Senate votes to hold media diversity inquiry after record-breaking Murdoch petition

Sarah Hanson-Young says the popularity of Kevin Rudd's petition for a royal commission into the Murdoch media empire shows people are growing increasingly concerned about media diversity in Australia.

Sarah Hanson-Young has urged the Prime Minister to take action over the allegations.

Sarah Hanson-Young has urged the Prime Minister to take action over the allegations. Source: AAP

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's push to establish an inquiry into media diversity in Australia will go ahead after being backed by the Senate.

A motion by the Greens senator went ahead without opposition from the federal government on Wednesday.

The review is set to focus on the dominance of the Murdoch media empire, the influence of media concentration on democracy and challenges faced by news outlets in the modern digital landscape.


It comes after more than 500,000 people signed a record-breaking petition calling for a royal commission into Murdoch's media outlets including News Corporation.

The petition, launched by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, 

Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Hanson-Young said the popularity of Mr Rudd's petition had highlighted the increasing concern of Australians about media diversity in the country.

“The cosy relationship between the Coalition Government and News Corp should be scrutinised,” she said. 

“When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media, the Parliament should be listening.”

'Need for truth in journalism'

Senator Hanson-Young said protecting a “strong and independent” public interest news industry was needed to protect Australia’s democracy. 

The inquiry is set to raise similar concerns to those being put forward in Mr Rudd’s calls for a royal commission. 

This includes seeking to examine the current state of public interest journalism in Australia and barriers to Australians accessing reliable, accurate and independent news.

It will also look at the effect of media concentration on democracy in Australia as well as the impact of Australia’s media ownership laws.

The significant changes witnessed to media models through their transition online and the influence and impact of global platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter will also be examined. 

“The US election has highlighted the need for truth in journalism and the need to call out unsubstantiated and false claims,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

Another former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has also publicly supported Mr Rudd's petition.

The pair have warned Australia is on the American path to deep division unless Rupert Murdoch's hyper-partisan media operations are kept in check.

Mr Rudd has labelled the Murdoch media empire a “cancer on our democracy” calling for a “national conversation” into the power and influence of its media concentration and conservative political agenda. 

According to Mr Rudd, 70 per cent of Australia's print readership - and virtually every newspaper in Queensland - is owned by Mr Murdoch.

The newspapers owned by Murdoch's News Corp include The Australian, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, and the Courier Mail.

Overseas, it owns publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the United States, and The Sun and The Times in Britain.

Mr Murdoch also controls Fox Corp.

Mr Turnbull on the ABC’s Q+A program this week said News Corporation had become a source of “pure propaganda” exacting damage through its political agenda and promotion of climate denial.  

In a statement, News Corporation has denied these assertions questioning the basis of Mr Turnbull’s claims. 

The Senate inquiry is set to report back by March next year.

3 min read
Published 11 November 2020 at 1:47pm
By Tom Stayner