For better or worse [my company] is a reflection of my thinking, my character, my values – Rupert Murdoch.‘Fox’s political agenda’, Television Digest, 4 March 1996.
As a budding journalist, I’m afraid to admit that up until very recent times, I was choosing to live in a state of blissful ignorance when considering the topic of media ownership. I’ve always known about the risks associated with it, as they’ve been demonstrated throughout the course of history. An example of this being the Nazi-German regulation of media, which saw Adolph Hitler and his regime gain control of primary media sources, allowing for the production and vast distribution of staggering amounts of propaganda prior to World War II – in a successful attempt to incite an atmosphere of hatred and violence regarding the Jewish population.
Despite being partially-versed in the issue of media ownership, I’ve never taken the time to question my own personal sources of news and in turn the people who control it. Why? I’ve never wanted to challenge the familiar, the reliable. For the past two years, I’ve developed a steadfast habit of, at the end of each working day, taking home to read “The Australian” and “The Daily Telegraph” from the café I work at. It is this habit that formed my ignorance, why would I question something so deeply embedded into my life?
Well, now I have a reason to. BCM110 studies have shed a light on the brutal reality that is media ownership and how it is imperative that we (students and the greater community alike) be aware of exactly who controls our media. Owners of media outlets have the terrifying ability to manipulate and influence the “news” they disseminate so as to align with their own opinions. In doing so, media owners are able to prosecute their personal, political and economic causes. A terrifying thought.
So, this newfound understanding begs the question: Who owns the media I consume?
Rupert Murdoch is the owner of News Corporation Australia, who is responsible for the publication of “The Australian” and “The Daily Telegraph”. (News Corp Australia, 2018).
Murdoch has exercised dominance over Australia for many years by controlling 70 per cent of its newspaper market (Mcknight, 2012, pp. 15), with studies showing that ‘the national daily The Australian and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, are perceived as the dominant agenda-setters in the daily news cycle’.
You may be thinking, in a digitally-oriented world that is seeing a decline in newspapers, does this control even matter? The short answer: absolutely and undoubtedly YES.
Why? The physical copy of a newspaper is not the only way it’s information can be disseminated. Newspaper-generated stories remain the largest source of ‘online’ news (Mcknight, 2012, pp 15). This means that those who aren’t exposed to actual newspapers, are still consuming them online in one way or another. Such wide-spread exposure allows for Murdoch to exercise great editorial and ideological control, news and information that oppose his views can simply be supressed from the public, whilst his own can be promoted.
An example of this can be seen in Rupert’s blatant denial of climate change, which saw (and continues to see) his papers including “The Australian”, become megaphones for the organised movement of climate change denial, producing a variety of articles debunking reality, evening going so far as to suggest the Bureau of Meteorology has twisted its data to exaggerate global warming.
This manipulation is replicated in other national issues including hostile literary attacks on the Australian Greens throughout multiple elections (McKnight 2012, pp 17-18).
Such evident cases of brutal media manipulation effortlessly conducted by Murdoch and his company lends me to entirely doubt the sources I access for news.
How do we know our sources are newsworthy? With Australia’s media ownership concentration being among the highest in the world , after changes in media law were implemented in 2017, it becomes almost impossible to know what news we can and can’t trust.
My suggestion for all of us? We must take everything we see with a grain of salt and exercise caution, remembering that the information presented to us has the potential to have been manipulated to align with the personal or political beliefs of whomever owns the platform. Conduct research, and then some more. Don’t live in a state of blissful ignorance as I have for the past 2 years.
Above all, attempt to find the truth in all circumstances.
Until next week,
- News Corp Australia. (2018). Brands – News Corp Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.newscorpaustralia.com/brands/ [Accessed 7 Apr. 2019].
- McKnight, D. (2012). Rupert Murdoch An Investigation Of Political Power. 1st ed. Australia: Allen and Unwin, pp.1-296.