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!
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.