Australia’s news media is demonstrably worse than every other developed democracy — but it can be fixed. Founder and publisher Dave Donovan comments.
*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.
THERE IS AN enormous problem with the news media in Australia.
One of the reasons I established Independent Australia in 2010 was because, after living and working in various places around the world for the better part of a decade, upon coming home I was surprised by how dismal Australia’s media was in comparison to the Fourth Estate in every other Western nation.
My efforts are ongoing, but I would regard my progress so far as very disappointing. Because the standard of reporting in this country is not getting better — it is getting worse. Much, much worse.
There are very apparent structural reasons why Australia’s news media is demonstrably worse than every other developed democracy.
Of course, as we have reported endlessly, Australia has the most intensely concentrated media ownership of any nation in the world. And with former PM Malcolm Turnbull relaxing media ownership laws a few years ago – in a transparent sop to big media to protect his feeble grip on power – there are now even fewer mainstream voices.
This grip by Rupert Murdoch, a malignant nonagenarian, who circulates around 70 per cent of the metropolitan press, means journalism courses in Australia are mostly taught by former News Corp employees. I studied journalism in Australia and not once was media ownership ever mentioned. Not even in the token ethics class.
But Australia is a relatively small nation. Control of the means of production is always going to tend towards concentration in few hands. Which is why the public broadcaster, the ABC, was established. To provide a counterweight to the big industrialists.
Regrettably, such self-interested tycoons, who are nothing short of enemies of the people, have found a way to attack and undermine this venerable institution, which for close to a century now, has stood almost alone as the agent for democracy and the betterment of ordinary, honest people.
Yes, the biggest problem with Australia's media is not Murdoch's News Corruption, or Peter Costello's Nine-Fairfax Fizzle, or Kerry Stokes' Seven-West Wackerthon, or even Ten's Teetering Project. It is the ABC, because the national broadcaster amplifies and normalises the above while marginalising independent voices.
A secondary problem is the ALP. In my time in the media, the Labor Party has tried every approach to placate the media, from outright hostility to utter subservience. Nothing has ever worked. Like the ABC at the hands (and fists) of News Corp, Labor is like a beaten dog, cringingly trying to survive on a few scraps thrown from the table of the big boys.
Perhaps it is now time for a royal commission into the Murdoch media.
The third problem with the media in this country is this country. It is just so small, in terms of the number of total jobs in the media. The media industry in Australia has, since the digital revolution, become relatively unprofitable for all players, as it has for similar players around the world. As it is also so completely dominated by those same few players, the fear is, if you speak out, you'll never be on TV (or radio or in the paper) again.
There are other problems, but that's probably enough to go on with for now.
Finally, there are clear and really rather simple ways, such as this one, to fix Australia's profoundly lacklustre mainstream media and I have some perspective on what they may be. But I don't hold high hopes I'll be given much of a hearing, based on previous experience.
And so it goes.
(For further details on the above – particularly federal media regulators – feel free to contact me.)
*This article is also available on audio here:
Follow IA founder David G Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter HERE, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.
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