The mass media is a force of grate power, as he who controls the flow of information, controls the extent of knowledge. So when it comes to the control and ownership of the media magnitude can be a dangerous thing. Yet, even with knowledge of this danger being well known, Australia’s distribution of media ownership is one of the most concentrated and disproportionate in the world.
Australia’s media ownership is so heavily concentrated that there are only really to major corporations in control of news media, News Corp and Fairfax. Together they own 11 out of the 12 capital city daily papers. News Corporation, controlled by the Murdoch family own: 25% of Foxtel, 70% of the metropolitan daily news market as well as a stake in channel 10. Fairfax control: 21% of the metropolitan daily news market, several magazines, such as Business Review Weekly, and the radio station 2UE. These are just a few examples of the extent of their empires. (source: Media Ownership and Regulation in Australia’, Rob Harding-Smith)
So what does this magnitude of concentration mean to us? Why does it matter who controls the media?
The answer to this stems from the concept of Ideology. Ideology is a system of ideas or beliefs. It represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence. With Australia’s media being owned primarily by the Murdoch family, there is no doubt they have an influence over the ideology of everyday Australian’s, as they control what information we are exposed to. Filtering of information prevents us from forming individual opinions as we are unable to see the full picture. This grants the Murdoch family the power to influence public opinion and even elected governments. Diversity of media concentration prevents this from happening as this gives consumers exposure to many different viewpoints and interpretations allowing them to form their own system of beliefs. If all news is based on opinion it does not give audiences the facts to decide things for themselves.
One of the best examples of just how strong the medias influence over peoples beliefs is the story of Orson Welles’ 1938 theatrical radio narration of ‘The War of the Worlds‘. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins and as a result some listeners, took it to be actual news. There were several accounts of widespread panic over the belief that an actual alien invasion was taking place. This story, as crazy as it sounds, just goes to show that people often base their beliefs on what they here and see on the news. So it can be said that news has a substantial impact ideology. This is why ‘who controls the media’ is a matter of unprecedented importance.