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The unbridled power of Rupert Murdoch

The #MurdochRoyalCommission is well under way, with reports arising yesterday that former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken to the Senate inquiry. Quotes from Turnbull's testimony have been circulating for 24 hours now, each more shocking than the last.

"[News Corp is] essentially doing the work of the terrorists"

Malcolm Turnbull to the Senate

The former PM spoke about a conversation had with media mogul Rupert Murdoch personally, which Turnbull's chief of staff was witness to. Turnbull states that Rupert Murdoch himself had a 'crazy agenda' to get Tony Abbott back into leadership. Tony Abbott who lost the position to Turnbull in the first place. Tony Abbott whose approval rating was a dismal 24% in 2015.

“There was this crazy agenda that Rupert acknowledged to me that was the push by [News Corp editor] Paul Whittaker, and apparently with Lachlan [Murdoch]’s support, which was that my leadership should be overthrown or damaged so that we would lose the 2019 election and Tony Abbott could come back as opposition leader and then return us to glorious victory in 2022.”

Malcolm Turnbull to the Senate

Turnbull wrote about these conversations in his memoir, however Murdoch's media outlets dismissed them, calling it a 'conspiracy'. He went on to talk about the power the Murdoch empire has in Australia, with recent statistics saying that News Corp owns 60% of all printed newspapers in Australia. In Queensland, it is well documented that Murdoch's News Corp owns almost all regional and rural papers. In 2020, many of these papers went digital and countless journalists and media professionals lost their jobs.

“The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal party or the National party or the Labor party, it is News Corporation”

Malcolm Turnbull to the Senate

Rupert Murdoch is Australian-born, but gave up his citizenship in 1985 to satisfy the legal requirement for US television network ownership. This leaves us with the question, why is he still allowed to have a media monopoly in Australia, a country he neither lives in, has a citizenship in, or seems to have much interest in at all? Rupert Murdoch doesn't vote in Australia, so why does he hold so much power over our politics? Malcolm Turnbull has made a similar statement to the Senate.

“And it is utterly unaccountable. It is controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with our own.”

Malcolm Turnbull to the Senate

It's particularly interesting that Turnbull is so vocally against Murdoch, as, historically, the two should have aligned political interests. It is, however, widely accepted that Turnbull lost the Prime Minister-ship and leadership of the conservative Coalition because his views were said to be 'too progressive' for the Liberal Party. Rumors have been circling around Turnbull since 2009, when multiple media outlets reported he was trying to 'jump the fence' and join the Labor party under Bob Hawke's leadership. What could have been a great strength for Turnbull (a centrist PM arguably should have been very successful in a nation split by politics and with many swing voters), ended up losing him the position.

The SMH has reported that paperwork has been filed that indicates the Murdochs may bring Fox News to Australia, making the right-wing US shows available to Aussie listeners. It was reported that Fox put in a request to the Australian trademark register for ‘Fox News International,’ the name of their streaming App, in February. If this eventuates, we'll soon be seeing even higher saturation in Australia.

So, what the F is next?

Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, and many others have pushed for the #MurdochRoyalCommission that is going on now in the Australian senate. The problem is that the Liberal National Coalition is in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch, which means the government in power won't be keen to stop or slow down News Corp (as evidenced by the News Media Bargaining Code).

The very best thing you can do is avoid reading News Corp media outlets, and instead support independent media outlets like Cheek Media Co. (which you're already doing, thanks!), Crikey, Independent Australia, Westender, and of course The Guardian and the ABC. Murdoch owns a lot more outlets that you might think (including The Daily Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Australia, and GQ. The Packers are another wealthy and powerful media family who own Fairfax, which has recently merged with Nine (Nine Entertainment has donated to the Liberal Party), and they own the SMH, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, and The Canberra Times.

Always check who owns the publication when you're reading a story, and tell everyone you know to do the same. Remember it's not a journalists' job to be unbiased - it's their job to get clicks.

For further information on Malcolm Turnbull's statements in the Senate hearing, read this article by the Guardian.