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Big Media: Perhaps its grip is loosening?

This week 2GB Radio in Sydney got knocked off its number one perch. This right-wing gabfest has been at number one in the Sydney marketplace since 2004. It lost its spot to KIISFM which is an entirely non-serious enterprise. This is an important milestone. It marks a shift in the reading/listening/watching habits of the Australian populace; a change that will become ever more notable in the coming months and years.

People in Aus are beginning to consume different sorts of media, in different quantities, in a manner that is entirely predictable. These changes accord with both communications’ theory and the observations of economists over the last decades.

In simple terms, when an economy is flush with cash, then people broaden their habits and attitudes and commonly buy a lot more media products, of a wider variety. Also, the international, national and economic news components of the media all seem to grow and expand during these periods of economic good fortune.

However, when liquidity in a society dries up the populace commonly respond by not only reducing the amount of media being consumed but by also becoming less tolerant of (what are commonly perceived of) as ‘non-mainstream’ ideas and propositions. (If anyone wants to look into this phenomenon further it is normally referred to as the ‘Overton Window’ Hypothesis.)

In simple terms, as people see their economic opportunities shrinking then they tend to not only move towards a greater consumption of ‘mainstream’ non-news narratives, they also become less tolerant of what are perceived as ‘marginal’ or ‘special interest’ propositions (especially those that are ideologically or politically based). Consequently, people start to change their ‘news’ consumption habits and begin to look more towards local and regional news and coverage of local events, and also commonly consume a lot less international and national news.

So, while other sectors of the economy only have to deal with economic factors, when times go bad, the big media owners also have to contend with a change in attitudes of the population. With Nine and News it will likely make for a perfect storm. How long will these owners (overseas owners in one instance) put up with the parts of their conglomerates that are bleeding money?

The slush of cash that had been sloshing around has suddenly dried up. And while low interest rates and high liquidity is a situation that is conducive to a highly concentrated media marketplace – vertical integration along with buying up all of your competition only works when there is enough money for the big, centralised parts of the business to support a host of smaller loss-making operations.

Regional and local papers will be sold off first. Plus, newsrooms across the country will further consolidate, with several major mastheads being edited from the one centralised location (which has been happening already, but which is a process that will be accelerated in the coming years). Yet these commercial realities will also be exacerbated by the change in media habits that was earlier discussed.

The vast majority of Aussies are (in colloquial terms) far to the ‘left’ of both the government and the press. This is of particular concern for the Nine and News group which publish a range of mastheads that are way out of step with the opinion of the vast majority of the populace. These papers will either have to shift to a more centrist editorial position or become less ideologically and politically focused. Moreover, at the same time, as ownership once again diversifies in the print and online spaces, then the power of these big media monopolies to dictate the content of the ‘news’ will also diminish.

The shift to regional and local consumption will also have implications for the big companies. In many cases the closure of a local paper that is owned by one of these big corporations will allow space for a locally owned enterprise to once again spring up. Thus, while the current financial downturn is not a good thing for individuals it will likely be of benefit to our regional media environment by forcing the divestiture of many failing titles, thus allowing these local and regional markets to once again be serviced by small (and far more agile) regional owners – who will likely include a diversity of news sources and opinions in the place of the relatively uniform product that is currently available.

For many of us who are quite exasperated by the incredible media ownership concentration in our country these are all welcome developments. Yet it also needs to be observed that the prospect of an easing in the obscene levels of media ownership concentration in Australia are unlikely to be the product of any government action. I seem to get the feeling that our political class are more worried about their careers than the health and wellbeing of the community in general (but perhaps I am just an old cynic).


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  1. Phil Pryor

    Having not had any local media, print, voice, but some T V, for a very long time, I am not vaguely expert on it, but it was so egotistically bad and getting worse, it disappeared up its self promoting fundament of lies, exaggeration, bad persuasion, propaganda and boring submediocrity. The younger Ward Austin, J Laws, G O’Callaghan, eventually the repulsive A Jucking-Fones, so many slime boys, made a run for the money saying any shit to anyone for big money. Payola stank (I knew of plenty) and quality non existent. People out there listened (and still do) to bowel loads of bullshit by noneducated deceivers, unfit to clean a dunny in a Uni. This country needs focus and attention of material that is true, scientific, assessed, proven, researched. You get nothing good or useful out of the Daily Datewiper from Merde Dog.

