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By-election bias: How Rupert Murdoch runs all of Australia's mainstream media

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Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp propaganda machine wants Bill Shorten gone — which should tell us all we need to know about the Labor leader.

But what many have been wondering is why, if Murdoch wants to “Kill Bill”, all the other mainstream media – Fairfax, Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS, the ABC, even Australia’s feeble version of the UK Guardian – have been running the exact same line: that if the ALP lose in Longman and/or Braddon in this weekend’s “Super Saturday” by-elections, Shorten’s leadership will be in dire peril, due to his lack of popularity with the Australian public? Yet virtually nothing has been said about any pressure on Malcolm Turnbull, whose administration has just lost an unprecedented 36 consecutive News Corp run Newspolls?

We’ll clear up why Australia’s mainly wrong media are running the same line on this issue ‒ as they do on virtually every subject ‒ but first let’s examine if the threat to Shorten’s leadership is, in fact, real.

SHORTEN’S LEADERSHIP IS SAFER THAN MALCOLM’S

The truth is, it is highly unlikely Labor will lose any of the four seats it currently holds in Saturday’s by-elections. No government has won an opposition seat at a by-election in almost 100 years. Polls show Labor ahead in Braddon and behind 49-51 in Longman. However, the polls have been tightening in Longman, and the LNP and One Nation candidates are both on the nose in the electorate over serious scandals, in which new revelations are appearing daily.

IA was in Longman over the weekend and our feeling, from talking to locals, is that Labor should hold the seat, with One Nation not achieving anything like the 14% the (also News Corp run) Reachtel poll predicted this week.

Moreover, even if the ALP does lose Longman and/or Braddon, Shorten’s leadership will not be under serious threat. That’s because, due to changes in ALP rules announced after their crushing 2013 election loss, it is virtually impossible for Federal Labor to change horses mid-stream anymore. Whether they like it or not ‒ and there is absolutely no sign anyone in Labor is plotting insurrection ‒ the Party is stuck with Shorten until after the next Federal election. That is, unless he resigns. And why would he do that when, despite any unlikely and inconsequential mid-term by-election losses, the polls suggest he is on-course to become prime minister at the next general election? The mainstream media haven’t talked about any of this.

Nor have they entertained the possibility that the Government, trailing in the polls right across the country, could do worse than expected on Saturday – just like it did at the last Federal election – and put Turnbull’s leadership in dire jeopardy. As we know, Abbott has been stalking and destabilising Turnbull’s prime ministership for years. If the results in the by-elections are bad, the knives will surely be out again. And there are no new rules in the Liberal Party to save Turnbull from a spill. None whatsoever.

In short, the Shorten story is an old-fashioned Murdoch-led beat-up. The question is: why have the rest of the big bad media taken the bait?

MURDOCH RUNS ALL AUSTRALIA’S MAINSTREAM MEDIA

People coming to Australia from overseas are often surprised by the bland uniformity of Australia’s press. Newspapers, TV stations, radio stations ‒ even the supposedly independent public broadcasters ‒ all seem to run the same narrative, all the time.

Yet, despite Australia having one of the most concentrated media regimes in the world, Murdoch doesn’t have an absolute monopoly. He does own 60 per cent of the newspapers by circulation and the only cable TV network, but no radio stations or free-to-air television networks. That means all the outlets not owned by the News Corp behemoth could position themselves in a sizeable niche by running a different line to Murdoch — yet none of them do. Even in the UK, where Murdoch owns around 40 per cent of the metropolitan press, there are other outlets − Channel Four, ITV, the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the Mirror − that each present a unique and individual view of the world, each tailored towards a specific demographic. In that way, they build brand loyalty and respect from their readership. This is a sound and long understood business practice.

So, why is Australia’s mainstream media different.

Partly, it is because of the way TV and radio stations work in this country. Very early each morning, producers will read through the major metropolitan newspapers to see what the “big stories” hitting the headlines are. Then they will direct their reporters to follow up on those stories. And, with Murdoch owning the majority of the newspapers, these stories will mostly be found on the front pages of the Murdoch press. It’s a simple ‒ basic ‒ numbers game.

Also, commercial broadcasters are pro-business − and therefore pro-conservative politically − for what they presumably see as obvious reasons of economic self-interest. None of the current owners of Australia’s commercial radio or TV stations seem to have ever thought that presenting a different perspective than Murdoch’s might make them more popular amongst the many people with that world view and thereby competitive against News Corp. Or that doing so might stop the galloping leakage of disgruntled readers and viewers to alternative online publications like this one. Then again, no-one has ever accused Australia’s big business of being innovative or intelligent.

But what about ‘Independent. Always’ Fairfax? The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald go to press at the same time as the Murdoch papers. Why is what they produce almost indistinguishable from Murdoch’s rightwing rubbish these days?

Well, that’s because, in 2017, the company unveiled a brilliant new strategy to cut editorial staff, focus only on “popular” content and move its editorial stance purposefully to the political Right.

Amanda Meade described this shift in the Guardian on 5 April 2017:

Fairfax told staff on Wednesday it planned to reduce the editorial budget by $30m annually – by cutting staff and other costs – and overhaul the way it practises journalism across all its city mastheads and websites to focus on popular stories that attract a large readership….

Fairfax also signalled a shift to the right of politics with unusually pointed statements about being pro business and pro market-based solutions.

“Our pro-investor, pro-consumer view of business is central to our influence in the economic and business community,” the company said in a five-page document titled Metro Journalism – The way ahead.

“We believe in the merits of market-based solutions to economic challenges and an Australia that rewards aspiration and hard work. We want to be at the political centre of the rigorous debate over how best to achieve these important objectives.

So, to boil it all down, by defunding newsrooms, emphasising the precarity of reporters’ jobs and launching a stridently pro-business editorial ethos, Fairfax have made it virtually impossible for individual journalists to stray far from the identical Murdoch line. So much for ‘Independent. Always.’

Again, by aping Murdoch, Fairfax sows the seeds of its own destruction.

As for the ABC, by Murdoch and the Government relentlessly attacking and defunding public broadcasting, a sort of Stockholm syndrome has set in at Auntie. It now feels it needs to be so fair to the political Right, it has become unfair to the Left. The ABC editorial stance is, like Fairfax, safely pro-business and pro-Liberal Party.

This is only part of the story! The rest of this editorial, originally published in our weekly subscriber only newsletter, may be read in the IA members only area HERE

Subscribe to Independent Australia HERE.

You can follow managing editor David Donovan on Twitter @davrosz. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter at @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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