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.