Sarah Hanson-Young to push for media diversity inquiry after Kevin Rudd's Murdoch petition


Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young will move to establish a Senate inquiry into media diversity on Wednesday following the popularity of Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Murdoch media.

Last week the former Labor prime minister’s petition for a royal commission into the need for a strong, diverse media was supported by 501,876 people.

“The cosy relationship between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinised,” Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia. “When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media the parliament should be listening.”

While Labor has not backed Rudd’s call for a royal commission the petition was presented to the parliament on Monday by Labor MP Andrew Leigh, and it has already highlighted community concerns about the concentration of media ownership.

In Australia the media landscape is dominated by News Corp which owns a major newspaper in each state except for Western Australia, with competition coming only from Nine Entertainment’s papers the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age in the two major capital cities.

In Queensland there is only one title, the Courier Mail, which is owned by Murdoch, who also controls Sky News Australia and a host of local and regional papers and websites.

Rudd says he spearheaded the petition to start a “national conversation” about the Murdoch press which he claims is a “cancer on our democracy”.

On Q+A this week Malcolm Turnbull joined Rudd once again in saying News Corp had become an organisation for “pure propaganda”. Turnbull, who also suffered from a negative News Corp campaign when in power, supported Rudd’s petition.

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“Australians have clearly become increasingly concerned about media diversity in Australia and the Greens share those concerns,” Hanson-Young said.

“We need to ensure we have a strong and independent public interest news industry to support our democracy.”

The Greens will need the support of Labor, the crossbench and One Nation to get an inquiry established by the environment and communications references committee.

The committee would examine the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia and the impact it has on public interest journalism and democracy.

Issues include the access voters have to independent news, the impact of the closure of so many media outlets, the reduction in the number of journalists, the barriers faced by small independent outlets and the role of newswires in supporting public interest journalism.

Earlier in the year News Corp stopped printing 100 local and regional papers, although the majority of them remained as digital-only editions. Since then News has opened a number of digital-only mastheads.

After News Corp and Nine pulled out of funding Australian Associated Press (AAP), the newswire was saved at the 11th hour by impact investors. But a reluctance by some media companies to sign up for the service has seen AAP struggling financially.

The Morrison government gave AAP a $5m lifeline in September.

Hanson-Young, the Greens spokeswoman on media, said a Senate inquiry would provide an opportunity for a proper consideration of the impact Facebook and Google are having on media diversity.

“We’ve seen the increasing pressure small and independent publishers have come under this year with closures of media outlets across the country,” she said. “This is bad for our democracy as diversity of media voices is reduced, regions lose access to news and public interest journalism and stories go untold.

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“The US election has highlighted the need for truth in journalism and the need to call out unsubstantiated and false claims.”



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