Even Ruperts’s former heir, James Murdoch, has called his fathers’ empire for its hidden agendas, legitimizing misinformation and deliberately casting doubt to hide the facts in public debate. Yet despite this bomb, no word about it has been published in Murdochs publications. Such brutal censorship of shameful political news is something that is expected of a one-party state, not a vibrant democracy. However, in Australia we simply clear this as normal, such as slippery slope.
Australian newspapers of the Murdochs included The Australian, Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun and Courier-Mail all are armed to defend the commercial and political interests of the Murdochs. Politicians, businessmen and others know that if they pass Murdoch, they will be destroyed. They have seen it happen so many times that they have lost count. This well-resourced missile defense will also protect politicians who advance in its objectives. Exiled News Corp journalists talk openly about their articles being printed or re-written.
Over the past decade, News Corp has ceased to be a news organization. It functions as a political party in coalition with the Liberals and the Nationals. It is the main communication arm of governments. Murdoch dailies have campaigned for the Coalition in every single federal and state election for the past decade 18 of 18 elections and are now in their 19th in Queensland. The News Corps chief executive holds an effective veto on who can and cannot lead the Liberal Party. Look no further than the Turnbull saga and Murdochs infamous interventions at the height of the Liberal leadership crisis in 2018.
Some claim that the power of Corps News is fading amid the rise of online news. However this is a hoax. Despite other efforts, Murdochs newspapers continue to set the agenda, formulate stories, and ask questions from the rest of the media, including ABC and the evening news on TV. Legitimate news organizations struggle between the collapse of business models and new platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter that reward the most sensational, polarizing or complete news. Yet despite losing money, Murdoch uses his vast wealth empires to keep these newspapers afloat and maintain political and commercial influence.
A free, independent and balanced national media is the essential infrastructure of democracy. And this infrastructure is now under threat. This is why a royal commission, with full powers and independence, is needed to review our entire media landscape, weigh alternative regulatory models and make recommendations to ensure a strong and diverse news media for the future. There is no parliamentary committee capable of conducting this systematic, arms-length analysis; they are very close to the problem and very vulnerable to the power of the Murdochs. In less than a week, 300,000 Australians have added their voice to the official parliamentary petition I launched calling for such a committee.
In fact, the House of Parliament tells us that the petition was visited almost a million times in the first few days, ruining the website. It is impossible to know how many Australians were unable to sign, or mistakenly believe their signature was recorded. I encourage them to try again before the petition closes at midnight on November 4th.
This commission is not about News Corporation. Many Australians are concerned about Nines taking control of the paper and its subsequent decision with Murdoch to stop funding independent AAP Newswire, jeopardizing its future. Disturbing new monopolies are emerging online, including Google and Facebook. ABC is also under attack. And professional journalists have legitimate concerns, including unfair searches, official secrecy, and freedom of information that all need to be addressed.
Some have attacked my motives for starting this petition. Sour grapes are the common complaint. My answer is: no, the problem is that Murdochs prejudice has only grown since I left office and I have now reached the industrial scale.
They cry hypocrisy, noting that I sought the support of the Murdochs in 2007. You betcha. If you were the Labor leader, you would try to reduce the level of prejudice, even from 75-25 for conservatives to something close to equilibrium even though the data show that Murdochs newspapers did everything they could during 2007 to destroy my leadership another.
Then there is academician Rod Tiffen who, in a messenger part of opinion last Tuesday, attacked my role in the Gillard governments ’decision to invite News Corp. into the tender to secure the Australian international broadcaster. In fact, I have never suggested entering the Australian Network tender. I first learned about this when the then Prime Minister told me in September 2010 that she had already promised News Corp a blow to the 10-year, $ 233 million contract.
I excluded myself from any involvement in the process and handed it over to my department head, Dennis Richardson, and a panel of officials selected by him to evaluate the tenders before the cabinet made the final call (I again excluded myself). Personally, as a lifelong supporter of ABC, I would prefer to distribute the contract to the national broadcaster, as it eventually happened. The further removal of Turnbulls of the Australia Network wreaked havoc on the ABC budget and gave our diplomatic power in Asia-Pacific China, all the buzz of champagne flutes at News Corp.
The bottom line is: it’s time for people to have their voice through this petition to Parliament. Otherwise this giant cancer over our democracy, the Murdoch media monopoly, will suffocate democracy itself.
Kevin Rudd is a former Australian Labor Prime Minister.
Kevin Rudd is president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and was Australia’s 26th prime minister.
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