Kevin Rudd Is Trying To End The Murdochs’ Media Control In Australia

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has launched a national petition calling for a Royal Commission into media ownership in Australia.

He singled out Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp describing it as a “cancer on Australia’s democracy”.

The announcement blew up on twitter and in just three days he had over 86,000 signatures.

So, what’s behind Rudd’s petition and could it mean the end to Murdoch’s media monopoly?

In this video posted to twitter the former PM publicly criticised Australia’s uneven media ownership.

Rudd spoke openly about abuses of power by media monopolies in Australia and unapologetically put the blame on one family in particular, the Murdochs.

He’s now calling on the Australian government to pretty much overrule Murdoch and to work on maximising the diversity of media ownership.

A Quick History Of Australia’s Newspaper Empires 

So, what actually is our history of media ownership? Who owns what, and who runs what?

Professor Sally Young (University of Melbourne): “In Australia we have a long history of the newspapers being very dominant in our media systems. So we have had television stations and radio stations owned by newspapers so that they were very mass media giants really.”

Newspapers have massively declined in recent years as a result of the internet.

But the industry has been completely shaped by our newspaper past, and Professor Sally Young told me that the Murdochs have been a huge part of that.

SY: “There’s been a 100 years of Murdoch power in Australia because Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith was originally a journalist and then became an editor of the Herald here in Melbourne, then expanded his power in terms of building up the Herald and Weekly Times empire in Australia. But of course, Rupert Murdoch has done much more than that and taken his power globally and has very popular tabloids in the UK and in the US.”

Murdoch’s Reach

Rupert Murdoch has long been thought of as one of the most powerful men in media. Right now, he owns roughly 70% of all Australia’s print media alone.

At its height, the Murdoch empire owned 21st Century Fox (which was sold to Disney in 2019), Fox News and Sky Television, in addition to numerous Australian newspapers.

This monopolisation put the Murdochs in a position to be able to wield some pretty huge political leverage. It also put them right at the heart of multiple corruption scandals.

It’s all of this that Rudd is calling out with his new petition. The media control, the political power, and the reportedly corrupt agendas.

And he’s not the first person to do so.

Mid-way through this year, Murdoch’s youngest son James actually resigned from the board of News Corp, saying stating that it was over disagreements of editorial content published by his family’s news outlets.

News Corp has become increasingly known for its climate change denial and support of Trump.

So, what happens now? We know the Murdoch media reach is vast, and Kevin Rudd has decided enough is enough.

Well, Professor Young explained to me that a Royal Commission into how this is impacting Australian democracy is probably unlikely to happen.

This is because the current government who usually benefit from News Corp’s political agendas, aren’t going to suddenly turn against their own support network.

SY: “It’s not a Royal Commission or government legislation or anything that will get rid of problems like this, where a family is trying to politically manipulate a country, that won’t happen. But what will happen is people will stop buying their products, people will stop listening to what they’re saying, and that’s already happening. And this shows them that this isn’t a successful commercial strategy that they are pursuing.”

Professor Young explained that newspaper companies used to have a dual purpose – to exert political power, and to also make money.

But now that newspapers are barely making any money, they are resorting more and more to politics. (The type of political power that right now looks like pitting politicians against one another on front pages, rather than focusing on the facts.)

The Takeaway

Professor Young believes that while Rupert Murdoch still holds a lot of power and a lot of money, what he doesn’t hold is the younger generations.

She argues that as long as we don’t become complacent, and if we remain vigilant about the repercussions of where we consume our media, then eventually the old media monopolies might die out.