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The decade of News Corp’s demise

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(Caricature courtesy Bruce Keogh / keoghcartoons.com.au)

Can a world without the influence of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp be imagined? Alan Austin, it seems, has such a vivid imagination.

AT THE BEGINNING of the decade there is optimism for renewal of the media landscape in several countries as support for News Corp appears to be dwindling.

Voices raised and heard

Kevin Rudd is increasingly vocal over News Corp’s malevolence. He is not just a former diplomat and prime minister. He is president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, chairs the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, is a member of the Global Leadership Foundation and wields influence as an academic, particularly on regional matters.

Back in November Rudd wrote:

In Australia, as in America, the conservatives’ strategic partner in climate change denial has been the Murdoch media. Rupert Murdoch, feeling the heat of public opinion, claimed recently there were no climate deniers at News Corp! The Murdochs, senior and junior, must believe the Australian people are total fools. Murdoch’s papers remain a command centre for the entire mission of climate policy obstruction.

This follows earlier blasts, including a critique last September, also in The Guardian, which asserted,

‘The Murdoch media has mutated to become a cancerous growth on our democracy. It no longer even pretends to be a media organisation, separating out news coverage from editorial option.’

Joining Rudd recently is Alex Turnbull, son of former Prime Minister Malcolm. Turnbull the younger has written and spoken about strategies ‘to destroy News Corp's influence in Australian politics’.

Contributing editor of The Conversation Richard Cooke is aboard writing recently that

News Corp is not merely biased against Labor and in favour of the Liberals. This underestimates the international nature of the franchise. It is a series of multi-platform metastases that endanger minorities – sexual, racial and religious – all over the world. Right now, in the US, it is pouring its hatreds onto individuals – with a special emphasis on women, and women of colour in particular ...

Similar outrage is being voiced in Britain and the USA where News Corp is less dominant but still influential.

The New York Times asserted that

'It may be more accurate to say that the White House – just like the prime ministers’ offices in Britain and Australia – is just one tool among many that this family uses to exert influence over world events.’

“Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us”, David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, was quoted as saying. “And now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

The Times ran a video showing how and when Fox News merged with the Trump White House. A critical moment was when Fox anchor Sean Hannity appeared on stage at a Trump rally, each endorsing the other.

This was echoed in Australia last April when News Corp columnist Piers Akerman was photographed campaigning for Tony Abbott in a blue Abbott T-shirt.

Internal dissent

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) published last Friday an all-staff email from News Corp finance manager Emily Townsend to executive chairman Michael Miller accusing the company of “misinformation” in its bushfire coverage:

I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous ...

Let’s see if this sparks further spot fires of rebellion. These have been rare, although ex-employees speaking out about the internal malignancy are frequent. It may be significant that the SMH and The Guardian claim the email was leaked ‘by multiple sources, but not Townsend herself'.

Critical global issues

Last May, Fox News presenter Ainsley Earhardt declared emphatically that U.S. security agencies were untrustworthy. This arose in “reporting” evidence gathered implicating Donald Trump in his latest scandal. “This is scary that you can’t trust the FBI”, she said.

Fast forward to last Monday (6 January) when Earhardt reported Trump’s order to kill an Iranian general:

'“So interesting that people are critical of the President’s decisions, of our intelligence communities" decisions ... [US Secretary of State] Pompeo said over the weekend, "We can’t release everything ... you just have to trust us, basically".'”

Same employee, wearing the same pink outfit. This illustrates that “news” presented to viewers – who are being informed ahead of voting – bears no relationship to reality. Truth be damned! Even in matters of potential war.

One positive from this latest hypocrisy is that it was noticed and exposed by the Daily Beast, Seth Myers, Yahoo News, the Young Turks and others.

Practical solutions

As Dr Kim Sawyer showed on Saturday, we have options. One response is via strategic boycotts. This requires withdrawing custom from advertisers who pay for the publications and emailing them to explain why. If a bank, for example, which advertises in The Australian, finds customers are shifting their accounts to banks which do not pay News Corp, it will naturally place its ads elsewhere.

This happened recently when customers outraged at Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones withdrew their support for advertisers on his radio network. Advertising revenue reportedly dropped 50 per cent.

Demise is possible. After the criminal phone-hacking scandal was exposed in Britain, the outrage against Murdoch’s News of the World forced its closure in 2011.

The media landscape without News Corp will be rich and diverse. But it will be less destructive of values and people. 

Let this be a global turning point for democracy and decency.

Alan Austin is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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