By Joe Montero
Kevin Rudd has come out after Rupert Murdoch once again. Only months ago, he called the media tycoon’s influence in Australia a “cancer on democracy”. He is doing so again.
It seems many agree. Within days, tens of thousands have already signed the petition launched by the former Prime minister, and the volume of traffic has been enough to undermine the online system. Despite this, the signatures keep on flowing in.
Although the petition call for a Royal Commission “to ensure a strong, diverse Australian news media,” it is clearly directed against Murdoch’s NewsCorp monopoly.
Rudd is a onetime insider, now looking in from the outside. Back in 2009, Murdoch had anointed him as the successor to John Howard. Howard had previously been Murdoch’ pick. But when he found himself completely isolated over WorkChoices, he was dumped, and the Labor leader backed to form the next government.
Kevin Rudd had hardly warmed the Prime Minister’s seat, and Murdoch began to undermine his government and promote Tony Abbott.
It was during this time that media controlled by the aging tycoon took a sudden shift towards the promotion of a far-right political agenda. It had been there before, in the cultivation and promotion of Pauline Hanson and One Nation. This now shifted to a broader base.
When Tony Abbott fell afoul of just about everyone, there was a temporary tilt to Malcolm Turnbull, and then spit him out who himself out in favour of Scott Morrison.
The fact that Rupert Murdoch has the power to manipulate the political system, to the extent that no one can be Prime Minister of Australia without his anointment, shows the reach of his money and power, its undermining of democracy, and the promotion of political opportunism and corruption.
Turnbull called it right, when in his own words against Murdoch, said that no Prime Minister can afford to cross the will of this tycoon, and that doing so, would mean looking for another job.
It doesn’t stop here. Through control of more than 70 percent of print media, extending to dominance over radio and television, Murdoch has been able to bring in misinformation and effective censorship of news, on a scale never seen before in Australia.
Murdoch is accused of being the propaganda arm and patron of a growing fascist movement. There is the ring of truth in this. He has been the key to legitimising the politics of hate against sections of our community, the spread of rumours, unfounded accusations, and conspiracy theories, through gutter tabloid journalism.
He maintains strict editorial control, and this is used to ensure his political world view and objectives are always promoted.
There is a another and more pragmatic reason behind the political manipulation, and this has been to change media cross-ownership laws. Through the exercise of power and political manipulation, Murdoch has succeeded in having these laws whittled down, until they have nearly disappeared altogether.
NewsCorp’s holdings over print media, radio and television has been extended significantly.
The prospect of NewsCorp monopoly control extending further over all media is horrifying. NewsCorp has recently moved into Fairfax. Extended control over Nine and is now waging campaigns against the ABC and to move into social media platforms, through the introduction of user pays concept to access published information.
Murdoch was able to stop the rollout of a properly functioning National Broadband Network, which he saw as competing with Foxtel, until he is positioned to be the major player.
A Royal Commission, even if it gets off the ground, will not solve the problem. Remember what happened to the one on the banks? A report will be tabled, and nothing will be done about it. Clipping Murdoch’s wings needs a massive community campaign to bring about the change.
This does not mean that a royal Commission should be opposed. On the contrary. It would focus national attention on the problem, and it has a good chance of bringing into the light of day, more about how Murdoch and his empire operate.
Exposure like this, will damage the brand and perhaps even raise discussion about the importance of media alternatives, and this is a good thing too.