The International Federation of Journalists today warned that changes in media law that open the door to more media concentration in Australia would be “bad news for democracy and bad news for journalism.”
The IFJ says the changes will reinforce the global trend towards media monopoly while threatening the traditional diversity of Australian media.
The Federal Government claims to have reached a parliamentary deal to pass its controversial Media Ownership Bill, which will lead to big media corporations getting bigger and more cross ownership between newspapers and television.
“This will be bad news for democracy and bad news for journalism,” said Christopher Warren, IFJ President and Federal Secretary of the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. “The four big media companies will become two. Reducing media power to a choice few may augur well for advertising and economic gain, but this simultaneously destroys the fundamental values of a democratic society.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says that unless it is given a specific brief to look at diversity of opinion as recommended by the productivity Commission in its 2000 report it will be powerless to intervene except when a takeover leads to concentration in the advertising market.
The response by the IFJ and its Australian affiliate reflects the global impact of national changes. On June 2 the US Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 to support the demands of big communications corporations against the protests of consumer, religious, trade union, community and public interest groups across the country.
Similarly, as detailed in a recent publication by the European Federation of Journalists – “Foreign Ownership in Central and Eastern European Media: Ownership, Policy Issues and Strategies” – levels of media concentration and foreign ownership are rife in these countries as well.
With one of the most concentrated media industries in the world, the legislation due to be debated in the Senate this week will allow Australia’s big media companies to get bigger. In this way, “easing existing rules will further reduce the scope for alternative opinions to be heard and will increasingly place these corporations outside the orbit of democratic accountability,” said Warren.
The passing of this bill in Australia would only serve to destabilize the quality of public broadcasting and add fuel to the fire of the hostile ideals of conglomerates such as News Corporation and CanWest. To this end, “if the legislation succeeds in the Australian Senate, it will be the final triumph of lobbying by vested interests over good policy,” said Warren.
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