I read an interesting article in the Australian website Online Opinion entitled ‘Democracy and diversity: Media Ownership in Australia’. The author, an Australian school student Daniel Vadori essentially argued that Rupert Murdoch’s News Media should be curtailed, as he believed his news empire was both too big and had the power to sway elections.
My thoughts? The last time I checked, Australians had a democratic right to choose what news they chose to consume and chose not to consume. There’s no doubt that a few ‘big players’ dominate the Australian media – News Corp, Fairfax and of course our ABC. There’s a stack of smaller media players – from a simple twitter poster, to a local blogger, to other online news and opinion sources – Quadrant Online, Eureka Street, The Big Issue and The Guardian to name a few.
There’s no argument that we (for the most part) live in a capitalistic society. A newspaper proprietor (save for the ABC) has two responsibilities – to report the news and to turn a profit. They need to balance both. Report totally unbiased facts? Great journalism but will it turn a dollar? Report sensationalist headlines and shock opinions? Believe it or not, but the population laps it up. More people reading the paper = more advertising dollars. A big newspaper is one that reports what the people want to read.
As I’ve said before, if you try to regulate an opinion, you run the risk of driving it underground and making it more popular. The forbidden fruit is always sweeter! Don’t like someone’s editorial line? You have three options. You can:
a/ Not care and not buy that newspaper;
b/ Write a counter opinion and publish itl
c/ Buy another newspaper with opinions more favourable to your liking.
You might be able to regulate media ownership. Would you try to regulate a car industry, if Toyota was selling too many cars? What about the orange industry, if one farmer was selling too many oranges? Sure, the orange industry might not have dramatic implications to democracy, but the concepts are the same.
Do we really want the Government to be telling us what we can and can’t read? I certainly don’t! I get (and agree with) media ownership rules and would argue they are quite fine as they are. But to want more legislation and ‘tougher regulation’ because a media outlet is selling more newspapers? That’s anti-democratic.
Let Australians read what they want. Don’t like the idea? Challenge it – while you can.
This is not an endorsement for any news proprietor of any persuasion