“Whoever owns the media, owns the message…”
(Hart, 2011, p 402)
To be honest, who is controlling the media rarely crosses my mind as I go about from day to day. After all, I’d assume that most of the population would be comfortable with the information we receive from the media. Why not trust it? It is essentially our primary source of information, but this is precisely the reason why we should care.
It’s been brought to my attention that the concentration of media ownership has increased. In Australia, the main 5 media corporations are;
- John Fairfax Holdings Ltd
- Rural Press (chairman John Fairfax)
- APN News and Media
- News Corporation (chairman Rupert Murdoch)
- WA Newspapers
(Hart, 2011, p 408)
It seems inevitable that with a lack of diversity of media ownership there is a lack of diversity within the media. We’re only provided with a specific side of the story. It’s easy to assume that big media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch have their own agenda and therefore a particular point of view to be presented for our consumption. The effect of media control has even been associated to the extent of propaganda, with the idea of big media bosses casting a shadow over the media industry.
This article, Media ownership: ‘controlling the news’ in a fragmenting industry, deals with both the effects of media ownership in relation to Australian democracy and the public. It’s apparent that we as the public need to be exposed to a variety of perspectives to inform our own opinion. But in the current media climate, this is not the case (Hart, 2011, p 402). So if only particular perspectives are represented due to the exclusivity of media ownership what happens to the quality of journalism?
“Communications and Law scholars Scott Beatie and Elizabeth Beal (2007) predict a ‘less critical media … a media ‘more geared to entertainment…'”
(Hart, 2011, p 408)
This is certainly seen in the case of Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the London Sun in 1969, which re-furbished the British newspaper with attention to the 3 S’s “sex, sport and sensationalism.” The realisation here is that people obtain satisfaction from media content when its entertaining to them. This study of the uses and gratifications of the media was first carried out by ‘Frankfurt School’ member Herta Herzog. Her 1941 study ‘On Borrowed Experience’ lead to understanding why people interacted with certain media types and what they received by the experience.
Murdoch was named the most influential Australian by the Bulletin magazine in 2006. Editor Gary Linnel described the media giant as, “close to being the most powerful unelected person on earth” (Hart, 2011, p 401). The fact that we, as the public, don’t visit a ballot to vote who’s in charge of media industries begs us to ask, why do we let them have so much power? This relates back to our use, and in someways by purchasing or tuning into various media sources are we in fact casting our vote to keep media moguls in control?
Citation: Hart, E (2011), ‘Case Study 6: media ownership’ in J Bainbridge, N Goc & L Tynan (eds.), Media and Journalism: New Approaches to Theory and Practice, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne Victoria, pp 400-408