Undoubtedly, as most of you are users of various platforms of social media you may well have encountered from time to time the hashtags #ThisIsNotJournalism and #MediaBias. Some of you may have dismissed the articles accompanying these two hashtags as just progressive politic gripes, whereas others of you may have read the various articles, Tweets, and posts. I would kindly ask you consider in full my article, and before you wave me away as being a Labor Party supporter with a gripe, may I say at the outset media bias has been a problem in this country for a very long time, and over the last 50 years I have witnessed media bias which includes a period in which the Labor Party benefitted from such bias.
When I was a young man of about 13 years of age, I remember discussing with my late mum the Dismissal of Gough Whitlam by Sir John Kerr. We had moved onto the subject of the media’s role in the Dismissal, and our discussion occurred against the background of the 1983 Federal Election having been called, and there were elements of the commercially owned media stoically fighting for the return of the Fraser Government. My mum being the intellectually honest academic which she had been told me, “Murdoch helped get Gough elected in 1972 and then he had Gough comprehensively voted out at the 1975 Federal Election.”
For those of you querying the second component of this quotation you should be reminded Mr Fraser immediately called an election after the Dismissal, and at the 1975 Federal Election the Coalition won 91 seats out of the 125 seats being contested. My mother’s comment intrigued me, and even though the broader ownership of media back in 1983 meant political opinions varied on television and in the newspapers, I still recall my mum and stepdad shaking their heads about the 60 Minutes interview conducted with Bob Hawke as being biased reporting from the Packer camp to favour of Mr Fraser.
Of course, we cannot forget the late Richard Carleton during the ABC Nationwide program on 3 February 1983 asking the late Mr Hawke when he assumed the role of opposition leader if he had “blood on his hands?” Mr Hawke berated Mr Carleton for such a ridiculous question, and rightly so. During the subsequent golden era of Hawke and Keating reforms, the Labor Party did benefit from media bias, hardly surprising given the wealth which was being created at that time. Nevertheless, it was not to extent we are witnessing now in favour of the Liberal Party, and that relationship with the media started to sour when Mr Keating granted the pay television licence to Mr Murdoch’s company over Mr Packer’s media interests, and with that Mr Packer turned on Mr Keating (Source: ‘Keating’, by Kerry O’Brien).
The genesis of my desire to write this article arose because of the very lopsided and biased reporting in favour of the Liberal Party in what was the first week of 2022 Federal Election campaign. The Labor Party leader Mr Anthony Albanese did suffer a moment of forgetfulness on Monday regarding the number of unemployed Australians (which is a questionable figure that I have previously reported on in my Facebook post on 13 April 2022) and the cash rate, but he took ownership of the mistake that same day, and we all saw former Prime Minister John Howard dismiss it as a trifling matter until the Liberal Party machine got up him for the rent (to quote the colloquial term for being upset) to form an unconvincing contrary view the next day. As an example of the biased reporting in favour of the Liberal Party, there I was sitting in the waiting area at Belmont Hospital before my ECT on 14 April 2022, and on the television screen they regrettably had The Today Show on. Ms Alison Langdon asked the Deputy Labor Leader Mr Richard Marles how he felt about Mr Albanese losing the election for Labor that week. Not only was that biased reporting in favour of the Liberal Party, it also overlooked numerous problems which had arisen for the Liberal Party that week, as well as the prior history of Scott Morrison’s lies, character and incompetence – which I wrote about in a two-part series on The AIMN on 13 April 2021 and 14 April 2022.
Subsequently, since 14 April 2022 the standard of reporting the 2022 Federal Election has not substantially improved, and I shall refer to those facts in due course.
Before I address the key component of this issue, being media bias in favour of the Liberal Party during the current campaigning of 2022 Federal Election, I would like to remind you all about the critical current weaknesses in one foundation stone of our democracy, being the Fourth Estate, namely the concentrated ownership of media in Australia and our poor Press Freedom Index (‘PFI’) rating. As of this 17th day of April 2022:
1 Presently Australia is ranked in the 25th position out of 180 countries in the 2021 Press Freedom Index (‘PFI’). What is wrong with that you say? Well, to be totally candid with you, a lot! When the first PFI was compiled in 2002 we ranked 12th out of 139 countries, and our now AUKUS alliance partners (founded 15 September 2021) the USA were ranked in 17th position and the United Kingdom in the 21st position. Moving the hands of time back to 2021, the countries which outranked Australia on the PFI included Namibia, Samoa, Suriname (located in between Guyana and French Guyana in South America), and Estonia to name a few.
