GetUp report finds Australian media power held by just two companies

A report commissioned by Australian political activist organisation GetUp, regarding media ownership concentration has reinforced findings by IBIS World, that the Australian media landscape is dominated by just two main media outlets.

According to the report, Nine Entertainment Co and News Corp’s dominance extends beyond print, as the two corporations, along with Southern Cross Media, “control almost 90% of lucrative metropolitan radio licenses across the country”. Although, News Corp does not directly own any radio stations in Australia, it has only a 15% stake in Here There & Everywhere, which owns  Australian Radio Network (ARN).

The report, Who Controls Our Media, was authored by University of Sydney associate professor of communication, Dr. Benedetta Brevini and Michael Ward, former executive with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and PhD student at the University of Sydney.

News Corp – chairman Rupert Murdoch

Dr Brevini, who has worked  as a journalist in Milan, New York and London for CNBC said: “When I moved to Australia a few years ago, I was not expecting to see the alarming level of media concentration and the lack of transparency that this country displays. [There is an] unthinkable amount of media concentration for a liberal democracy, compared to liberal democracies around the world.”

“With this report, we tried to fill this huge gap in transparency that has major consequences for public accountability” said Dr Brevini.

The report focuses on the accumulation of media wealth in particular by News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co over the past two decades, highlighting ‘News Corp’s 59% ownership share of metropolitan and national print media markets by readership – up from 25% in 1984’, followed by Nine’s combined 23% readership share.

The topic of diversity of media in Australia has been the focus of a senate committee inquiry, which was launched in response to a petition by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who also claims News Corp in particular has too much control within the media landscape.

Other key findings from the study include that:

Media concentration places excessive political and ideological power in the hands of a few, giving them the ability to set the public agenda, determine political decision-making, public policy and media policy.

Media concentration results in a clear decline in the quality of journalism, along with editorial freedom, quality of working conditions and job security for journalists.

Between 2008 and 2018, 106 local and regional newspapers titles closed their doors, a 15% decrease in the total number of Australian newsrooms.

At least 5,200 Australian journalism jobs have been cut between 2012 and 2020.

The report also notes the decline in publicly funded journalism, stating that “the ABC has had over $600 million removed from its funding over seven years”, SBS also having its budget cut, “most significantly in 2015, when it was subject to a $53.7 million cut over five years”.

Dr Brevini said: “There is nothing bad with regulation: regulation made possible the success of the BBC, of ABC, SBS. Why does it have to be so difficult to achieve that the public is served by a pluralistic media system?”

The main recommendations that the report puts forward in response to the findings are:

  • Enhancing the legislative scope and authority of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  • An overhaul of media regulation ‘that have effectively entrenched media concentration’
  • Reintroducing caps on media ownership in geographical markets
  • Increasing public investment in news journalism

The organisation, whose website notes as having one million members, is largely funded by small donations by ‘everyday Australians.’


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