Does it matter who owns the media?

The media is such a significant part of our lives. Everyday we consume various types of media- newspapers, magazines, television, social media and many more. The media content we consume influences our beliefs, values and actions. But have you ever stopped to think who owns the media content that you absorb everyday? Does it matter who owns the media?

Diversity of media ownership is declining globally. This is apparent in Australia, where media ownership is extremely concentrated. Australia’s largest media sources are owned by the following:

  • Channel 7 is owned by Kerry Stokes
  • Bruce Gordon controls WIN TV, Australia’s regional TV network reaching over 5 million Australians daily
  • Channel 9 is owned by CVC Asia Pacific- a private equity firm who also holds interest in NBN, Sky News, Ticketek and Ninemsn
  • Gina Rinehart is Fairfax Australia’s largest shareholder at 19%.
  • News Limited, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is Australia’s largest media company (Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Australian, news.com.au, NewsLifeMedia magazines)
  • Foxtel is owned by Telstra and James Packer through Consolidated Media (Kerry Stokes has a key stake in the business)

So many media companies with very few owners! But what does this mean for us?

Such concentration of media ownership evokes fear among the public; with the public’s predominant concern regarding diversity of views. Some fear that the limited range of owners will restrict the diversity of views portrayed on current issues. There are also concerns that media owners will push their views upon consumers through their publications. This issue has been raised regarding Gina Rinehart. Some stress that she will use her influence to sway editorial policy at notable publications such as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and various online sources.

Additionally, the concentration of media ownership prevents the media from fulfilling its role as a source of information and public forum. In order to successfully impart information, the media must provide various viewpoints and act as a forum for public deliberation. The media’s role as a forum allows the expression and representation of all political perspectives and provides access for those who wish to address the public. These forums enable citizens to express their opinions, hear new ideas and potentially be persuaded by other views. Having such limited ownership of media outlets impedes the representation of a diverse range of views. Hence, media should not be controlled by “special interest groups” (Malcolm Fraser).

In order to ensure that media ownership does not completely fall into the hands of very few people, The Australian Press Council (APC) was established. This regulatory body implemented the “2 out of 3 rule” to encourage diversity and prevent the concentration of the ownership of media outlets. This rule allows media companies to possess no more than 2 broadcasting licenses within a certain region. For example, Fairfax cannot acquire a commercial television license in Sydney or Melbourne as they already possess radio and newspaper licenses in these areas. However, due to the everchanging media landscape, these regulations are bound to change in the future.

To what extent does the media impact on your daily life? Do you think it matters who owns the media? Are regulatory bodies the solution to the problem? Let me know in the comments!

References

Department of Communications 2014, Media Control and Ownership Policy Background Paper, no. 3, DOC, Canberra, http://www.presscouncil.org.au/uploads/52321/ufiles/Control_Background_Paper_Australian_Government_Department_of_Communications.pdf p 18.

Goncalves, R 2013, ‘Factbox: Who Owns What in the Australian Media?’, SBS News, 3rd September 2013, viewed 7th April 2015, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/06/22/factbox-who-owns-what-australian-media.

Heffernan, M 2014, ‘Australia’s Media Ownership Rules Ripe For Change As Govcernment Report Calls for Rethink’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11th June 2014, viewed 7th April, http://www.smh.com.au/business/media-and-marketing/australias-media-ownership-rules-ripe-for-change-as-government-report-calls-for-rethink-20140611-39xeg.html.

Rowbottom, J 2010, Extreme Speech and the Democratic Functions of the Mass Media, in I. Hare and J. Weinstein (ed) Extreme Speech and Democracy, New York: Oxford University Press.

Josef Trappel and Tanja Maniglio, “On media monitoring – the media for democracy monitor (MDM),” Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, 34 (2009): 169-201.

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2 thoughts on “Does it matter who owns the media?

  1. Hey Marissa!

    Well done on your blog! I really enjoyed it and the information that was provided through your referenced sources. 🙂

    Firstly, to answer your questions in the post; Media affects my life greatly. Studying a degree that constantly includes using social media or the Internet, I believe ownership of the media is extremely important. They control how we first view subjects and have the power to display a story or event differently then how it exactly occurred, altering and differing our opinion and outlook of it. Regulatory bodies may not be the exact answer to the problem, (although at the moment I, myself am not quite sure of another to solve the issue) although they sure are a great first step in fixing, what could considered, a moral panic.

    When looking at the media and the overall control it has on a large population of the world everyday, it is certainly concerning when thinking about who is controlling these messages. Another side of the argument presented in your blog to consider, is the fact that because there are only a select few people or companies that own and control Australia’s overall media, there is the possibility that we are only ever presented with biased, one sided stories based on their personal beliefs and values. Now I know you touch on this in your post, although have you considered, amongst the pressure to ‘keep up’ and challenge different media outlets, platforms such as news papers; The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun and television channels: NBN and Sky News often present the same if not similar news content? This is not because the media sources have decided that they are ‘news worthy’ stories but rather because they are in competing industries and the idea is that is if they (one media source) can present the consumer with the same content and more, why should the consumer need to buy or watch it on a different media platform? In doing so we are then presented with the same views and outlook on events and content.

    The overall issue of media ownership has developed into a complex argument. Even with regulatory bodies, media and the ways in which it is available to us will continue to constantly change.

    Again, your blog was great! Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    – C

    Like

  2. I never really cared who owned the media I used, as long as it was there when I needed it, I didn’t have an issue with who was controlling it.
    The concern of media owners pushing their views on consumers through their publications has apparently also been seen with Rupert Murdoch, apparently he’s had a hand in helping a few prime ministers get elected.
    I completely agree that the media should not be controlled by certain people and that when publications are controlled by individuals does limit the viewpoints that are covered.
    To answer your question about how much the media impacts my life, the answer is a lot! I’m constantly online or looking through a social media site, Instagram is literally the first thing I look a in the morning(a bit sad I know :)) Really great post!

    Like

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