2 As there does not appear to be a PFI before 2002, I can only assume (yes, I know, it makes an ass out of u and me) Australia was in the top ten before the decline occurred under the Howard Government, particularly as they introduced cross media ownership laws in 2006 which permitted an owner of a metropolitan newspaper to own a television station (prior to that you may recall Paul Keating said, “you could be the queen of the screen or the prince of print, but you couldn’t be both). The legislative amendments introduced by Mr Howard accelerated the sad decline of concentrated cross-media ownership in Australia, and the quality of the news presented to us. The Murdoch News Corp stable and Fairfax waged a war against suggested amendments to media regulatory rules the Gillard Government suggested in 2011 to address the advent of the internet, and to introduce a new media standards body with teeth which would enforce fairness, accuracy, and media codes. (Source ABC ‘The history of media regulation in Australia’ 6 October 2015.) Subsequently, in 2017 the Turnbull Government further relaxed media ownership rules, which has led to Nine Entertainment (‘NE’) being able to purchase Fairfax print media.
3 You may not have noticed it because of the mainstream media being consumed by reporting the disturbing developments with the Covid-19 pandemic, but early in 2021 the Morrison Government introduced the News Media Bargaining Code, which essentially imposed a tax on Facebook and Google so that large media empires like News Corp and NE could be paid for snippets of their news posted on Facebook, and in relation to Google search engine optimisation, once freely dependent on clever headlines, could now be owned or controlled by large mainstream media suppliers, such as the Liberal Party’s good friends, News Corp. (Source: Independent Australia article by Michelle Pini, 25 February 201).
4 In relation to the concentration of commercially owned media ownership now, regarding:
(a) our old ‘idiot box’ of television, the:
- Nine Network (including other digital channels 91, 92, 93, 94 and 99 as well as affiliates WIN Television, Southern Cross Television, and Imparja Television) broadcasts to each capital city and it is owned by its parent company NE, which of course has as its Chairperson Mr Peter Costello, being the former Federal Treasurer in the Howard Liberal Government.
- Seven Network (which also includes digital channels 71, 72, 73, 74 And 76 affiliates Southern Cross and WIN Television) which is the second largest television network in Australia, and it is owned by Seven West Media Limited (‘SWM’) which has as its Chairperson Kerry Stokes. Mr Stokes also personally owns under his private company Australian Capital Equity mining, construction, and petroleum interests and thanks to Seven Group Holdings (Mr Stokes stepped down as chairperson of Seven Group Holdings in 2001) he also owns a cattle empire of more than a million hectares (Source: the Australian Financial Review (‘AFR’) 28 September 2017). SWM also owns Yahoo!7 which combines the Seven Network’s content with Yahoo!’s search and online capabilities.
- Network 10 (includes affiliates in Southern Cross Television, WIN Television, Mildura Digital Television, Tasmania Digital Television, Darwin Digital Television, Central Digital Television and West Digital Television), which is owned by Ten Network Holdings which in turn is owned by the American company Paramount Global. Network 10 broadcasts to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth.
- Foxtel, which is owned 65% by News Corp Australia (‘NCA’)(a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, incorporated in Delaware) and 35% by Telstra. Foxtel broadcasts Sky News Australia (which is owned by Australian News Channel Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of NCA) on its pay TV service in the Australian capital cities, whilst distributing its news to regional Australia on digital terrestrial television by Southern Cross Austereo (‘SCA’) (owned by Macquarie Bank and others) and Win Television (which is owned by Birketu Pty Ltd and chaired by former Network 10 shareholder Bruce Gordon).
- Australian Broadcasting Service (‘ABC’) which is totally funded (or underfunded as Dear Old Aunty is now) and the Special Broadcasting Service (‘SBS’) which is a hybrid funded Australian public broadcaster 80% funded by the Federal Government.
