IA’s campaign to reform Australia’s dodgy media landscape

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Independent Australia should be grateful for the dismal state of the Australian media, because the way it misses or deliberately avoids so many major issues virtually forces people to our pages. Our coverage of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, coal seam gas and the veterans' entitlements issue are all testament to that — and our readership is close to doubling just about every month.

But we can’t get any satisfaction from this, because our core editorial policy is democracy.

Having a media that is so unbalanced, corrupt and so dictated by the views of, as William Rivers Pitt from Truthout put it in IA, “…a small cadre of corporate media elites” is simply undemocratic. It offends our principles.

The light being shone on Murdoch media practices in the UK make the dangers in Australia impossible to ignore any longer. And beyond concerns about ethical breaches and illegal activities by Murdoch publications overseas, putting over two-thirds of Australia’s press – and significant other media interests as well – into the hands of just one proprietor, a self-confessed political operator who has manifestly demonstrated a willingness to influence elections, make or break Governments and influence public policy, is a vast threat to democracy in this country.

Bear in mind, our democracy is already in a rather parlous state, as vested interests such as the mining industry and the fossil fuel lobby flex their political muscles to try to prevent vital public policy issues – such as a mining tax and pricing carbon – from ever being implemented by the properly elected Government.

But at least those interests are openly lobbying. When media companies like News Corp engage in attempts at regime change through the hostile and biased presentation of news stories, commentary and opinion pieces under the guise of “fair and balanced” journalism, they are wearing the pretty smile of innocence as they clean out the till underneath the counter. The company may have journalists writing a balanced range of stories, but the choice of which ones to print, promote, hide, and spike made by senior editors in the upper-level offices are the ones that dictate public opinion. And this is, quite obviously, precisely what has been going on at News Corporation. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if there was adequate competition in the Australian market, but the fact is there isn’t. So we are forced to live in a state of “Murdemocracy” where publications routinely engage in “newswashing”.

Put simply, a highly compromised entity such as News Corp must not be allowed to continue to own so much of Australia’s media. It is a pressing threat to our democracy.

Will the Australian people demand an Inquiry in the shady practices of media companies and their cosy links to the major political parties, or will they uneasily roll over and go back to sleep? There is no guarantee that anything will eventuate from the Labor Party, where Swan and McLelland’s timid rejection of an Inquiry yesterday has all the hall-marks of a political stitch-up between News Corp and Labor. It seems likely, given what we know about the links between the media companies and the political parties, that someone from News Corp has quietened the horses in Government by promising their huge stable of papers will do some favours for Labor, as long as Labor promises not to support changes to media ownership laws. The game goes on.

And this stench of game-playing and corruption lingers like a foul miasma over the entire Australian media and political scene. Political party operators and fat-cat media bosses are in each other’s pockets, dictating the future of our nation, while the Australian people are locked outside with their eyes up against the streaky glass window, wondering what the hell is going on inside.

Only we – the people – can break down the doors and tell them to stop playing games with our democracy — with our futures. Social networking campaigners have also begun pressing for an Inquiry into Australia’s dodgy media — something that is being predictably shouted down by News Corporation in all their publications. There is also an online petition. Independent Australia supports any moves that will shine a light into the dark and dingy corners of Australia’s mass media and political party backrooms.

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