Australia Media Profile
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Australia Government and Media
World Press Freedom Rank: Australia 26/180
According to Reporters without Borders, in Australia, “Investigative journalism is in danger” due to severe defamation laws as well as laws on national security. In addition, The report identifies media ownership concentration as being “one of the world’s highest levels” referring to the dominance of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Nine Entertainment. According to MEAA, (The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance) the union for Australian journalists, says “Current laws inhibit the public’s right to know and rather than guaranteeing fairness, Australia’s defamation laws are being used as a weapon to threaten and attack legitimate reporting.” They add that “Australia’s current defamation laws as one of the biggest barriers to their ability to publish stories in the public interest.” Further, a Human Rights Watch report brings attention to Australia’s National security laws by saying “Australia’s national security laws shouldn’t be used to intimidate the media or those holding the government to account.”
Government Influence on Media: The Media in Australia is divided into two types. First, is the commercial media that is privately owned and generally funded through advertising. However, Michelle Rowland an Australian Labor Party politician asserted “Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world.” Her assertion was fact-checked by IFCN Fact checker The Conversation and the verdict was she was correct in her claim.
In Australia, the ownership of print and broadcast media is dominated by corporations such as News Corp Australia owned by the Murdoch Family, broadcast television, publishing, and digital company Seven West Media, owned by Kerry Stokes, and Nine Entertainment Group that recently bought and merged with Fairfax Media. This concentration can lead to corporate bias and censorship especially when the Executives of the mentioned corporations are involved in political activities such as in 2019, where the MEAA reports “Nine hosting a Liberal Party fundraiser.” Further, journalists from the house committees at the three major metro daily mastheads voiced their concern about political independence. The second media type is public service broadcasters such as The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Corporation (SBS) which are both mainly funded by the federal government. ABC provides radio, television, online and mobile services. Although ABC is supposed to maintain non-partisan reporting, they have been accused of center-left bias with connections to the Labour Party. The other main public broadcaster is the multilingual Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for regulating the broadcasting of content through media and aims to tackle bias, “ACMA collects its revenue on behalf of the Australian Government through broadcasting, radiocommunications and telecommunications taxes, charges and license fees.” Please see their annual report under the section “revenue collection” for details.
In conclusion, right-leaning corporate media providers dominate the print and broadcast media, therefore there is significant corporate influence on the media, while the Government indirectly affects bias through defamation and national security laws.
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