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The growing irrelevance of the Murdoch media

For a number of decades the Murdoch media have enjoyed an unbridled run as the major source for news, information and opinion in this country. It is a position, many would suggest, that they’ve protected without ethics or morals. Especially when it comes to opinion. Theirs, and only theirs counts and they’ve recently become fanatical at protecting it.

For example, anyone wishing to have their own ideas and opinions published on their media sites have had to contend with the editorial policies that are generally based on the ideology of the editors (or Murdoch himself, perhaps) and of course, on what is sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is now collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.

We have witnessed the internet create an arena where everyone can be a publisher. All a person needs is an opinion. Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers. Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it. They no longer rely on the Murdoch media.

Hence the rise of the citizen journalists, better known as the ‘Fifth Estate’ who are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists. The Fifth Estate advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions. Aka Andrew Bolt, for example.

The Fifth Estate also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that have blatantly been avoided by the MM; lending rise to the growing opinion that the Murdoch media is working to a particular political agenda. Their lack of scrutiny to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, and his empty bag of policies, is typical of this.

Further, the Fifth Estate have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the Murdoch media. Denis Shanahan’s interpretation of the opinion polls are good example, which are clearly based on his opinions, and not the polls. After each of his articles, the Fifth Estate is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Another direction we’ve seen the Murdoch media lean towards are those stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist. And often untrue. But the Fifth Estate generally has the meaningful intention of changing the direction of the media and exposing the shallowness and inconsistencies so evident in today’s Murdoch media. The events of the last week have certainly highlighted this. Following Margo Kingston’s explosive story EXCLUSIVE: Abbott forced to repay $9,400 he charged taxpayers to promote his book the Fifth Estate (and social media) shifted into overdrive to find out more about what could turn out to be one of the defining moments of the 2013 election campaign. The mainstream media was eventually swept up with the story gaining currency with Fairfax, the Guardian and the national TV channels. But not so with the Murdoch media. While the rest of the country was falling over itself providing their readers/viewers with the latest developments, the main story on news.com was how a surfing advert was considered offensive. Clearly more important than what is now called battlerort, but I’d prefer to think that the Murdoch media is just making it obvious that they don’t want Tony Abbott tarnished in any way.

The Fifth Estate, subsequently, has exploded in numbers and influence in Australia, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices but because the Murdoch media has created an arena for them to enter. If the Murdoch media was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be a Fifth Estate, or for that matter, the dozens of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the Murdoch empire. It is also fair to say that the Murdoch brand has been tarnished globally over the last 18 months thanks to the despicable phone-hacking scandal. Arguably, Rupert Murdoch is one of the most despised individuals in the developed world. He could also be considered the least trustworthy. So how can we trust his media outlets? It is becoming increasingly evident that his only interest in Australia is how much it can add to his bottom line and his newspapers are filled with stories each shaped to ensure that the profits head upwards. For example, could his loving support for Tony Abbott be motivated by Abbott’s promise to dismantle to Government’s NBN program? A move, as pointed out in Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN, that would keep his bottom line healthy.

There is no doubt that in a few short years the Fifth Estate has not only reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities. The blog sites of the Murdoch media usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide some impact, the avenues through the Murdoch media have been providing none.

Then what are the impacts of the Fifth Estate?

This remains the unanswered question, or if you will, a work in progress. The Fifth Estate still has nowhere near the influence of the Murdoch media, such as being able to manipulate election outcomes or influence public discourse, but, the events of the last week show that the sway of the Fifth Estate is gaining traction. Independent Australia (IA) and the aforementioned Margo Kingston are now providers of news, but not only news, but on the stories that would be filtered out of the Murdoch media, and both IA and Margo are attracting massive audiences which one would expect is to the detriment of the Murdoch media. They lead a number of long-established independent sites such as Andrew Elder, The Failed Estate, The Pub, Café Whispers, The Political Sword, Grog’s Gamut and more recently here at The AIMN where alternate opinions are awarded some voice.

In a democracy we need these alternate voices. Margo Kingston sums up why:

“Journalists used to be a bridge between the people and the powerful. Journalists used to be outside the circle but now they’re inside the circle. They’ve joined the powerful and this very dangerous for a democracy”.

“It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write.

Very true. Hence we need to make the Murdoch media irrelevant. And that’s not beyond us.

