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Rupert Murdoch’s journalistic cancer

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Wherever Murdoch and his minions thrive ‒ as they do in Australia ‒ bad journalism drives out the good. David Horton comments.

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RUPERT MURDOCH’S dominance of the Australian media is usually spoken of in terms of the 70% share his newspapers have in the Australian market.

That is almost three-quarters of the Australian public that are exposed (often with no alternative) to the Gospel according to Rupert every day. Every day exposed to his neo-conservative ideology and his absolute determination to destroy those left-of-centre parties ― Labor and The Greens.

But the problem is much worse than mere market share.

Mr Murdoch, no fool whatever his other failings, realised very early on that – just like a large shareholding in a company leads to control of the company – 70% media saturation can be turned into 100% control of political discourse.

It works like this…

Murdoch, or his editors (but I repeat myself), decide on the format for the latest government attack. Doesn’t matter what it is — some fabricated and dishonest attack on the PM’s integrity, or a policy proposal, some poll result, some disagreement between Labor Party members, some union “scandal”, the latest fake leadership challenge ... whatever.

The very act of launching the attack ‒ in 70% of Australia’s newspapers ‒ makes the attack itself “news”. The truthfulness or accuracy of the attack is irrelevant ‒ Rupert understood ‒ its mere existence becomes news and is consequently repeated by other media outlets. Not to repeat it ‒ notably in the case of Fairfax and the ABC, there is no question of not repeating it in the other media ‒ would be evidence of pro-government bias. And that failure to repeat would itself feed into the next News Ltd media cycle … and so on.

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Conversely – and this is just as important – when 70% of the country’s newspapers decide simultaneously ‒ by pure coincidence ‒ to NOT cover an event that might impact badly on the political Right, then the rest of the media will ignore it too. Covering it, when News Ltd is not, would be another clear indication of bias, of course.

So it is left alone. If a rightwing scandal falls in the forest and is not covered by Murdoch’s minions, does it really fall?

No, of course it doesn’t! Are you not paying attention?

Consequently, while Labor and the PM (and her staff) were massively attacked for months throughout the media, following News Ltd’s lead, on AWU, Slipper, Thomson, Australia Day “Riot” and so on; subsequent stories on Abbott’s history ‒ Ashby, the HSU, Abbott’s staffers, and so on ‒ quickly became non-stories ― barely mentioned, if at all, then dropped within hours.

Accentuating this power has been the recent cross-fertilisation of different media.

Suddenly, radio shock jocks began featuring in regular segments on television breakfast shows. And suddenly, News Ltd columnists began appearing regularly on TV current affairs shows. And TV breakfast shows began “reviewing” the morning newspapers ― which meant reading out headlines from the News Ltd papers and the others who had copied them. Suddenly, “Our Political Correspondent” became a regular part of news bulletins ― again repeating (because it was, of course, now “news”) whatever hares the Murdoch Hunt Masters had set running that day.

To complete the cycle, rightwing politicians, gratefully accepting the Murdoch talking points each day about the appalling “bad government”, began doing press conferences in which they merely repeated the lines Murdoch fed them ― thus strengthening the perception that they were actually “news” and so keeping them running through each news cycle.

Once upon a time, our national broadcaster, the ABC, would have kept outside this Murdochian Circle. Have had reporters who created news themselves, not just parroted the news agenda of a highly tarnished international news syndicate ― News Ltd. Had programs that set the political agenda not copied someone else’s. Conducted interviews with questions they had researched, not simply repeating political spin from the right. Once, it would have provided a circuit breaker ― an alternative.

Now, not only does it not provide an alternative, but it has been locked into the Murdoch circle ― behaving in exactly the same way as other lesser media outlets.

But it is even worse than that.

The ABC, retaining the air of authority, of credibility, of objectivity ‒ built up carefully over decades by good people ‒ is providing legitimacy, in turn, to News Ltd. The procession of News Ltd journalists, columnists, the reviewing of the papers, the breathless presentation of Murdoch Memes, all replace the original good journalism of the ABC with propaganda.

And similar processes seem to have happened in America and Britain.

Everywhere Murdoch thrives, bad journalism drives out good.

(This story was originally published on David Horton's The Watermelon Blog and has been republished with permission. You can follow David Horton on Twitter @watermelon_man.)

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