Sarah Hanson-Young will move to establish a Senate inquiry on media diversity today, after more than 500,000 people put their name to a former Prime Minister’s petition for a Royal Commission.
Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s petition for a Royal Commission, coined the ‘Murdoch Royal Commission’, into the need for greater diversity in the media has been penned in Parliament.
Speaking to Guardian Australia, Senator Hanson-Young (pictured) said the “cosy relationship” between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinised.
“When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media the parliament should be listening,” she said.
Despite the Murdoch Royal Commission petition being taken to Parliament by Labor MP Andrew Leigh—after it garnered 501,876 signatures—the Australian Labor Party has not yet backed it.
The petition aims to draw attention to the concentration of ownership in Australia’s print media by News Corp, alongside investigating monopolies like Facebook and Google, and Nine’s takeover of former Fairfax outlets The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Rudd said he created the petition to start a national conversation about the Murdoch-owned media, which he described as “a cancer on our democracy”, a sentiment echoed by former Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull, who has backed the petition.
On the ABC’s Q+A this week, Turnbull said News Corp had become an organisation for “pure propaganda”, taking aim at its coverage of the Black Summer bushfires and its agenda on climate change denialism by pushing a narrative around “arsonists” being responsible for the fires.
A statement from News Corp distributed to the media denied this assertion, saying “only 3.4 per cent”—113—of its 3,335 stories about the bushfires had mentioned arson or arsonists.
“Australians have clearly become increasingly concerned about media diversity in Australia and the Greens share those concerns,” Senator Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia.
“We need to ensure we have a strong and independent public interest news industry to support our democracy.”
According to Guardian Australia, the Greens will need the support of Labor, the crossbench, and One Nation to get an inquiry established by the environment and communications references committee.
The committee would reportedly examine the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia and the impact it has on public interest journalism and democracy.
Issues to be covered under the scope of the investigation would include the access voters have to independent news, the impact of the closure of media outlets, and the reduction in the number of journalists across Australia.
According to Guardian Australia, it would also look into the barriers faced by small independent outlets and the role of newswires, like the Australian Associated Press, in supporting public interest journalism.
Senator Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia a Senate inquiry would provide an opportunity for the proper consideration of the impact Facebook and Google are having on media diversity, as well.
She said the US election had highlighted the need for truth in journalism and the need to call out unsubstantiated and false claims.
Featured image source: Facebook/Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
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