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12 comments

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  1. mdelmege@iname.com

    Talk of the Fifth Estate – this through today on the movie called “The Fifth Estate’. Sounds like another crapola job just like ‘We Steal Secrets’ which was another distortion of reality. A bit off track for this discussion on the MM or MSM but that’s just how they operate.

    http://rt.com/news/assange-fifth-estate-wikileaks-209/

    Yes the power of the media to influence. As they say …You (they) Can fool most of the people most of the time… They’ll have you thinking a clown is a winner and then convince you the winner was a clown. They’ll play with your head and have you thinking your friend is your enemy and your enemy your friend. Or whatever combination at the time is required. Of course it takes some time and the right actors who are happy to pay the price.

    But there are certainly some good blogs and sites around the world who can tell it like it is or at least give a more informed comment on particular events.

  2. Ken Atkinson

    The success or otherwise of the Murdoch empire is entirely dependent on advertising revenue, so as long as business continues to use his outlets to advertise, he will continue to be viable. The fifth estate has a role to play here by stealthily pointing out the “evils” of this man and his history and creating a sense of disgust with any company advertising their products or services in his publications. We have seen the short term harm added pressure can bring to the likes of 2GB with Alan Jones being black flagged. We must ensure continuous pressure on Murdoch in the same vein and bring about long term pain. We want business to think twice about using his publications to advertise. Much work to be done, but we are headed in the right direction. Vive le Revolution!!

  3. lmrh5

    Reblogged this on lmrh5.

  4. Pingback: The growing irrelevance of the Murdoch media | lmrh5

  5. horatio

    The advent of the pay wall has worked in favour of the fifth estate. Where once we accepted the small cost of buying the daily rag because it had a perceived value beyond its price. Now we can search for homes,cars,jobs online and have the advertiser pay that price why would we want to volunteer our bank details just to fill the recycling bin.

    I think this is a sweet spot for the fifth estate and I believe that users will be honoured to pay for this service in the future.

  6. Douglas Evans

    The Fifth Estate presents as one of a few anchor points around which to organize some sort of response to the threatening chaos – and I’m talking about more than the possibility that Abbott and his goons will win the coming Federal election.

  7. CMMC

    Horatio, I think Big Media have lost the classified advertising game on the WWW already.

    Gumtree.com is the only site I and others I know go to for buying and selling, employment and real estate.

  8. Mark

    Great article,
    Thanks Michael

  9. puffytmd

    I will never forgive the journalists who refused to correctly report Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership. As Andrew Elder in The Kings Tribune pointed out, it was the great strike by the MSM journalists, to refuse to report on Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government.

    “Kerry-Anne Walsh’s The Stalking of Julia Gillard is, at times, rushed and occasionally places conclusions ahead of proof, but it clearly demonstrates the undeclared strike of Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery against the Gillard government. They surrendered their role of reporting what it said or did until Gillard was brought down—the strikers did not care whether this happened by a return of Kevin Rudd, or Bill Shorten, or Tony Abbott, or anyone else, really. They banded together; there were no scabs or leakers in a campaign that lasted three long years. They got the result they wanted and are confirmed in the rightness of both their aims and methods. The downfall of the Gillard government saw the last big journalists’ strike in Australia’s history.”

    http://www.kingstribune.com/index.php/weekly-email/item/1844-the-last-big-journalists-strike

    Therefore I am on strike too.

    I will never pay for the media in which MSM journalists’ work appears. I refuse to buy newspapers or pay to go behind their pay-walls. When I see the journalists’ bylines, my eyes glaze over, and I just move on by.

    These journalists, who abrogated their own profession’s ethics to indulge in a vindictive campaign against Australia’s first female Prime Minister, can write words by the thousands, but I will not read them.

    (And I also use online advertising sites for buying and selling, not newspapers.)

  10. puffytmd

    I would love to see whatever the lawyers may have dropped to the cutting room floor on the Walsh book. But that will never be. Ditto Julia Gillard’s proposed book, I would not mind betting that really interesting stuff never sees the light of day.

  11. mark delmege

    ‘The latest from Australia’s only national, continuous news network, delivering factual, independent and opinion-free coverage of news.’ this from the ABC about itself from its website. On air you might hear a radio promo saying they are ‘agenda and bias free’ or words to that effect.

    It’s not true of course.

    They should be up for false advertising, misrepresentation or whatever. They give an overwhelmingly pro American (and neoliberal) viewpoint in their international news reportage. Whether it is financial or social news or from the front line in a war zone (or nearby) it’s a narrow distorted establishment perspective. They are as bad as Murdoch or and even (I would argue) worse as they pump out their hourly news-broadcasts and for most of their other programming.

    It’s not enough to simply blame Murdoch for our rotten media in Australia. The ABC is THE major ‘propaganda’ media outlet in Australia.

    (as for getting around pay walls the ‘Opera’ Browser has a trick if you know how.)

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