  2. John Higgins

    Since when does Sydney/NSW represent Australia as a whole? Conflating what Sydneysiders listen to has bugger all to do with the rest of the country. Shock jocks are not relevant in Melbourne.

  3. Roswell

    John, NSW would be a good yardstick for the rest of Australia. If the right-wing shock jocks are losing their crown in a Liberal state then that’s promising for everyone.

    PS: I live in NSW but I’d rather listen to a blowfly than 2GB. They’re both annoying, but a blowfly would have a better personality.

  4. Terence Mills

    Rupert Murdoch and the FOX presenters have done their cause irreparable damage as it has now been revealed that they are but mere jesters playing to an audience of RW Nutjobs and that none of them believe in the snakeoil that they sell.

  5. Andrew Smith

    Agree, but one thinks in the US/UK Anglosphere Australia is ahead of the curve somewhat in managing to ditch RW governments, even while legacy media is catering to RW voters and ‘persuadables’.

    The ‘lucky country’ in having compulsory and preferential voting, although the right wishes to dilute the former as many below median age are compelled to vote; conversely in many places it’s the above median age vote of retired, regional, monocultural and less educated who can be manipulated, or ignored.

    Part of the reason has been another existential threat of the nativist libertarian (yet authoritarian) right, masquerading as ‘conservative’ and ‘free market’, i.e. baby boomer (vs oldies) cohort which has more university educated voters and also like younger, use other media sources inc. offshore.

    Although media oligopoly or cartel has ground out a dominant position by governments diluting media regulation, for same media to support the LNP and niche industry policies, when they start losing serious money they can simply sell out at a loss vs. expecting state support or subsidies to survive.

  6. Williambtm

    With regard to your comment Phil, I happen to be one of the non-university educated, great unwashed, but like yourself I know the huge amount of bullschitt that is presented as news by Australia’s mainstream media moguls. Twice I have sent a letter to the ABC asking why they are presenting the USA biased negativism rhetoric to the Australian people. Nil response just more of the same. Most all of the people in the USA are subjected to the propaganda bullschitt routinely thrust into their brainbox, as the truth of what the USA is all about is far too evil for their people to learn about. E. G. You won’t read about the stealing of Syria’s oil by the USA. With their long convoys of oil tanker trucks heading for the nearest safe coastal port to be pumped aboard for the oil-tanker ships to arrive at a USA coastal port, oil pumped out & its back to Syria for another refill et al. The cost of the oil being gratis (everything that’s stolen is gratis) the security surrounding consists of the USA’s military force with access to their air force for strafing any forces nearby or maybe dropping napalm canisters in those below that burn people to a crisp. All in a days work of the stealth of America’s oil supplies.

  7. Phil Pryor

    William, you are fine, O K, and I never generally have a go, but attack the problem with names directly, thus, accepting the potential for insult, challenge, threats, etc, Frankly, I went to night school to get a decent Leaving Cert, then to college, after which came years of struggle with family and duties while getting two degrees. I seek truth, dig deeply, never accept superficiality and recommend any of that and more to anyone Decent and Human. What you have said is honest and relevant. Finally our media, generally, STINKS.

  8. B Sullivan

    Andrew Smith,
    “The ‘lucky country’ in having compulsory and preferential voting” – that is also compulsory even though the voter may not wish to endorse any alternative preference. Failure to indicate a preference is punished by disqualification of the voter’s ballot paper. The voter is in effect forced to endorse candidates that in all likelihood will not represent their political will resulting in the routine election of minority governments that have democratically unrepresentative majorities of seats in Parliament. Is it any wonder that these minority governments which exercise the privileges of majority rule always lean to the right? They pretend they represent the majority, but they don’t. Obligatory preferential voting just serves to hide the disproportional bias against fair representation in parliament that exists in the Australian electoral system.

