On Wednesday, November 11, the Australian Senate voted in favor of an inquiry into media monopolies in the country with the focus certain to be on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The move to hold an inquiry was proposed by Green Party senator Sarah Hanson-Young and was passed with the backing of other opposition groups. Hanson-Young announced the Senate decision on Twitter. Even though the conservative ruling bloc of the Liberal-National Coalition did not take a stand, they did not have the numbers to block the move either.
The decision comes less than a week after a petition by ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd attracted over half a million signatures from across Australia. The investigation moved by the Senate does not mention Murdoch or News Corp, but primarily focuses on the monopolies in Australia, how they influence the democratic process in the country and the challenges it poses to public broadcasters and the digital media landscape.
Breaking: The Senate has agreed to establish an Inquiry into media diversity following the record breaking petition promoted by @MrKRudd.
Australians have become increasingly concerned about the concentration of media ownership and the power and political influence of Murdoch.
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) November 11, 2020
Speaking to the Guardian Australia, Hanson-Young said that the “cosy relationship between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinized. When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media the parliament should be listening.”
“We need to ensure we have a strong and independent public interest news industry to support our democracy,” she added.
While launching the petition Rudd stated that “Murdoch has become a cancer – an arrogant cancer on our democracy.” The petition called for a royal commission investigation into the Murdoch-controlled media holding a virtual monopoly over print media in Australia. The petition also accused the News Corp press monopoly of having a chilling effect on “free speech” and of undermining ”public debate”. It also included signatures of former conservative parliamentarians including that of former conservative prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Even though the Rudd’s own Labor Party leadership hesitated to take up the petition and to support the demand for a royal commission to the parliament, the Green Party took charge of pushing for the petition’s demands. Labor, nevertheless, supported the Green Party’s move for a Senate inquiry.
News Corp is a multi-billion international media conglomerate that has major control of mainstream media viewership and runs major conservative and center-right newspapers in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, apart from Australia.