Canberra Report: Diversity in the media's ownership is key for a voice

There are few things more fundamental to our democracy than diversity in media ownership. 

The owners of media organisations – newspapers, television, radio and online have a great capacity to influence community views.  This gives them great power and the ability to use their influence in ways contrary to the national interest.

Recent suggestions that Rupert Murdoch was demanding the removal of a democratically elected Australian Prime Minister are a case in point.  So much power in one or a few hands is a threat to our democratic model.  Many counties – including Australia – have laws to maintain diversity in media ownership.  Some will remember former Prime Minister’s Paul Keating’s pronouncement that media owners could be “Queen of Screen” or “Prince of Print” but not both.  His laws enforced that principle but Malcolm Turnbull’s Government recently watered them down.   Rupert Murdoch’s empire extended no thanks.

The other fundamental tool in maintaining ownership diversity is our public broadcaster.  But the ABC cannot hope to play a role in ensuring we have many media voices if it becomes a voice only of the Government of the day.  That’s one of many things that make recent events so controversial.

The ABC must be fiercely independent.  As soon as it starts taking directives from the Government it ceases to be so.  Its journalists, commentators and panellists must be able to express their views. Worse, when ABC management starts sacking journalists at the insistence of the Government of the day it loses its independence, its reputation and its influence.

The taxpayer funds the ABC so that it does not rely on any advertisers for its revenue.  Those who purchase advertising tend to expect more than an ad in return and too often, media outlets are happy to accommodate them.   But what will protect our ABC from undue influence from Government in the future?  That’s the key question now and the Government must be able to provide us with re-assurance.  Asking one of its own Departments to investigate recent events won’t cut it.

We need an independent inquiry into the events that led to the sacking of the ABC’s CEO and its Chairman.  Only then can we be assured new frameworks will be put in place to protect the ABC’s future independence.

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I continue to receive a high volume of emails about the live sheep exports.  Hopefully readers know I have supported the phasing-out of the cruel trade. The science is clear; the industry is unable to ship sheep into the hot and humid northern hemisphere summer while also meeting reasonable community expectations on animal welfare.

Last week I travelled to Western Australia to – among other things – meet with sheep farmers.  I want to make sure all that is possible is done to help them transition to a new business model.  Ideally, that new model will be focused on more domestic sales and value adding here in Australia.  That will also mean more Australian jobs.

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I thank the many who attended my most recent Seniors Forum.  At each of the forums I encourage those in attendance not to wait until I’m holding an event to raise with me problems they may be having.

All of my details are below.  If you have a problem of a Federal Government nature and you think I or my office can help you with, make contact immediately, don’t wait.

Email: Joel.fitzgibbon.mp@aph.gov.au, Ph: 49911022, Address: 3 Edward Street Cessnock 2325. 


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