Digital Technology Challenging Media Moguls

Picture it, a democratic society founded on an ethos of free speech and open public opinion, encouraging a culture of healthy competition and informed citizenship. At the same time, imagine this society harnessed under an oligpoly of powerful media giants suppressing local institutions and dominating the public discourse with well-defined economic priorities which triumph public interests. Does this sound familiar?

Rupert Murdoch, James Packer and Kerry Stokes

Rupert Murdoch, James Packer and Kerry Stokes

Unfortunately, this is not another one of George Orwell’s chilling visions of a totalitarian world. Rather, it describes the contemporary Australian media landscape whereby the media moguls of Packer, Murdoch and Stokes and their dynasties Fairfax, Nine Network, NewsCorp, Fox and Seven, as well as players Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon (Turnbull, 2014) hold powerful positions as the purveyors of influence in political, economic and social life.

This centralisation of media ownership (Hart, 2008) is alarming given the potential for media owners to misuse their power to influence reporting (‘Democracy in Australia’, 2013), as seen by the blatant right-wing bias in the papers owned by Murdoch during the 2013 Federal election (McKnight, 2013). Such repressions on journalistic independence prompt further issues relating to media pluralism, as the loss of freedom of expression leads to a poorly informed public (Hart, 2008).

A well-known image from the Vietnam War

A well-recognised image from the Vietnam War

Yet the effect that media ownership, and thus coverage, can have on our ideologies is not a new phenomenon. During the Vietnam War, graphic footage broadcast across the country had an adverse effect on public opinion (McLaughlin, n.d.), with some veterans recalling being abused as baby killers, rapists and murderers on their return home (‘Aftermath’, n.d.).

In comparison, today’s digital era consists of multiple delivery channels, with the increasing concentration of media ownership (Hart, 2008) and the potential relaxation of regulations restricting cross-media ownership (Lynch, 2014) enabling content that is politically influenced, inaccurate, manipulated or biased to reach a far greater audience (‘Democracy in Australia’, 2013). This is evident in the viral image of a four-year-old Syrian boy apparently alone in the desert.

A second photograph, posted once again by UN staff, showed that the boy was straggling behind a larger group of refugees. (Sherwood, Malik, 2014)

Thus, while major media corporations can monitor, change and direct public discourse, because the Internet is so prolific, there will always be sources to find out the truth, which, coupled with the rise of citizen journalism and activism, will redefine and disrupt the parameters of media control.

Giverny
Reference List:
Turnbull, S., 2014, ‘Media Mythbusting: ‘Information Just Wants To Be Free’, notes from Lecture 4 of Communication and Media Studies at The University of Wollongong.

‘Democracy in Australia – Media concentration and media laws’, 2013, The Australian Collaboration, retrieved 28 March 2014, pp.1-2 <http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/Democracy/Media-laws.pdf>.

McKnight, D., 2013, ‘Rupert Murdoch and his influence on Australian political life’, The Guardian, retrieved March 28 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/07/rupert-murdoch-australian-election-2013>.

Hart, E., 2008, , ‘Media Ownership’ in
Media and Journalism, Oxford University Press, pp. 401-2, 404, retrieved 24 March 2014, <http://lib.oup.com.au/he/media_journalism/bainbridge2e/bainbridge1e_case06.pdf>.

McLaughlin, E., ‘Television Coverage of the Vietnam War and the Vietnam Veteran, The Warbird’s Forum, retrieved 29 March 2014, <http://www.warbirdforum.com/media.htm>.

‘Aftermath’, Australia and the Vietnam War, retrieved March 29 2014, <http://vietnam-war.commemoration.gov.au/aftermath/veterans.php>.

Lynch, J., ‘Coalition ‘sympathetic’ to relaxing restrictions on media ownership’, The Sydney Morning Herald: Business Day, retrieved March 28 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/business/coalition-sympathetic-to-relaxing-restrictions-on-media-ownership-20140309-34ff5.html>.

Sherwood, S., Malik, S., 2014, ‘Image of Syrian boy in desert triggers sympathy – and then a backlash, The Guardian, retrieved 29 March 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/18/image-syrian-boy-desert-un-refugees-tweet>.

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10 thoughts on “Digital Technology Challenging Media Moguls

  1. Hey Giverny! I really enjoyed your recent post ‘Digital Technology Challenging Media Mongols!’ I think the correlating images worked really well, especially the information of the four-year-old Syrian boy in the desert. It really exemplified your point on the media influence and representations. I like your ideas in the first paragraph however they are a little lost in the length on the sentence. Overall, nice read, well thought out and researched! 🙂

    • Hi Teika. Thank-you so much for your lovely feedback. I’m glad you liked the information on the misleading images of the Syrian boy. I find it amazing how media corporations can even manipulate a single tweet! I definitely agree about the first paragraph, I always seem to get too carried away! Thank-you for bringing it to my attention, I’ll be sure to change it. Kind regards, Giverny.

  2. Hi Giverny, I’ve really enjoyed your blog post ‘Digital Technology Challenging Media Moguls’! You’ve done really well in relating everything back to what we learnt and discussed in Week 4’s lecture. This post honestly has no fault, well done! Looking forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

  3. I really like that you took the story away from just the Australian political scene and spoke about the UN example, something alot of others haven’t done with this task! However what I most enjoyed about your post was the last paragraph; it is important that were all aware the truth is out there and we can source it if we are determined! Well done 🙂

    • Hi Breanna, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading my post and that you were able to take something away from it. I definitely agree that it is very much dependent upon one’s own motivation to source the truth amongst all the conflicting and ambiguous messages which the media constantly bombards us with. This is one of the brilliant things about the Internet – the media cannot possibly control everything! Thank-you very much for your comment and also your follow 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed reading your blog :), it was well supported by examples and quotes. Do we really know what is happening out there? We think we do, but these mass medias kinda only give us half the news. We may think that we have self created opinions but we are significantly influenced by these media.

    • Hi Rachael, thank you for your comment and the very thought-provoking questions you have posed in response to my post. I completely agree with you. We all tend to claim we have our own views independent of what we hear or are told, but somehow the media always seems to influence us in some way or another. 🙂

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