Media Analysis

News Corp condemned for malicious lies and attacks against minorities

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Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has been found to have breached several codes of ethics in the mainstream press (Screenshot via YouTube)

Australia’s official media watchdog has found three-quarters of recent complaints upheld for violations of media ethical principles were against Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, as Alan Austin reports.

THE CASE for Australians to boost efforts to boycott News Corp publications out of existence has been strengthened by the latest batch of adjudications by the Australian Press Council (APC). The nation will be far more harmonious and citizens much better informed when Rupert Murdoch’s malevolent media empire disappears entirely.

Deliberate falsehoods

The Herald Sun in Melbourne provided a classic example of how News Corp routinely manipulates the political discourse in countries where it operates. It ran an attack piece last November headed ‘Daniel Andrews’ chief of staff met with election fixer’.

The article claimed:

Glenn Druery was exposed in a bombshell video, revealed by the Herald Sun on Thursday, boasting how he would “control” who wins several key upper house seats in next week’s election.’

Oh no! The Victorian Premier has been caught “fixing” an election. How dastardly!

But it turns out Andrews had had no contact with the notorious “fixer” at all. A staffer had met Druery once. That was in 2019 and had nothing whatsoever to do with the 2022 Election.

The Press Council found the tawdry tabloid had ‘failed to take reasonable steps to present factual material with reasonable fairness’. That is putting it extremely mildly.

Continuing racist attacks

The Courier Mail in Queensland published a malicious opinion piece in late 2021, headed ‘Only the parents can fix youth crime curse’, which claimed ‘many Indigenous parents routinely abandon their responsibilities and do little to instil in their children respect for our laws and the property of others’.

The Council’s damning inquiry concluded:

‘In the absence of presenting a more balanced range of reasons behind the high incarceration rates of Indigenous youths, such as poverty, poor education and intergenerational trauma, and instead attributing the incarceration solely on an absence of parental guidance, the Council considers the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure expressions of opinion were not based on an omission of key facts.’

Murdoch the main offender again

Once again, most of the APC’s resources over the last two years were spent on complaints against the one media organisation — the Murdoch family’s News Corp.

Of the 44 complaints fully investigated (May 2021 to April 2023), 33 were against Murdoch publications, which is 75%. Of the 36 articles in breach, 27 were from News Corp — also 75%.

Of the 27 defective News Corp articles, seven were published by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, five by Melbourne’s Herald Sun, four by The Australian, four by Brisbane’s Courier Mail, with seven other Murdoch outlets copping one adverse finding each.

Of the nine non-Murdoch articles found to have breached Council principles, agreed to by all member organisations and their 450+ publications, three were from the Sydney Morning Herald and its associates, three were from the Daily Mail, with one each from the Great Southern Weekender, the Byron Shire Echo and The Moorabool News.

The Murdoch trend line here is significant. This column’s September 2020 analysis of APC adjudications found 62% of complaints upheld were against News Corp outlets. By January 2022, this had increased to 70%. Now 75%.

Specific standards trashed

The 27 offending Murdoch articles violated APC principles 48 times.

  • Principle 1 – ensuring factual material is accurate – was breached 11 times;
  • Principle 2 – publishing corrections where wrong – breached twice;
  • Principle 3 – fair opinions based on accurate facts –13 times;
  • Principle 4 – giving a fair right of reply – once;
  • Principle 5 – not publishing the method and location of a suicide – four times;
  • Principle 6 – avoiding offence, distress or risk to health and safety – 15 times; and
  • Principle 7 – publishing material gathered by deceptive means – twice.

Andrew Bolt — repeat offender

Herald Sun columnist and Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt continues to feature prominently in adverse APC decisions.

His column headed ‘Lockdowns show Australia has lost its marbles’ published in June 2021 was highly critical of prevailing COVID prevention strategies.

It claimed:

‘Half the country is locked down because state leaders are whipping up fears about a virus that’s less dangerous than its vaccine.’

In determining Bolt’s “story” breached principles 1 and 3, the Council wrote that ‘although the article is an opinion piece, the publication is nonetheless obliged to take reasonable steps to ensure that factual material is accurate’. It found Bolt’s assertion that premiers were fueling fears about the virus was ‘made without any qualification or context, and inaccurately portrays the risks associated with COVID-19 vaccines and the virus itself.’

Decline in number of adjudications

Complaints investigated in 2022 numbered 16, a substantial drop from the 37 undertaken in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and the lowest tally in the last ten years. That compares with 1,476 complaints received in 2020-21.

These APC adjudications suggest the quality of media coverage in Australia is generally high among smaller and independent news organisations. The larger, established corporations, in contrast, actively engage in political and social manipulation and frequently use unethical and deceptive means to achieve their ideological objectives.

Of these, by far the most destructive is News Corp.

There is a strong case for the Press Council to be given increased resources so it can complete many more media health checks.

There is an even stronger case for all Australians, along with news consumers in the USA and Great Britain, to ensure the Murdoch organisation withers and dies.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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