April 20, 2012
In this review at Inside Story of two recent books on the political power of Rupert Murdoch's media empire Denis Muller highlights the systematic pattern of suppression, lack of transparency and hypocrisy. It reinforces the view that News Corp has become a toxic institution that operates like a shadow state.
This is significant and important, given the increasing concentration of the legacy media in Australia, and the increasing competition they now face from the internet's media startups. The concept of news as a series of articles published daily or weekly in a paper format is dissolving before our eyes.
Referring to David McKnight's Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power Muller says:
The pattern takes several forms. One is journalistic misrepresentation....News Corporation’s newspapers [also] have often engaged in baseless ad hominem attacks on individuals who have challenged its world view. [Thirdly] there is a deliberate strategy to create a conservative brand of politicised journalism masquerading as “balanced.” Allied to this pattern is equally systematic hypocrisy. In Australia, Murdoch’s News Limited has been a driving force behind the Right to Know coalition, a group of twelve Australian media organisations with the stated aim of improving Australia’s “relatively poor world ranking for freedom of speech.” On the evidence presented by McKnight about Murdoch’s covert political activities, the public’s “right to know” does not appear to extend to the activities of Murdoch and News Corporation.
McKnight argues convincingly that it is his leverage with politicians that Murdoch uses to pursue his policy preferences when his financial interests are at stake and that his politics is to reshape the English-speaking world to fit the template of conservative (Republican) America.
We can see this pattern at work in The Australian's bias against and hostility towards renewable energy and sustainability. It is currently expressed in its recent Taxpayers should not gamble on renewables editorial:
Renewable energy is powered more by the winds of the zeitgeist and the flow of taxpayers' money than it is by westerlies or sunshine...he path to a low-carbon economy is taking a tortured route. While this money might have subsidised two or three nuclear plants to generate power at standard prices with zero emissions, we instead will speculate on renewables that will certainly cost more and possibly do nothing to cut emissions unless they reduce reliance on existing baseload generation. Very little will be fuelled, save for the clean energy zeitgeist.These green initiatives are driven by an obsession with renewable energy at the expense of all other options, no matter the benefits involved in lower costs or emissions.
The conclusion is blunt: It is no accident that separate reports recently revealed South Australia had the highest proportion of electricity generated by wind turbines and the most expensive power in the nation.
The reality is otherwise, as Tristan Edis points out in Climate Spectator. The high prevalence of wind power in South Australia’s electricity mix is actually depressing electricity prices in the state, whilst the lion share of increases in SA residential electricity prices to increased expenditure on distribution networks.
The Australian is increasingly shifting to an opinionated and conservatively partisan style similar to that of talkback radio. It's rhetoric of manufactured anger towards liberals, inner city and intellectual elites, and the Greens attracts a polarised audience but, in the process, undermines public trust.
Jay Rosen has a interesting post on his PressThink blog entitled Rosen’s Trust Puzzler: What Explains Falling Confidence in the Press? He says:
So the puzzle is: how do these things fit together? More of a profession, more educated people going into journalism, a more desirable career, greater cultural standing (although never great pay) bigger staffs, more people to do the work … and the result of all that is less trust.
Let me be clear: I’m not saying there’s no explanation, or that this is some baffling paradox. Only that it’s worth thinking through how these things fit together.
He then suggests a number of answers as part of that thinking through. These include:
(1) All institutions are less trusted eg., the banks, the church etc;
(2) Bad actors meaning the squabblers on cable television, and the tabloid media generally–are undermining confidence in the press as a whole;
(3) Liberal bias in the media for the right. The left's answer is different
(4) Working the refs meaning that the right has learned how to manipulate journalists by never letting up on the “liberal bias” charge, no matter what.
(5) professionaliization of journalism with its insiders ethos, view from nowhere, the voice of God etc
(6) the media is just part of the power structure now
(7) culture war
(8) the stories are too big to tell