(b) the radio (still surviving after the Buggles famous song), which if we put to one side the major publicly funded stations of the ABC or hybrid funded SBS, is otherwise made up of the following networks:
- Australian Radio Network (‘ARN’) which is a group of commercial radio stations around Australia including Pure Gold, KIIS Network, CADA and iHeartRadio. ARN is owned by Here, There & Everywhere (company) (‘HTE’), which includes as one of its largest shareholders NCA. HTE also owns a 50% share in Nova 93.7 Perth, along with the other 50% owned by NOVA Entertainment (‘NOVA’) which is 100% owned by Lachlan Murdoch’s Illyria Pty Ltd (‘Illyria’).
- NOVA which owns numerous FM radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth, including Nova and smoothfm, as well as non-network radio Coles Radio, Star 104.5, FIVEaa and KIIS 97,3. There are also the online services of nova.fm. smooth.com.au, fiveaa.com.au and star1045.com.au. As discussed above, NOVA is 100% owned by Lachlan Murdoch’s company Illyria.
- NE which of course is chaired by the former Liberal Party Federal Treasurer Mr Costello, and it owns 2GB, 2UE, 3AW, Magic 1278, 4BC, 4BH 6PR, 6GT and NTS.
- Southern Cross Austereo (‘SCA’) (parent company is Southern Cross Media Group owned by Macquarie Bank [owned by the Macquarie Group] and others) which owns multiple FM radio stations which are part of the Hit Network and the Triple M Network across metropolitan and regional Qld/NSW/ Vict/WA, the ACT, Hobart, Adelaide, and Mount Gambier. SCA owns numerous regional television stations in NSW, the ACT, the Northern Territory (‘NT’), Qld, South Australia (‘SA’), Vict, and Tasmania. SCA also broadcasts across 13 digital radio stations, including the various Triple M themes of music, as well as many internet radio stations.
(c) Newspapers that are owned by:
- NCA, which owns The Courier Mail (‘CM’) and Quest Community Newspapers (‘QCN’) (which on 26 June 2020 became an online news service only although many of the QCN publications ceased to exist from this date), The Gold Coast Bulletin (‘GCB’), The Australian (‘Aust’), The Daily Telegraph (‘DT’) and NewsLocal (which became an online newspaper under the DT masthead), The Herald Sun (‘HN’), The Advertiser and Messenger Newspapers in SA and The Hobart Mercury (‘The Mercury’) in Tasmania.
- NE which owns The Sydney Morning Herald (‘SMH’), The Age and the Australian Financial Review (‘AFR’).
- The West Australian (‘TWA’) and The Sunday Times (‘ST’) which are owned by SWM.
- The Canberra Times which is owned by the Australian Community Media (‘ACM’). ACM also publishes 160 regional newspapers including The Land and Queensland Country Life. ACM is owned by the former chief executive of Domain, Antony Catalano (50%) and billionaire Alex Waislitz (50%).
(d) Online publications which not only include 7, 9, 10, the ABC, SBS, NCA’s newspapers including news.com.au, and The Guardian.
I have set out quite an extensive list of media ownership in Australia, but as you may see from the above list of media outlets, three names appear regularly. Murdoch (whether it’s Rupert’s NCA or Lachlan’s Illyian), SWM (or Kerry Stokes), and NE which of course has as its chairperson Mr Costello. So, you can see where we are heading given the concentration of media ownership in Australia, regarding television, newspaper, radio, and online publications.
As I discussed earlier, media ownership laws were opened to a certain degree by the Hawke Government in 1986, which were overseen by Paul Keating. Although the Hawke/ Keating reforms paved the way for television networks to be formed, no media corporation was able to own simultaneously a metropolitan newspaper and a television channel. Critics of the 1986 reforms argue it paved the way for NCA to acquire 70% of the market share of newspapers, but despite that criticism it still was the case up until the Howard Government fully opened the floodgates in 2006 for cross media ownership (Source The Monthly article by Robert Manne November 2006), an owner of a metropolitan newspaper could not own a television station.
