several examples of interventions by Australian media owners Keith
Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch, Frank Packer and Warwick Fairfax (Windschuttle
1988, pp. 264-5).
Rupert Murdoch is well known for
this. He controls two-thirds of the newspaper market in Australia
(Brewster 1996) as well as one third of the market in Britain
through ownership of three of Britain's largest daily national
newspapers and two of its largest circulation Sunday papers. He
also controls extensive satellite broadcasting in dozens of countries.
His Star satellite service beams television to 220 million people
in Asia.(Abramsky 1995, p. 16; Gomery 1996, p. 52)
His Fox network in the US is fast
becoming a fourth major commercial television network in the US
and Fox is moving into cable television with a news service that
it hopes will rival CNN, which Murdoch is reported to consider
"too liberal" (Gomery 1996, p. 52). Murdoch's media empire also
includes book publishing companies in Australia and the US, Festival
Records, 20th Century Fox as well as interests in computer software,
offshore oil and gas and air transport (Franklin 1994, p. 34).
According to journalist Sasha
Abramsky, Murdoch "hasand usesthe power to make British
politicians, and to break them unless they toe his line." Murdoch
papers gave Margaret Thatcher "glowing press" throughout her rule
and Murdoch received a knighthoodone of the few non-British
citizens to do so. Thatcher received a "lucrative" book contract
from Murdoch's book publishing firm HarperCollins (as did Newt
Gingrich whose contract was for $4.5 million). His papers, says
Abramsky, "have consistently opposed the peace movement, trade
unions, progressive social programs... while supporting the death
penalty, lower taxes at any cost and hawkish foreign policies."
(1995, p. 16)
The mechanism of control generally
exercised by media proprietors is through the appointment of editors,
"who become the proprietor's 'voice' within the newsroom, ensuring
that journalistic 'independence' conforms to the preferred editorial
line" (McNair 1994, p. 42). The power of the media is not just
through its editorial line but also in covering some issues rather
than others, some views but not others. It is this power that
makes politicians so reluctant to cross the large media moguls
and regulate the industry in the public interest:
In this sense, the media
have enormous power over national elections... those candidates
who are placed on the media's agenda have a chance to win; those
that are ignored languish. Those issueseither policy or
personalwhich the media spotlight become the yardsticks
for measuring candidates. When candidates receive heavy (and favourable)
publicity, their campaigns flourish... (Lichter and Noyes 1995,
They also have power to influence
the policies that elected governments implement and plenty of
reason to exercise that power. "In recent years, media companies
have been among the most profitable businesses" in the US. (Lichter
and Noyes 1995, p. 4) Chomsky points out:
What is at issue is not
the honesty of the opinions expressed or the integrity of those
who seek the facts but rather the choice of topics and highlighting
of issues, the range of opinion permitted expression, the unquestioned
premises that guide reporting and commentary, and the general
framework imposed for the presentation of a certain view of the
world. (Chomsky 1989, pp. 11-12)
1995, 'Citizen Murdoch:
The shape of things to come?', Extra! Nov/Dec.
Brewster, Deborah, 1996, 'News
calls for media ownership deregulation', The Australian,
Chomsky, Noam, 1989, Necessary
Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (London:
Franklin, Bob, 1994, Packaging
Politics: Political Communications in Britain's Media Democracy
(London: Edward Arnold).
Douglas, 1996, A
Very High-Impact Player,
American Journalism Review July/August.
Lichter, S. Robert and Richard
E. Noyes, 1995, Good Intentions Make Bad News: Why Americans
Hate Campaign Journalism (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield).
McNair, Brian, 1994, News and
Journalism in the UK (London and New York: Routledge)..
Windschuttle, Keith, 1988, The
Media: A new analysis of the press, television, radio and advertising
in Australia, 2nd ed (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin).