Rudd and Turnbull to testify in Senate media diversity inquiry | Australian media
Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull will be called to give evidence in a Senate media diversity inquiry that will examine News Corp Australia’s dominance and its impact on democracy.
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young won support for the inquiry on Wednesday following the popularity of Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Murdoch’s media.
Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia it was essential that the two former leaders, who have been candid about the role of the Murdoch press, be allowed to “speak frankly and have the protection of parliamentary privilege, which is important when talking about issues of power and influence.
Editors and business executives from News Corp Australia, as well as freelance, regional and rural editors, would also be called to give evidence, she said.
News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said on Wednesday the company had participated in at least nine media investigations over the past decade. “As always, we will continue to constructively engage in these important conversations,” he said in a statement.
The Environment and Communications Credentials Committee will immediately issue a call for submissions and is due to report by the end of November 2021. The government did not oppose the motion in the Senate, so it passed without vote.
“It is clear from the half-million signatures on the record-breaking petition for a Royal Commission on Media Diversity that Australians are very concerned about the concentration of media ownership and Murdoch’s power and political influence,” he said. said Hanson-Young, who chairs the Environment and Communication References Committee.
“As a parliament, it was right for us to act on these concerns. The Australian media landscape is changing rapidly. We must ensure that we have a strong and independent public interest information industry to support our democracy.
Hanson-Young said media voices are being lost across the country, and access to public interest news and journalism is completely disappearing in some areas. The increased pressure facing small independent publishers is bad for democracy, the Greens senator said.
“Facebook and Google’s dominance has steadily increased and this survey will also provide an opportunity to properly examine how this affects media diversity.”
Rudd’s petition, which has garnered over half a million signatures, has sparked a conversation about the role of the Murdoch press in Australia and its contribution to climate denialism in particular.
“Murdoch has become a cancer – an arrogant cancer of our democracy,” said Rudd, the 26th prime minister, when he launched the petition last month.
Turnbull, who also signed the petition, confronted former Sky News host David Speers and Australian editor Paul Kelly live on TV this week about the ethics of working for Murdoch.
“Someone like you, David, you should have the opportunity to tell the truth about what it was like to work for Sky News,” Turnbull told Speers, who hosts ABC’s Insiders on Sunday. “Because you were there in the belly of the beast. You couldn’t take it anymore and you left.
On Q+A on Monday, Turnbull asked Kelly, “How offensive, biased, destructive must this be, Paul, before you say – one of our greatest writers and journalists – ‘Enough, I’m out of this’?”
New York-based News Corp Australia says 16 million Australians “choose to consume news and information on News Corp Australia’s suite of cross-platform products – more than any media group in Australia”.
Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the government should not use the inquiry as an excuse to “sit on its hands”.
“Labour will not stand in the way of Australians who care that the media have a chance to be heard,” she said. “The Australian media is in crisis and there are already a series of reports and recommendations designed to support the media sitting in Minister Paul Fletcher’s overly harsh basket.”
Labor did not support Rudd’s call for a royal commission, but the petition was presented to parliament on Monday by Labor MP Andrew Leigh.
The terms of reference for the Senate inquiry do not mention News Corp Australia or Rupert Murdoch, but call for a review of “the state of diversity, independence and reliability of the media in Australia and the impact it has on public interest journalism and democracy”.
It will examine the state of public interest journalism, the impact of Australian media ownership laws on media concentration, and the viability of media business models.
Earlier this week, the company said Turnbull’s claim that its newspapers attributed the arson attacks to bushfires was “demonstrably untrue”. “The facts clearly demonstrate the fallacy of Mr Turnbull’s claim,” a spokesperson for News Corp Australia said, noting that its major newspapers had written 3,335 stories about the bushfires between September and January and that only 3.4% mentioned arson.