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News Corporation: time to go

By Alan Austin - posted Thursday, 7 July 2011


Rarely is a nation faced with a malicious influence which it has the chance to eradicate. Such is Australia's luck today with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, owner of The Australian, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Brisbane's Courier-Mail, Melbourne's Herald Sun and other 'news' outlets.

The Murdoch network in Australia has moved irretrievably away from being a legitimate news provider. It must go.

Essential to free enterprise and democracy is access to information free of distortion. Newspapers are free to say what they will in editorials and opinion pieces, of course. But news data must be untainted.

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Most Murdoch publications now openly spruik for conservative politics. Not just in the opinion pieces, but news pages as well. The starkest examples are in the relentless campaign against Labor's economic stimulus packages.

The last time I paid for Melbourne's Herald Sun, 11 March 2010, I happened to be speaking that evening in Melbourne on the media. We read the front page story about hot water units provided to a country sports club, headed in capitals 'YOUR MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN'.

Everyone in the room was furious at the appalling ineptitude of the Government as 'revealed' in the report. We then listened to Jon Faine's interview earlier that morning on ABC Local Radio with the club president. Point by point, he dismissed every 'damning fact' as a damnable lie. At the end of the interview, the meeting was seething with anger at the Herald Sun.

The essential elements of the report were simply untrue. This is not a trivial misdemeanour. The Herald Sun is the largest circulation paper in the country. Readers pay for information. What they are sold instead is systematic deception. While international economists marvel at Australia's success in averting economic disaster as the GFC hit and while environmentalists applaud, the Murdoch media just lie about the programs.

Most Australian journalists honour the Media Alliance code of ethics. All twelve points are now routinely violated by Murdoch employees.

Reporters at Brisbane's Courier-Mail have been dutifully using the news pages to drive a campaign on tracking sex offenders which targets Premier Anna Bligh. In an email from news director Emma Chalmers leaked to Crikey, Chalmers requested 'the support of the whole newsroom to keep the campaign going'.

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Last November, Herald Sun reporters in Melbourne lied about their identity to ensnare politicians in a British tabloid-like sting. This trashed the last remaining vestige – point 8 – of the Alliance code of ethics: 'Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast.'

Several recent developments have marked Rupert Murdoch as the head not just of a network of unethical reporters, but of an organisation whose reporters engage in criminal activity.

News International in April this year admitted liability and 'apologised unreservedly' to public figures for the criminal offences of hacking telephones in Great Britain.

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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