A petition launched by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, calling for a Royal Commission into the diversity of Australian news media, has racked up more than 270,000 signatures in just 6 days.
“In less than 6 days, a quarter-million Australians have signed up for a #MurdochRoyalCommission. Keep spreading the word! Remember, your signature has NOT counted unless you receive a confirmation email from Parliament House AND clicked through the link.”, the former PM said in a tweet.
Mr Rudd shared the petition over the last weekend, calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch media empire over monopoly.
“Australians have watched with growing anger at what the Murdoch media monopoly is doing to our country. A cancer on democracy. Today I am launching a national petition to establish a #MurdochRoyalCommission. If you value our democracy, please sign here“, he said in a tweet.
Nearly 20,000 people had signed the petition within the first 24 hours after it was launched on Saturday morning with the sudden surge in traffic to the Australian Parliament website triggered automatic cyber protection that restricting submissions.
The petition reads:
“Our democracy depends on diverse sources of reliable, accurate and independent news. But media ownership is becoming more concentrated alongside new business models that encourage deliberately polarising and politically manipulated news. We are especially concerned that Australia’s print media is overwhelmingly controlled by News Corporation, founded by Fox News billionaire Rupert Murdoch, with around two-thirds of daily newspaper readership. This power is routinely used to attack opponents in business and politics by blending editorial opinion with news reporting. Australians who hold contrary views have felt intimidated into silence. These facts chill free speech and undermine public debate. Powerful monopolies are also emerging online, including Facebook and Google.
We are deeply concerned by: mass-sackings of news journalists; digital platforms impacting on media diversity and viability; Nine Entertainment’s takeover of the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald; News Corp’s acquisition (and then closure) of more than 200 smaller newspapers, undermining regional and local news; attempts to replace AAP Newswire with News Corp’s alternative; and relentless attacks on the ABC’s independence and funding. Professional journalists further have legitimate concerns around unjust searches, potential prosecution, whistle-blower protection, official secrecy and dispute resolution that should be comprehensively addressed. Only a Royal Commission would have the powers and independence to investigate threats to media diversity, and recommend policies to ensure optimal diversity across all platforms to help guarantee our nation’s democratic future.”
“We therefore ask the House to support the establishment of such a Royal Commission to ensure the strength and diversity of Australian news media.”
Note: Unlike many other countries, there is no signature threshold or procedure that would force the Australian Parliament to debate a petition.