Dangers for public debate in media war


By Barry Tucker                    2 April, 2014

ABC managing director Mark Scott has warned of the dangers ahead for public debate in a “winner takes all” news media battle.

He was giving a lecture at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. The story was reported in The Guardian online by media writer Amanda Meade.

“Fairfax is on the road to becoming a digital media company, migrating its traditional broadsheets through a tabloid format while actively discussing the prospect that the day may come where they will not publish them in newsprint at all, certainly not every day of the week,” Scott said.

“Given the aggressive editorial positioning of some of their mastheads and their willingness to adopt and pursue an editorial position, an ideological position and a market segmentation, you could argue that News Corporation newspapers have never been more assertive in exercising media power.”

The story mentions sustained criticism of the ABC by News Corp, but gives no reason for it. News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch wants the ABC/SBS broken up and sold off because it is taxpayer funded and competes with his media assets. He takes the same view about the BBC in the UK. He is supported by the Liberal “think tank”, the IPA. The leader of the governing Liberal Party of Australia, Tony Abbott, and his Treasurer, Joe Hockey, repeatedly assure that the ABC will not be sold. Hockey has said any “waste” will be cut from the ABC budget.

News Corp constantly claims the ABC exhibits a Left-wing bias, but rarely, if ever, provides proof. Abbott agrees, saying earlier this year “there is more work to do” and, more recently, the ABC should play for the home team (ref: Indonesia complains of spying).

Scott responded to allegations of bias by saying: “We are concerned about any suggestions of bias at the ABC, but, as I’ve said before, I feel that we are nowhere near as bad as our critics make out and not always as good as we would like to be.”

Scott also quoted Murdoch from 1967: “Freedom of the press mustn’t be one-sided just for a publisher to speak as he pleases, to try and bully the community.”

Something happened to considerably change Murdoch’s attitude at some point after 1967. I have not yet discovered what it was. Although he has built a huge empire, he has experienced significant setbacks. It may have been the accumulation of disappointments, or a single incident.

He has never been accepted by the English establishment and he gave up his Australian citizenship to further his TV interests in the USA. It sometimes seems he has been recruited into the movement for corporate dominance of governments, as he has been seduced by the “movement to create doubt over reason” in regard to Climate Change.

More about The War on the ABC can be found in this blog.