Media Analysis

The time for a Murdoch royal commission is now

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

With a Federal Labor Government and Labor governments in all mainland states, and with the Murdoch machine facing increased pressure in the U.S., managing editor Michelle Pini proposes that this is the opportune moment for a royal commission into the Murdoch media.

IN RECENT DAYS, the Murdoch media defamation case has set into motion a tumbling house of cards that may, if not completely exterminate its global empire, at least send ripples of destruction to all its far-flung corners.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

In Australia, the country with the most concentrated media ownership of any democracy, little has changed so far. Fox may have settled its false narrative case for $1.2 billion Australian dollars but we are still subjected to a daily news cycle dominated by News Corp headlines, which, while they have not yet been proven in an Australian court of law to be “misinformation” are generally misleading at best.

Dr Victoria Fielding wrote this week:

Fox News’ decision to settle the Dominion voting machine defamation case for a whopping US$787.5 million (AU$1.18 billion) seems like a historic moment for truth, media power and democracy.

 

But nothing will change for the Murdoch media, because it has created a false-narrative monster. To destroy this monster, it would need to destroy itself.

This would appear to be an opportune moment for a Murdoch media royal commission. But it seems the Albanese Government may not have an appetite for one. Whether this is to do with a case of let’s just watch the empire spontaneously combust as a natural consequence of its worldwide misinformation tsunami and save our money, or whether it has to do with Labor's post-traumatic stress disorder following decades of abuse at the hands of the Murdoch-led mainstream media, is hard to gauge.

HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE

In other news, former Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson is refusing to accept that he is no longer the Member for Goldstein. In a bizarre attempt to regain the limelight, Timmy, who also still refers to himself as "Tim Wilson MP" on his Twitter profile, tried with all his might to imply that the person to whom he lost office, Zoe Daniel MP, was somehow remiss in her Anzac Day duties. Unfortunately for Tim, his stunt, which involved misappropriating a wreath meant for Zoe Daniels and laying it on the memorial, while claiming that members of the RSL had asked him to do this, backfired, with the RSL representatives in attendance referring to the incident as “unfortunate”.

In the Murdoch media, however, this sad little display from Wilson was reported as: "Both sides hav[ing] had their say after a political spat at an Anzac Day service...'.

With the nationwide electoral rejection of Murdoch’s poster party, the Coalition, it’s clear that, like the voters in Goldstein, younger Australians are not falling for the same crap that has dominated our news cycle for decades. This is encouraging, but just as Tim Wilson persists in his sad denial of the Goldstein voters' decision, Rupert Murdoch is unlikely to relinquish his hold over Australia’s media landscape, lost lawsuits and failing mastheads notwithstanding.

Certainly, the Federal Labor Government has not made any discernible moves to make hay while the sun seems to be going down on the media behemoth. And Murdoch may well save us all the trouble by destroying his own empire but also, he may not. And it seems that as America perches on the brink of a Trump return, fuelled by Fox News’ proven lies and distortion, now would be a great time to put out the rubbish down here.

But if there’s one thing we know, it's that the Murdoch family will not willingly cede its power. After decades building their wealth and might, they will use all available tools in their arsenal to find new and improved ways to control the narrative, manipulate the masses and play with the power at their disposal.

And, unlike Wilson, who has already lost his former safe Liberal seat and any perks that came with it, when you hold most of the cards, as Murdoch certainly does in Australia, you are most likely to continue winning.

As Dave Donovan explained

We have published hundreds of stories about the malign effects of the Murdoch media cartel on Australian journalism and democracy. When we did it in the early days, it was considered close to heresy. These days the malignant nature of the Murdoch approach to journalism is broadly accepted in the community.

 

It is certainly true that when a single amoral individual owns over two-thirds of metropolitan newspaper distribution, the only cable carrier and vast swathes of other media, the potential for abuse is rife. But concentrated media ownership has never been the only issue.

WHAT CHANGE?

The only way we can continue to reduce the stranglehold on our media landscape is with determined and systematic change. If we really do not wish to continue to allow the corruption of our democracy, we should take a leaf out of Rupert’s book and mobilise every tool available to us.

What would this change look like?

Commitment

It would first take courage on behalf of the Federal Government. Currently, with a Labor Federal Government and Labor governments in all mainland states, and with the Murdoch machine facing real pressure in the U.S., there has never been a better time for our Federal Government to step up and pledge its commitment to creating a truly democratic and diverse media landscape. It requires this government commitment to extend as far as assisting and encouraging a diverse range of independent media voices and public interest journalism sources.

Royal Commission

It would likely begin with a royal commission into the Murdoch media, which would no doubt filter through into other dark corners of Australia's mainstream media sources of deception.

Media ownership laws

It should definitely include changes to the legislation to reverse media ownership laws that currently allow such concentration to be held in such few hands.

Consequences

True change should include legislation with real consequences for the wilful publication of misinformation, such as those being enacted in Canada, for example.

Such legislation can go a long way to countering the type of misinformation we have come to accept as valid opinions or even "news".

And the EU '...has a law against incitement to hatred, which includes trivialising genocide. Those laws aren't simply on the books. Prominent right-wing French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen was fined three times for downplaying the Holocaust, including claiming there was not a mass murder of Jews.'.

An independent national broadcaster

Real change would also include moves to foster the independence of the national broadcaster and reduce its susceptibility to manipulation by the government of the day.

Public support

And it would certainly involve the continuation of the current public trend against the Murdoch media and other decidedly biased media coverage in favour of independent and diverse news and opinion outlets. This would, of course, be aided by all the previous moves, which would make it easier for the public to be better informed.

The most desirable end goal of these changes would be the end of one media mogul and his cronies holding the largest and loudest megaphone while everyone else is armed with party poppers. We want to see a wide variety of free information and opinion, conveyed by the widest array of voices possible.

Maybe this brave new world can begin with a royal commission into the Murdoch media. 

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter – usually only available to subscribers – and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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