Can the Internet Combat Australia’s Media Monopolies?

The internet is a powerful player in the variety of media sources Australians can attain, but the real question lies in how it can affect the worrying imbalance in Australia’s media ownership. Before launching into this complex arena, we must clarify the nature of such an imbalance.

It is irrefutable that Australian media is monopolised by the likes of News Corp and Fairfax, but what’s more outstanding is Australia’s concentration of media ownership in comparison to other countries. An online article by the AIM network referenced a survey on international media concentration conducted by Professor Eli Noam at Columbia University. As one of the 26 countries involved, Australia proved to be one of the most concentrated. This was illustrated by the fact the survey revealed that News Corp was responsible for 59% of all sales of daily newspapers in Australia, whereas in the United Kingdom it was only 24%. This is one of the many statistics in the survey that reaffirm Australia’s prominent media concentration, especially in print.

On the other hand, the internet has truly established itself as a worldwide powerful communications platform, but whether it is a reflection of or potential weapon against this media monopoly is debatable. One could argue that the power of companies like Newscorp and Fairfax could be resisted in our ability to now look up any independent media source at the click of a few buttons. As former Prime Minister Malcom Fraser wrote in 2012: “Here [on the internet] we can find diversity. It is more and more readily available; it will certainly mitigate the coming lack of competition that will be evident in the Australian print media.” So a choice in media sources is definitely available to the Australian public, but this is based on an ideal. For a resurgence of online media diversity to come to fruition in our society, the public would have to initiate their choice to invest in independent media sources. Whether people would do this is debatable, some may and others may not. Despite the internet’s potential, there is an argument in the fact that the aforementioned companies still hold power and the internet is bound to reflect that. Therefore, consumers may just automatically click on the popularised links when, say, they search “news”. The first link to appear is news.com.au, owned by none other than News Corp. Of course not every Australian would do this, many would actively seek links to a news source that they follow, but the diversity of readerships in Australia’s news is ultimately still reflective of its media monopolisation. The aforementioned AIM article states that the internet has “failed to seriously challenge the influence of global media oligopolies,” but is that really a failure of the internet, or of the people who use it?

So the real argument doesn’t lie in the internet’s potential to support diverse media ownership, but whether this potential will be tapped into. And if media monopolies remain unchallenged by it, then the debate lies in who is really accountable: the media tycoons, the Australian public, the government or perhaps it is a shared responsibility. Have your say by commenting below.


Read the Signs

Lowe China Campaign Image 2014

Lowe China Campaign Image 2014

This highly evocative advertisement is effective in its purpose and speaks with an implicit power. This is clear in the analysis of the denotations and connotations of its components. First of all, the image depicts a motorway landscape, with overpasses designed for a heavy traffic flow. The fact that the roads are essentially empty presents an unusual circumstance, connoting an eerie atmosphere. Furthermore the smog in the sky highlights the stark nature of this location. One would presume it to be in a Chinese city due to the signifiers in the bottom right corner of the image, Chinese characters.

The salient image of this ad. is seen in the woman, tactfully standing slightly left of the centre. The ad. continues to draw attention to her in lining her body up with the parallel vector line of the concrete support for the overpass. Furthermore her blue outfit and bold red and black street sign contrasts with the grey environment she is situated in. All of these visual techniques work together to highlight the meaning of this ad., that being what the woman signifies.

Lowe China Campaign Image 2014, Close up

Lowe China Campaign Image 2014, Close up

The connection can be made instantly: a one-armed woman holding up a 40 speed limit sign, a signifier in its most literal sense. The sign contextualises the cause of her lost arm, as the target audience would presume that she lost in a car accident. The specificity of the sign details this context, confirming the exact nature of her car accident: speeding. However this image is open to some interpretation, whether the woman was going over the limit or a law-abiding victim is a mystery. Her ethnicity in conjunction with the Chinese characters grounds the campaign in a Chinese context.

The eerie atmosphere mentioned above works in conjunction with the amputee to create mood, as both are recognisable but something is still amiss. The creepy edge to this image is intending to signify a message of warning and fear, a caution for drivers and pedestrians to pay attention to road signs. This point is accentuated by the boldness of the road sign against the still, monotonous landscape; impossible to be ignored by the viewer. Furthermore the vector lines of the distant overpasses are level to that of the sign, drawing the viewer’s eyes back to it and the woman. The overpass in the foreground also causes our gaze to travel across the image.

The seriousness of this message is connoted by the woman’s blank facial expression. Her clothing is quite comfortable, making her seem even more out of place as she looks dressed for a day around the house. This highlights how accidents can happen to any ordinary person, and that no one is invincible. Simultaneously, the vulnerability this evokes returns to the eerie mood of this ad.

This image is simple and effective and when unpacking the semiotics behind it we can gain a fuller appreciation of how this ad is able to communicate its message so clearly. Therefore, it comes as to no surprise that this image was a part of a 2014 campaign by Lowe China for Shanghai General Motors and Buik to raise awareness for road safety, taking out a Gold Lion at Cannes. To view more images from this campaign, click here.