Chances are, some of our readers signed a petition started by Kevin Rudd earlier this year about Murdoch. Over 500,000 Australians signed the petition, which called for an inquiry into media dominance and concentration in Australia.
So, what exactly is media concentration?
It’s the ownership of mass amounts of media and outlets by a few individuals or organisations. In simple terms — dominance of media ownership in a country by a small number of people or one person.
Why is it such a big topic in Australia?
Australia has significant media ownership concentration, with the two big media companies being:
- News Corp
Ever heard of Rupert Murdoch or the Murdoch family? If not, Rupert Murdoch owns a lot of Australian media and news outlets (as well as in the U.S. and the UK). The company has received criticism for accusations of political bias, racism and climate change scepticism. To give an example of the concentration in Australia, News Corp owns 14 of 21 metropolitan daily and weekend newspapers. Some notable news organisations that belong to News Corp include The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, and The Advertiser.
- Nine Entertainment (merged with Fairfax, another big media company)
Major newspapers include The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, as well as Nine Network (TV) and Nine Radio.
Newspaper ownership is particularly concentrated in Australia. A study that looked at the market share of newspapers in Australia by ‘average issue readership’ in 2019-20 showed that News Corp had 51.9% and Nine Entertainment had 13.1%. Australian Community Media had 17.4% while Seven West Media had 10.1%. To put it into a global context – in the U.S., there are about 15 major media owners in the newspaper landscape. In Canada, there are five major corporations, and in the UK three major newspaper brands own 90% of the papers in the country.
Radio in Australia is dominated by three corporations – News Corp, Nine Entertainment, and Southern Cross Media (and their associated entities). Those companies control almost 90 percent of the metropolitan radio licences across the country.
Why is Kevin Rudd involved?
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been very vocal about media concentration in Australia, creating a petition late last year for an inquiry into Murdoch media dominance in Australia that gained a lot of media attention. While he wasn’t successful in getting a Royal Commission set up, he was able to get a Senate inquiry into the matter. The committee leading the inquiry has held public hearings, where people like Rudd have been able to provide evidence (a la the photo above). The committee is set to hand down its findings in August this year, which will likely include recommendations to government about ownership concentration in Australia.