Australia, including recently the National Broadband Network and intentionally spreading climate denialism to safeguard their economic interests. The extent to which the Murdoch enterprise can influence public opinion and government decisions was exhibited through James Murdoch’s decision to publicly distance himself from his father’s enterprise due to his concerns about newspapers' role in spreading climate denialism.

Rudd’s request has come in the aftermath independent media publications drawing light to the issue of media concentration within Australia. The petition has gained immense attention, receiving 41,860 signatures in just over 24 hours, causing the Australian Parliament website to glitch. 

Emma Goldrick is a Political Science Honours Student at the University of Sydney.

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