Which brings me to the present. I mentioned above The Today Show comment made by Ms Langdon on 14 April 2022, which was not only biased in favour of the Liberal Party, but it is also overlooked some very key facts about the Liberal Party’s first week of campaigning (I mention these matters at the conclusion of my article). The Today Show is of course the breakfast television show delivered to us each day by NE’s channel 9. My wife told me when she picked me up from hospital on Thursday, she had looked at the CM for that day, and she was shocked by the degree of biased reporting against the Labor Party and Mr Albanese in that publication. My Facebook and Twitter friends have also brought the following biased reporting either in favour of the Liberal Party or anti-Labor (this is not the entire list of biased reporting) on:
- 9 April 2022 whilst we were waiting for Mr Morrison to call the election, once he had of course exhausted our money on government advertising and getting his captains picks in line in NSW (oh how has that come back to bite #MorrisonMustGo on the backside) NE’s 9News online published a report by Mr Charles Croucher at 7.46am, the headline of which was “The ‘devastating line’ in Labor’s character assassination of Scott Morrison.” Mr Croucher, I think you need to read the news reports closely, or perhaps you have a case of Senator Hume, as Mr Morrison’s poor character was being called out by members of the Liberal Party.
- 12 April 2022 The Mercury printed on its front page a picture of Mr Albanese next to a large banner headline which read “Albo Who?” For crying out loud, there isn’t a person alive in Australia who doesn’t know who Mr Albanese is, about where he started in life to rise by this stage to be a former Deputy Prime Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, and soon to be our Prime Minister.
- 13 April 2022 NCA journalist Samantha Maiden in a podcast (Source news.com.au 13 April 2022 at 12.51pm) said, “One of the criticisms of Anthony Albanese, which is not unreasonable, is that he hasn’t really had a career in what you might describe as the real world.” Dear oh dear Samantha, and where is your commentary about Mr Morrison’s reported dismissal from Tourism Australia, or the Tourism NZ questions etc etc? I would much rather have a person of Mr Albanese’s character than Mr Morrison’s!!!
- 12 April 2022 the leading political correspondent in the nation Ms Laura Tingle reported for 8 minutes on the ABC program ‘730’ the many issues of the past 3 and bit years (I shall deal with these below) which militate against Mr Morrison being the right person to lead Australia. The usual suspects of the NCA, Mr Bolt and Mr Henderson, hollered in disapproval supporting Mr Morrison and calling for Ms Tingle to stand down, when all Ms Tingle did was 100% correctly quote the facts of the many issues which call into question Mr Morrison’s character and ability to lead (Source The Advertiser 14 April 2022).
- 14 April 2022 TWA’s frontpage headline about Mr Albanese was ‘Does He Know His A*** From His Albo?’ The TWA did not report on the front page the Labor Party’s announcement to restore Medicare by funding 50 urgent care clinics across the country, a matter of greater importance about leading this country in the right direction than the juvenile commentary of the TWA about Mr Albanese’s press conference.
- 14 April 2022 the AFR’s Phil Coorey completely misleading article about focus groups leaning towards Mr Morrison over Mr Albanese, when the groups only consisted of 5 people in each group. Don’t expect Roy Morgan to be offering Phil a job anytime soon. NE’s The Today Show of course ran with the Phil Coorey story that morning, just to add to Ms Langdon’s ridiculous commentary directed at Mr Marles.
- 14 April 2022 the NCA’s Herald Sun online not to be outdone for its biased reporting against Mr Albanese claimed in their online article about the unfortunate car crash Mr Morrison’s security detail were involved in was, “It comes after Anthony Albanese has backflipped on offshore detention centres.” What the actual? Mr Albanese did nothing of the sort that day, other than confirming an Albanese Government would continue to turn back the boats (for the record, the weaponisation of refugees by Mr Howard, Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison makes me sick to the bottom of my stomach).
- 14 April 2022 the ABC’s Mr Andrew Probyn on 730 continuing to refer to Mr Albanese’s loss of memory on the morning of 11 April 2022. Now, Mr Albanese had taken ownership of that memory loss moment, and Mr Howard (before the Liberal Party machine got to him) had said that same day on 11 April 2022 “so what.” You only have to study social media platforms to quickly realise the country is of the same view, so what, it was a memory fade. Where is your mention Mr Probyn of Mr Morrison having a more important brain fade at the National Press Club in February 2022 when he blatantly displayed a “who cares” attitude about him not knowing the price of bread, milk, and petrol?
