By Jim Hayes
Unknown to most citizens, the Australian parliament has passed legislation to compel tech companies to pay a fee for news content. Those familiar with the issue know that this is about helping Rupert Murdoch extend his monopoly into online media.
The mogul is so powerful, has such an influence over the political elite, that he can transform the political system into an extension of his business empire.
First cab off the rank is Facebook, which will now have to pay a publishers’ fee, mainly to Murdoch, for news content originating from another media source.
This has been sold as a stab against greedy tech companies and protecting the right of publishers and journalists to be paid for their work. It doesn’t work this way. The work is paid for when first published. Up till now, once it is in the public domain, others have had the right to access, if they are not profiting from it.
The real aim is to set up a pay wall on social media, which will ultimately mean that the ordinary user will be made to pay. This will transfer monopoly control to Murdoch.
Consider that Murdoch already owns most of the other media across Australia. This is 60 percent of all print, 40 percent of television, and 90 percent of radio media, under the News Corp banner. The little that’s left is owned by two other companies. Media diversity is a myth.
This has been revealed in current Senate inquiry into media diversity.
The extent of monopoly control over the media is unprecedented in almost any country. A consequence is that our news is highly censored and formed around the Murdoch world view. This has serious political consequences.
Clear examples are the debates over industrial relations, climate change, and global politics.
A report commissioned by activist group GetUp and conducted by Sydney University, reveals just how far the control over news goes.
It has now gone so far that Nine, of which News Corp owns a large share, now owns Fairfax. Fairfax are the publishers of The Age in Melbourne, and the Sydney Morning Herald. This leaves the much smaller Southern Cross Media with most of privately owned radio stations out of the News Corp influence.
Associate Professor Brevini and PhD candidate Michael Ward, who are associated with the report, wrote, “News Corp is the unchallenged dominant player”. They add that, “it has skewed public debate, favouring the interests of the wealthy and powerful over the public good”.
The extent of control has made possible the systematic promotion of false news on a huge scale.
Former Prime minster Kevin Rudd has called Murdoch a cancer, and joined another former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in call calling for a royal commission into the media organisation.
Do we really want this power to be extended over digital media?