As the first witness at a parliamentary inquiry into media diversity in Australia, former prime minister Kevin Rudd opened up last Friday about his fear of Murdoch when held the nation’s top job.
“The truth is, as prime minister, I was too fearful of the Murdoch media beast. That’s just the truth of it. I could pretend that I wasn’t, but I was,” he said.
His comments further hint at how our democratically elected government has become a hostage to the media overlords.
“The Murdoch media monopoly is the monopoly which dare not speak its name. We can’t mention the M word, because we know it invites retribution”.
Mr Rudd went to describe the Murdoch media empire as a “monopoly” that has operated through a “culture of fear”.
“Everyone’s frightened of Murdoch. They really are. There’s a culture of fear across the country,” he added.
“What the Murdoch mob is after is compliant politicians who won’t rock the boat, and in fact even better if provide them with taxpayer dollars.”
“When did I stop being fearful? Probably when I walked out of the building in 2013,” he said.
Mr Rudd also delivered a hair-raising assessment on the inner-workings of the media overlord who he met “many times” and described him as with “three-fold” “interests”.
“One, money. Tax minimisation as a result of that, two, minimum regulation. … Three, power and ideology”
You can watch the full video here.
So how compliant is the current Morrison government? Are they fearful too?
One interesting point here is Mr Rudd also discussed PM Scott Morrison’s ousted predecessor – former Coalition PM Malcolm Turnbull’s fear of Murdoch as well. Mr Morrison held multiple senior positions under Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
” I’ve spoken with Malcolm Turnbull about this a lot in recent times. Malcolm in his period as prime minister was fearful of the Murdoch media beast in terms of what it could do to us as political leaders in our own country – because of their capacity to not just determine the national agenda and conversation on a given day in a given week, fully deploying the heavy artillery of 70 percent of print ownership to do so, but [also] then to go after you individually if in any way you rock the boat in terms of their core monopolistic interests or ideological projects”.
Before you draw a conclusion about the media tycoons’ influence on our current government, it is important to add that the parliamentary inquiry above comes amid the Morrison government’s push to further empower Murdoch and other media moguls.
If we look at the government’s proposed law (which forced Facebook last week to disable news in Australia, yes government blames Facebook for this) called a news media bargaining code, it is easy to understand that it is simply devised to implement a transfer of power [and money] from Google and Facebook to the media moguls.
Under the bill, only large publishers obviously owned by Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and Peter Costello are eligible for the payment from the tech giants.
Who has lobbied for the law? Well, the mandatory code has been lobbied for by Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch has been one of the Google’s most vocal critics, having previously called for the company to be forcibly broken up.
The code has been described by both Facebook and Google as “unworkable” as it is poorly written, misunderstands how technology works and it essentially requires tech giants to pay to government-nominated news companies to deliver them traffic, ad revenue and subscriptions.
The reality is that platforms like Facebook and Google only show the free teasers like ads that publishers use to draw traffic to their sites.
On this, Mr Rudd told the parliamentary inquiry the proposed media bargaining code simply will entrench the power and reach of the “Murdoch mob”.
Yes, for everyday Australians, both media empires and BigTech have too much power, but if forced to chose between them, BigTech is probably a safe bet. At least our elected government is not too fearful of the BigTech.
However, it seems subsiding Murdoch is an urgent national priority at the moment. Fear rules.
After a full day’s Senate hearings where the Murdoch media denied they were a monopoly, what do his tabloids deliver today in 8 different cities? The same cookie-cutter article published in 8 different papers! They really take us for fools. #MurdochRoyalCommission pic.twitter.com/O3uyKHh29p
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) February 20, 2021
Grade-A hypocrisy from Minister for Murdoch, Paul Fletcher. Today, he's scurrying around telling the Murdoch media that he'll oppose #MurdochRoyalCommission. But last week he was adamant that American billionaires shouldn't dominate the flow of information. Which is it, minister? https://t.co/KVCa0esMAj pic.twitter.com/YQTD00UCZb
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) February 22, 2021
— Mollie (@lilbirdey) February 18, 2021
Google just announced a deal with News Corp. I hate this. It means that media blackmail works. It sets a terrible precedent for the net. It gives Google yet more power over news. It is a win for the devil, Murdoch. I really hate that.
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) February 17, 2021