- 15 April 2022 SWM channel 7 breakfast show Sunrise (I dislike breakfast television, but I watch it for the specific reason of bias) ran an over-the-top article about the Labor Party being in crisis over the outcome of the first week of the campaign. The reporter making these claims even thought it would assist her histrionics by reading out the headlines from each NCA metropolitan newspaper. The only political party in crisis by this time was the Liberal Party, as Mr Morrison was refusing to make Ms Deves stand down for her terrible views about transgender people, and Mr Morrison breaking a key election promise of the 2019 Federal Election regarding establishing a Federal ICAC.
In relation to the biased reporting in favour of the Liberal Party and against the Labor Party, as I previously said the above-mentioned facts are just a sample of the media bias. To be fair to NE, on 15 April 2022 the front page of the SMH heavily criticised Mr Morrison for abandoning establishing a Federal ICAC, a promise which he made at the 2019 Federal Election. The SMH also included on the front page a very derisive criticism of Mr Morrison by the SMH Editor for breaking this important 2019 Federal Election promise. The day beforehand the AFR published an article about how stage-managed Mr Morrison’s campaign is, including the fact they had not seen him meet with ‘real’ members of the public, only the staged Liberal Party supporters. I have not seen any evidence of the same newspaper reporting from NCA or SWM. Whether the NE stable of newspapers continues this reporting during the remainder of the campaign remains to be seen, but hopefully they teach Mr Coorey to count to five before 21 May 2022. I have also avoided criticising the ABC too much, apart from referring to Mr Probyn’s silly comment above, as for the past 9 years the ABC’s funding has been under attack, and we know a senate inquiry delivered a report prior to the 2019 Federal Election which confirmed there had been political interference with the ABC.
As you the reader may be aware, the Labor Party has a more ambitious policy agenda than the Morrison Government to reduce our emissions and manufacture renewable energy here products here. What many of you perhaps don’t know is the degree of business interest Rupert Murdoch reportedly has had in fossil fuels since 2010, the alleged misreporting by NCA and NE of how much tax mining companies have paid since 2010 and how much the Liberal Party are wrapped up in the toxic web of fossil fuels:
- In November 2010, Genie Energy, as a division of IDT Corporation, announced Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild had each purchased equity stakes in Genie Oil and Gas, and would join Dick Cheney on Genie Energy’s Strategic Advisory Board. The purchases were reportedly “equivalent to a cumulative 5.5% stake in Genie Oil and Gas Inc., which consists of IDT’s interests in American Shale Oil, LLC.. and Israel Energy Initiatives, Ltd… for a total of $11.0 million dollars.
- The Murdoch clan’s second company is buying a major global oil and gas data reporting website called Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).
- Mr Morrison is again running an election script prepared by his advisors Crosby Textor. The firm Crosby Textor was founded by Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, and the firm has lobbied for the powerful oil and gas association APPEA (in Queensland, NSW, and WA), and been involved in conservative election campaigns in Queensland (Newman), the UK (David Cameron & Theresa May) and NZ (John Key). Queensland Senator James McGrath previously worked with Crosby Textor in the UK. Crosby Textor also reportedly stage-managed Mr Morrison’s 2019 Federal Election campaign.
- Then there is the question which arose in June 2021 as to NCA, NE and the Morrison Government’s Mining and Resources Minister Mr Keith Pitt being allegedly duped by the Minerals Council of Australia (‘MCA’) in consistently repeating the alleged misleading claims of the MCA regarding how much money the mining industry was contributing to the Australian economy, only to be caught out by Michael West Media (‘MWM’) about the significant GST refund the mining industry receives as an exporting industry, allegedly it is approximately $80B in refunds over the previous 10 years. The MCA, as well as the editors of the Aust and AFR, were approached by MWM but they allegedly did not respond to that media organisation’s questions. MWM’s investigations also reported the former CEO of the MCA Mr Brendan Pearson was allegedly given a senior role in 2019 by the Morrison Government regarding international trade, after Mr Pearson was allegedly forced out as the Chief Executive of the MCA in 2017 when BHP took issue with Mr Pearson’s alleged pro-coal and anti-Paris Agreement lobbying.
