Words | Elizabeth Laughton
Grapeshot is not affiliated with News Corp Australia or any other Murdoch-owned media networks.
Who the hell is Murdoch and why does he matter?
Rupert Murdoch is at the head of an international media empire. He’s the same age as Prince Phillip, so well out of silver fox territory. The only thing going for him is that he owns a huge chunk of the media we consume every day.
So, how does one old guy who isn’t a silver fox own said chunk?
Murdoch’s imperial rule over our news is secured under his company News Corp Australia, among other big names like 21st Century Fox. Under these companies, he owns various news outlets. In Australia, these include The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Courier-Mail, and Cumberland-Courier Newspapers (an organisation that prints twenty-three local papers like The Hornsby Advocate). In the United States, he owns The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. This is a super condensed list.
Some may ask: ‘So? What about it?’. Some may also say that my tinfoil hat suits me well, and to that I say, ‘Why thank you, yes it does. But also, no one person or company should own such a large portion of media outlets’.
Media is an influential mechanism in helping people participate in and make sense of their world. We use it to understand politics, which social group said what, and of course, when to stock up on toilet paper.
When someone has unchecked ownership of this technology, they control what we see and what we know. They can spam us with selective reporting on what they want us to pay attention to, or deprive us of the stories we could find useful in developing opinions about the world.
And it’s Murdoch’s significant ownership of the press allows him to do precisely that. This dynamic is damaging to the core institution of the free press. It’s nefarious to control what someone knows and incapacitate them from acting on informed opinions and beliefs they were prevented from even having in the first place.
Murdoch’s a pretty conservative guy, given that conservative and capitalist ideologies prop up his empire. You know, all that free market stuff that says competition in the market is a good thing and monopolies are negative for consumers.
So, it’s no surprise that he wants to keep things cool and conservative in Australia. That’s why we’re always getting blow by blow accounts of royal family drama from ‘reputable’ papers like The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. We’re being placated by nostalgic stories of monarchy to keep us from focusing on our leaders.
That is, until Murdoch wants us to focus on our leaders. Kevin ’07 has publicly called Murdoch out for selectively reporting on his prime ministership to undermine his policies and encourage public dissent. For him, News Corp is “a cancer on democracy” because of how it uses selective reporting on government figures to warp public opinion – at Murdoch’s whim.
But Murdoch’s whim isn’t exclusively applied to Labor leaders. He sure as hell didn’t like Malcolm Turnbull (wasn’t conservative enough, I’m guessing).
Days before Turnbull was dumped by the Liberal-National Party in 2018, Murdoch had flown to Australia to look after affairs at News Corp. The Australian Financial Review and the ABC have both reported that during his trip, he told Kerry Stokes, fellow media mogul, that Turnbull’s time was up. In mere days, Murdoch owned media unleashed a torrent of bad press about Turnbull. And easy as that – a leadership spill occurred.
If you’re still not convinced that Murdoch is warping public opinion, consider the longevity of his rule. Twenty-five years ago, a TV critic from The Washington Post compared Murdoch to “some sort of monster in a science fiction movie, The Blob or something… you keep waiting for somebody to sort of shape him up and push him back in, but it doesn’t happen”.
In 2020, Murdoch’s sludgy-self continues to rule unchecked. He’s wiggled his way out of police, hacking, bribery and corruption scandals of all kinds. His new outlets simply didn’t report bad press about them. For one man’s empire to last for so long unscathed, despite all his wrongdoing, there has to be manipulation present.
Feel free to disagree and engage with whatever media you want. I have literally no obligation to feed you this information and make you agree with me. But I find it pretty hard to have faith in Murdoch’s management of Australian media. I, unlike Murdoch, want you to be able to decide for yourself.