This week, Jenna Price and I published a small Australian Centre for Independent Journalism study on the coverage of the phone hacking scandal in Australia on The Conversation a new publishing venture from the Australian university and research sector.
This weekend, I was on ABC24's program One on One being interviewed by Jane Hutcheon about why I think an Australian media inquiry is necessary.
As the phone hacking scandal blew up in Australia where News Corporation controls 70% of the metropolitan audience in the most concentrated media in the developed world, News Ltd CEO John Hartigan assured the public that nothing so heinous as phone hacking would ever happen in Australia. There was no evidence to doubt his word, but it seemed to me that each media context was different. News corporation is a integrated global company. Some stories got by phone hacking by News International were certainly published here. There were also other questions to which it would be useful for Australia readers to have answers.
There is debate about whether we should have an Australian inquiry into the media and in particular News Ltd which controls 70% of our print media and chunks of our sport and TV industries. I would have thought with arrests of News executives for criminal and corrupt activities and investigations into whether the company is 'fit and proper' to hold licenses, an inquiry would be on the agenda. Some journalists disagree, fearing that an inquiry could lead to state control. Those of us pushing for an inquiry need to be clear on the issues it should explore and what we hope to get out of it.
Why does Australia have such a concentrated media and such a weak system of self-regulation for media owners? To help make sense of all this, I made a brief timeline of media regulation in Australia. You can find it here in New Matilda.
Back in the early seventies, Murdoch even opposed the foundation of an Australian Press Council ( APC) funded and controlled by the media organisations. He later joined by then withdrew after a finding of bias against one of his newspapers. News Corporation later rejoinedfter the APC did not pubicly oppose his takeover of the Herald and Weekly Times. This was a crucial step which made him the dominant media boss in Australia. He was assisted by some political mates who were disgruntled with media company Fairfax's investigative journalism.
Today I published a piece on News Corporation, phone hacking and implications for Australia. I was surprised by how easily commentators and reporters in Australia were prepared to accept that the key issue for us is whether phone hacking actually happened at News Ltd papers in Australia.