- May I ask you to shift your focus now to AGL, an energy company which has continually been in the news during these early months of 2022. It’s reported in Climate & Capital Media (‘CCM’) that in 2017, Australia’s then Minister for the Environment and Energy (now treasurer) Mr Josh Frydenberg, allegedly made calls to AGL board members, not to insist the company speed up emissions reductions but for it to sack its CEO, American Andy Vesey. In the same CCM report it is also alleged Mr Vesey had been hired to navigate the company’s coal transition and by all reports was doing just that. So well in fact that he was apparently moving too fast for the pro-coal government and, after the phone calls, abruptly left the company and returned to the U.S. A year later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly demanded AGL keep its aging Liddell coal plant for an additional 20 years despite its derelict state. This is an incredible intervention by a government in a publicly listed company. Some have called it bullying. CCM also reports in the same article the various NCA media, Australia’s biggest media owner, relentlessly parroting pro-coal rhetoric with cries of “save the jobs!” “Power prices will skyrocket!” and “China will take over!” NCA have previously been the subject of reports of allegedly publishing anti-renewable energy articles as long ago as 2014.
Now, I don’t have any evidence from employees of NCA, NE and SWM which suggests NCA, NE, SWM are persistently attacking the Labor Party with biased reporting because of any connections with the fossil fuel industry, but we do know from the above-mentioned reports the Murdoch clan allegedly do have an interest in fossil fuels, and Mr Stokes has some interests in mining (the type of mining is still under investigation by me) so it’s arguable any policies which expedite the reduction of the use of such fuels may be contrary to the Murdoch’s and Mr Stokes other business interests. What we do know is that on 9 December 2021 Labor and the Greens recommended a judicial inquiry with the powers of a royal commission be formed to conduct an inquiry into media diversity and NCA. Both the Labor Party and the Greens want this inquiry to be conducted to address the current outdated regulatory framework. A judicial inquiry could compel evidence from witnesses and be conducted at arm’s length. That bipartisan approach to attempting to cure the decline of the standards of reporting and ownership of our media, a decline which has eroded our faith of the Fourth Estate, may certainly be a significant policy issue which collides with the media business interests of NCA, NE and SWM.
Finally, these are the key facts of the 2022 Federal Election which have either not been properly reported by our media, or totally forgotten in relation to Morrison Government:
- The payment to Ms Miller of $500,000.00, which even Ms Miller has called upon Mr Morrison to provide the true reasons for such a large payment being made to her.
- Mr Morrison’s failure to establish a Federal ICAC, and his feeble excuses for not doing so.
- The Morrison Government’s mishandling of the 2019 Bushfires (including Hawaii), the pandemic, aged care and the 2022 floods.
- Mr Morrison’s character regarding his history of lies as Prime Minister (see Part 1 of my article link above Scott Morrison’s Lies, Character and Incompetence), which includes him lying to us up to 10 April 2022 about Mr Tudge no longer being a member of cabinet.
- Mr Morrison’s character regarding the fresh evidence matters raised by Mr Michael Towke on The Project.
- The Morrison Government’s poor economic record, including how we have accrued $1Trillion in debt (also doubling the debt before the pandemic) without any positive economic benefits arising from that debt, their failure to foresee the economic consequences of increased inflation from the shutting down of supply lines and their failure to develop Australian manufacturing (including electric cars and solar panels) so that we are not so reliant on China and India for secondary level manufacturing purposes.
- Mr Morrison’s interference in the NSW Liberal Party, including his captains pick of Ms Deves who holds such concerning views about trans gender adults and children.
- The Morrison Government’s national security and foreign affairs failures regarding our Pacific neighbours and leasing the Port of Darwin to China.
- The Morrison Government’s lies about climate change steps they have taken, and their failure to implement a proper climate change policy.
This is not an exhaustive list of the matters the media should be extensively covering regarding the Morrison Government, being the worst government in our history which is also being presided over by our worst Prime Minister, but it sure would be a good start for the media to focus on these issues, and Labor’s policy announcements, if we wish to see some ‘balance’ in coverage of the 2022 Federal Election.
We are witnessing media bias in the 2022 Federal Election campaign, and it certainly isn’t journalism.
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