Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest person and most recent (and worst) poet says she “would like her voice to be heard”. This desire to ensure her interests are being represented in the press is what lies behind her recent corporate raids at Network 10 and Fairfax.
Rinehart now sits on the board of Network 10 and has a 14% stake in Fairfax. The ventures have highlighted the gross concentration of media ownership in Australia and the lack of a democratic and accountable media.
Eleven out of twelve capital city daily newspapers are owned by either Fairfax or Murdoch’s News Ltd. The others are effectively controlled by the owners of Channel 7. The rich and powerful make up the vast bulk of the shareholders of these outlets.
This narrow concentration of media ownership results in the views of the super rich dominating public debate. Ordinary people do not have the massive sums of money required to buy significant shares in media companies and as a result they have no influence over what news is reported and from which point of view.
A recent report found that public trust of the media in Australia is among the worst in the world at only 32%. This is compared to a global average of 49%. The only major countries ranking lower were the US and the UK, where the scandals engulfing Murdoch’s News Ltd. have shattered public faith in media reporting.
It’s clear that Rinehart’s recent moves to buy up big chunks of Network 10 and Fairfax are motivated by her huge stake in mining companies. She has been vocal in her opposition to both the mining and carbon taxes, and released a 7-point plan calling for lower taxes on mining companies. She also wants to slash environmental protections and use cheap foreign labour to undercut local workers hard won pay and conditions.
Clearly Rinehart would like to expand her ability to propagate these ideas. If these policies were even partially in place it would lead to her increasing her already colossal fortune (and possibly become the wealthiest individual on the planet!).
Editors at Network 10 have come out to declare their independence from the board of directors, attempting to dismiss claims that Rinehart is seeking to influence their editorial comment.
While the editorial staff may well be free from direct day to day interference they understand that it is the board that appoints editors. Boards always employ editors that adhere to certain political principles. If an editor refused to tow the line they would quickly find themselves replaced with someone more compliant.
It is no coincidence that the outlets of the capitalist press rarely report positivity about workers. Instead of hearing about hard working people who have been thrown out of work we hear about so called ‘dole bludgers’. Rather than being told about people who have suffered at the hands of an unfair system are told about how disadvantaged people are to blame for all of society’s ills.
On every occasion the news is reported from the perspective of the rich and not from the perspective of ordinary people. As Karl Marx said “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas”. This is in part because of their ownership of the media.
A new democratic and accountable media must be built by the organisations that represent the views of ordinary people. Trade unions and community groups must support independent media. This however must be accompanied by raising the need for the major media outlets to be brought into public ownership and under democratic control.
The idea of democratic control is to ensure public ownership does not result in a monopoly for the government. Rather it would allow access to the media in proportion to political or social support.
At the moment media and mining moguls like Gina Rinehart support undemocratic control of the media by a tiny minority of super-rich business owners. Socialists stand for taking the ‘production and distribution of information’ out of the hands of this minority and into the hands of the majority. This would be a step towards a genuine free press that would allow full freedom of discussion and decision-making.
By David Suter