ABC boss Mark Scott says News Corp pursuing an ‘aggressive editorial positioning’

Mark ScottABC managing director Mark Scott has taken aim at Rupert Murdoch’s media empire saying News Corp newspapers have “never been more assertive in exercising media power”, and warned the power could increase if Fairfax retreats from print.

Delivering a speech at the University of Melbourne Centre for Advancing Journalism last night, 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 ABC has been the subject of persistent attacks from News Corp titles, and The Australian has called for Scott to resign claiming leftwing bias. The paper has also singled out Media Watch host Paul Barry over an “anti-Murdoch” agenda, which has now triggered an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority into the journalist.

Scott also commented on Lachlan Murdoch’s recruitment as co-chair of News Corp and 21st Century Fox last week. He said: “The return of Lachlan Murdoch to his position of power in the family business was clearly a significant story, not just for his company but for our society. We will all watch to see how he wants to exercise that power.”

The arrival of digital mastheads including The Guardian, BuzzFeed and the Mail Online had also made a significant change in the market, Scott said.

However he argued newspapers will survive and stay powerful.

News Corp currently sells around 70 per cent of papers in Australian capital cities, Scott said, and this could rise to 80 per cent if Fairfax retreats to a weekly edition in future, as has been mooted, with Scott pointing to evidence from the US suggesting newspaper markets in most cities could become a monopoly.

“The reason it feels like the media battle is being waged as though it’s winner takes all is because that’s exactly what it is,” Scott said.

“People will draw their own conclusions about what this means for public debate and the contest of ideas. It might be that all the new arrivals and strong voices find a place of agenda setting and influence – new central players in the media ecosystem.”

The speech was delivered five years after his AN Smith lecture, when Scott implied Rupert Murdoch was leading an empire in decline.

In the current landscape, Scott said News Corp’s move to paywalls was “a classic play of old empire, of empire in decline”, adding it was hard to tell how many journalists the new digital newsrooms could actually sustain.

Megan Reynolds


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.