By Jim Hayes
It is far too early to predict the demise of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp empire. But it is taking a battering. People have been streaming away from it for decades, and the newspaper arm has been the hardest hit.
Key research from Roy Morgan shows that the slide accelerated in the last three months of 2019. Top Australian mastheads suffered a hit. The Herald Sun losing 7.7 per cent of its audience, Brisbane’s Courier-Mail down 1.4 per cent, and The Australian losing 4.3 per cent of its readers.
In the United Kingdom, the fall for the Daily Telegraph was 15.5 percent. The pattern is the same in the United States. Even the digital arm of the company has performed sluggishly.
All print media has suffered from the rise of digital alternatives. But this does not explain the size of News Corp’s fall. Nor does the sluggish economy mentioned by company News CEO Robert Thomson.
In Australia, readership of the alternative Sydney Morning Herald grew by 4.1 percent, The Age by 1.2 percent, and the Australian Financial review by 14.4 percent. Readers have switched.
Perhaps the fact that Rupert Murdoch has become a toxic personality, perhaps the most despised individual in the nation, has something to do with it. This is about rejection of his out their political agenda.
Murdoch’s politics are virulently anti-democratic and waged as a crusade against anything that is even mildly critical of the power of the big end of town. The Murdoch philosophy is to champion the ultimate domination of the market. The, means is to turn government into an integrated arm of the biggest corporations, and shift from notions of democratic control to big brother imposition of the wishes of the elite.
News Corp has been the leading exponent of extreme neoliberalism and the politics of hate, setting up scapegoats to further Murdoch’s political agenda.
Murdoch has personally ensured that his outlets carry the message. There is no such thing as editorial independence at News Corp. It goes further. Over the years, a collection of like-minded scribes have been recruited and others of a more independent type pressured out.
I have several acquaintances, who say that most journalists in the empire know what is going on and aren’t happy about it. There has been a steady stream of resignations. Others have made this public.
It is not only newspapers. Fox News has become the recognised font for the propagation of bias, misinformation, and bullying. A couple of its stars have even proclaimed their support for fascism on air, or at least given a platform to neo Nazi group representatives.
Newscorp has been a principal promoter of Donald Trump in the United States, Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom and Scott Morrison in Australia.
All of this must inevitably filter out to the public, most of which doesn’t like it at all.
“The positions they take are so politically and socially polarising and extreme that perhaps that is influencing readers,” said independent media analyst Peter Cox.
Although hit, News Corp is not down for the count. It is too well entrenched to depart the scene so easily.
But there is evidence that well researched material can gain credibility.
The Murdoch experience does raise some pertinent issues.
Should media and those involved in it stand apart from the world, maintaining the argument that they are not actors but independent observers. Critics suggest that this has always been a myth. Human beings are part of the world about them, including those who work in media.
Perhaps the answer is that ethical journalism is important, and this means standing on the side of those who are disadvantaged and contributing toward building a batter future. Ethical journalism means that the Murdoch style is rejected.
Big circulation media is monopolised by major financial interests. News Corporation is the biggest of these monopolies in the countries mentioned. The result is that a few voices are over represented, and many others silenced. Media which is independent of these interests is a necessary condition to provide a voice for those who are presently voiceless.
The narrow-based ownership of media provides the environment to generate undue influence on the political process and corruption.
It is no secret that these have become more serious problems lately. What can be done? At least impose some limits that curtail their political influence and capacity for corruption.