As the media is viewed as an intangible information and communication system, we can often forget that it is physically owned. Media is a multi-million dollar industry that, not dissimilar to most industries, is dominated by a small group of owners. Just as “umbrella” empire Cocoa-Cola owns multiple smaller companies, shareholders and business owners have taken hold of media entities that control multiple networks, newspapers and magazines, publishing houses, film companies and, more recently, social networks.
Media ownership in Australia is extremely concentrated. Most Australians will recognise the titles of Newscorp and Fairfax Media who, together, own all major newspapers within the country. Newscorp is owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose media web expands internationally and comprises of multiple media platforms such as Foxtel, The Daily Telegraph and Vogue Australia (to name a few of many). Lachlan Murdoch, heir to the Murdoch enterprise, has holds in news providers such as Nova and Network Ten. Additionally, Gina Rinehart staked millions of dollars in shares in Australian media, only recently selling out of Fairfax.
So what does this mean for the Australian media consumer? With the spread of media ownership growing increasingly smaller, bias is definitely a rising concern. Not only is it about what is being printed, it’s also about what information isn’t being revealed. Traditionally, journalism has been ethically rooted in impartial communication; that is, delivering fact without attempting to persuade society towards a certain opinion. However, as information became more corporately owned, proprietors have been able to control the reveal of information and direct stories in the way they choose. There have been many allocations made against Murdoch publishing his own version of the truth, as written in Independent Australia, portraying the media they own as a tool to be manipulated:
‘…the Australian Journalists Association, in a submission to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, alleged that Murdoch was an autocratic and unprincipled proprietor who demanded that his lackeys publish distorted accounts of the news when it suited him.’
This would be more accepted and inconspicuous if each media organisation was separately owned, as it would provide media consumers with a range of differing opinions. As the diversity of media ownership declines, so does variety in representation, resulting in a concentration of ideological exemplification.
In theory, information should not be taken ownership of and should be freely accessible. In reality, the trade of information has turned commercial and can be manipulated by those with the power to do so. Modern media is dominated by the government, publicity and scandals, with public relations monitoring communication with the public through various platforms. Media seems to be becoming less controllable as it expands, with technology providing several different access points for the divulging and consumption of information. Never before have there been so many providers of media; technology has allowed the average media consumer to also become the producer, whether this is through blogs or social media websites.
Whilst there are definitely owners of media corporations such as broadcasting networks and newspapers, the online sphere is unattainable of such ownership, and is overtaking traditional journalism as the platform for society accessing mass media. This evolvement poses the question; are we the new owners of the media?