This week has been a momentous one in Australian news media. The two largest print media corporations (Murdoch's News Ltd and Fairfax) have both announced major restructuring leading to more than 3,000 job losses. Furthermore, the world's richest woman and Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart has announced her intention to take a controlling share of the beleaguered Fairfax. Rinehart has made it clear that her goal is not profit, nor public service but influence, and she intends to exert editorial control, refusing to sign the Fairfax Media Charter of editorial independence. The implications of these changes are wide ranging and yet the precise shape remains uncertain. Rinehart is a noted climate dissenter and fierce opponent of the government's superprofits mining tax. I am no particular fan of Fairfax media, but am not feeling very confident that it will improve under Rinehart. Indeed, if I look at the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) pieces I've linked to over the last few years, I wonder how many would have made the cut under Rinehart's hand. Perhaps we may have little difficulty anticipating more voices like Andrew Bolt and his serial disinformation. It will be interesting to see whether those like Elizabeth Farrelly or Ross Gittins remain.
The week's events have only made me feel more favourably towards The Conversation (which I introduced back here), a not for profit news media site set up by CSIRO and five universities (with a few other corporate partners) that runs ad-free, is editorially independent and with nearly all contributions by accredited experts in the subject who have to declare all potential conflicts of interest next to their article. And just today I've realised that they also publish all their material under a Creative Commons license, meaning it can be republished for free (under certain very non-onerous conditions).
Here are some perspectives on these developments that appeared this week at The Conversation:
Malcolm Fraser: Does it matter who owns our papers? Yes it does.UPDATE: GetUp are running a simple survey on public attitudes towards Fairfax, which will take less than 60 seconds.
Malcolm Fraser was Australian Prime Minister between 1975 and 1983 for the more conservative of Australia's two main parties.
Stephan Lewandowsky: Rinehart’s tilt at power is bad news for public debate.
David McKnight: Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch: a study of power in the media.
Andrew Jaspar: Fairfax or Gina-fax? Let’s have the debate before it’s over and Media earthquake: panic, disinformation, and competing visions at Fairfax and News.