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Thursday, January 20, 2022
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Investigation: Australian Newspaper Saturation

Australia has long been the envy of most of the world as one of the most free countries on Earth. We boast a great multicultural society gifted with the freedom of speech many countries do not. Yet surprisingly our newspaper industry remains one of the most concentrated in the world, meaning all of Australia’s newspapers are owned by just a handful of individuals. 

In fact in 2011 Australia had the third most concentrated newspaper industry, with only Egypt and China sitting higher, who’s media is entirely state-owned. The HHI index is a measurement of market concentration. It ranges from 0 (least concentrated) to 10,000 (market dominated by a single owner). In this graph market concentration is based on circulation. Data for most countries is 2008 – 2011.

Source: Noam et al 2016 Who Owns the World’s Media? Media Concentration and Ownership around the World (Data for most countries is 2008 – 2011)


One of the few corporations to own a large chunk of Australian media is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. As of early 2021, News Corp publishes roughly 20 hardcopy newspapers and over 85 digital-only titles. Excluding weekend papers, News Corp owns 7 out of 12 national or capital city titles. That’s a staggering 58% of ownership. Even more concerning is that in 4 of these capital cities (Adelaide, Brisbane Darwin and Hobart), News Corp’s publications have no rival. 

So what does it all mean? What are the effects of having a highly concentrated media industry? A high concentration of the media market reduces social points of view, in regard to politics and culture. The media has a responsibility to represent the voice of minorities. This becomes difficult when only a handful of individuals own the vast majority of the media market, as their own personal agendas are more likely to be pushed onto their readers. 

The Impact of concentrated media in politics has been under the microscope in the last 12 months, as both sides of politics have united in an attempt to keep Rupert Murdoch and News Corp accountable for their influence over politicians in Australia. Former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull have led the way with heavy scrutiny over News Corp. Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into the matter led to a senate inquiry earlier this year. 

In his opening statement to the Senate Committee, Mr Turnbull supported Mr Rudd’s concerns that News Corp publications employed aggressive tactics against politicians.

“I’ve absolutely experienced bullying and stand over tactics from News Corp. You could fill a library with examples of it. And everyone on this committee knows what I’m saying is true, because you’ve all lived through it”, Mr Turnbull said.

“We also see the impact of the way in which News Corp has evolved from being a traditional news organisation, or journalistic organisation, to one that is essentially like a political party but it’s a party with only one member”.

“You see the way in which it is used in an aggressive, partisan way to drive particular agendas, whether it is fermenting antagonism and animosity towards Muslims [or to] campaign against effective action on climate change”.

The senate inquiry has been extended to 15th November 2021 and continues to host members of both News Corp and other organisations to uncover the complex issue of media diversity and its impact on politics in Australia.

A LOOK AT NEWSPAPER OWNERSHIP ON THE BELLARINE

Where do you get your daily news from? It’s evident the rise of social media and online news has depleted the need for hardcopy print news, yet there’s still roughly 10 newspapers citizens of Greater Geelong and the Bellarine might get their news.

Here at the Queenscliffe Herald we thought our readers would find it interesting who the major publications of the region are owned by. Are they independent, or are they under the control of multi-national organisations? 

Newspapers in this region come from three major organisations. News Corp are the owners of the Geelong Advertiser, The Australian (a national publication) and The Herald Sun. The Bellarine and Surf Coast times are owned by Times News Group, while Star News Group produces the Ocean Grove ‘Voice’ and the Geelong Independent.

Considering the context of Australia’s media saturation on a national level, when we look at the source of news in the Bellarine, things don’t look much different. Just three organisations own the vast majority of publications across the entire region.

While the Queenscliffe Herald is pursuing the new direction of becoming a promotional tool for events and tourism, it’s important to note we aren’t owned by an umbrella company. We are independent and free of ownership from greater powers. Our small team of three completely own it and take pride in being active in the community and promoting this region.

Sean Harken

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