    Why can’t the ballot paper contain a box that we can tick to indicate no other preference? Better still why not have genuine democracy with proportional representation so that everyone gets a fair voice on the floor of parliament?

  9. Clakka

    As the Oz mainstream news media industry progressively spiralled away from the practices of investigation and analysis, into the depths of payola-driven bias and sensation, it dredged and ditched the foundations of journalistic ethics, casting aside old school principled journalists, opting for obsequious stenographers, plagiarists and celebrity seeking touts.

    Upon the coming of the internet, its strategic and commercial ineptitude saw it beguile and entrap the equally inept and divisive political establishment by hollowing out and forsaking the fourth estate opting for an utterly dysfunctional harvest of the low hanging fruit of shrill conspiracy-induced madding social media. It excluded the countenance of old wise heads, ditched the epistemology of academics and scientists, and saw the end of careful and properly considered political governance and commentary.

    It became a circular process of concealing truth and purpose by feeding shrillness and bling back to the statistically analysed uneducated, gullible and disaffected for the purpose of swinging their vote to tip the balance and enhancement of the commercial payola. The disaster that is populism.

    My 70+ y.o. brother having maintained the highest of ethics, been properly trained and spent a lifetime as a journalist, an investigator, a feature writer, a press officer and media advisor, at the height of the aforementioned decline, said to me, “I’m now embarrassed to call myself a journalist.”

    Thankfully, it appears now that media beast has finally started to eat itself, after it drove the political hubris that resulted in the collapse of the economies of particularly Britain and America, the advent of the likes of Trump and Johnson and most recently, facilitated by complacency, the narcissistic ballistic insanity of Putin’s war on Ukraine. Not to forget the opportunity brought to reflect by the pandemic, and the growing reality of the devastation of climate change. Will we have time to preserve the nursery of mother earth?

    That news media industry driven by the desperate and traitorous Mudrock and his corporate and media cling-ons is utterly responsible for a multi-generational collapse of the socio-economic growth the majority were all striving for. They, along with the suckered and craven politicians of the era are directly responsible for the loss of function and faith in democracy. It will take generations to repair, if repair at all can be achieved. Alternatively, they may be responsible for a drift to totalitarianism and the horror of an Orwellian future. But for the greed and expedience of the privatised and quasi-privatised tertiary education sector, one might like to assign one’s hope to the enlightenment of current generation of young’ns.

    There’s so much to do, and I’ll be pressing on, but I won’t be holding my breath as I’ll only go blue in the face before my time. History has a way of repeating itself.

  10. Canguro

    The Greco-Armenian mystic and fully-enlightened sage George Ivanovich Gurdjieff was known to have observed almost a century ago that journalism was in the pits, a dying art, that its practitioners were a lost crowd of actors without consciences, and that their audiences would suffer as a consequence of their maleficent practices. Hard to disagree.

  11. wam

    Good read, John, with lots of possibles and hope for a move in local media power.
    Alex Hayes:
    “KiisFM’s Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson boost their lead in the FM breakfast radio battle climbing to an audience share of 11.3, still 3.5 per cent behind market leader Alan Jones on 2GB. 2GB ended the year top of the pile for total people share with 12.1, down 0.2 on the last survey, whilst Australian Radio Network’s WSFM topped the FM charts with an 8.9 share, holding of stablemate KiisFM which had 8.6 points.” I have had my ears bashed by 2gb, whilst getting a tyre changes etc but kyle and jackie o have been unheard.
    B Sullivan,
    The point of preferences is to look at all candidates and then rank them on that info. If you cannot manage that then there is always Equus asinus.
    The result of distributing preferences is a politician with, at least some support from over 50% of electors.
    Proportional rep can elect a pollie with less than 8%. (Tassie’s pollies need just over 16%).
    Thanks for giving this old fart a chance to support the preferential system.
    Are you in favour of dropping preferences for, the short, sharp and shiny, first past the post system?

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