The Murdoch media is, as former prime Minister Kevin Rudd has stated several times, a cancer on democracy, especially Australia’s1. He has called for a Royal Commission into the media via a petition to parliament, which when the petition closed at 11:59pm, November, 4, 2020, had over 501,000 signatories2. The fact that over half a million people out of a population of 25 million signed this, clearly demonstrates that a large proportion of the population understand the danger to Australian democracy that the Murdoch media pose. While half a million out of 25 million is only 2% of the entire population, it is in reality a much larger proportion as there are many people who because of age (both old and young) would not or could not sign.
The way Murdoch media endanger democracy in Australia is by operating as a political party while pretending to be a news organisation. Murdoch acts in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests and his far-right anti-science ideological world view. In the UK, Murdoch made Brexit possible because of the position taken by his papers and their omitting mentioning the lies told by Johnson and Farage. In the United States, Murdoch’s Fox News is the political echo chamber of the far right, which enabled the Tea Party and then Trump’s hooligans to take over the Republican Party1. In Australia, as in America, Murdoch has campaigned for decades in support of tax cuts for the wealthy, killing action on climate change, and more recently, denying the seriousness of Covid-19, as well as attempting to destroy anything approximating multiculturalism, while using the dog whistle at every opportunity. The unique and disturbing feature of Australia is that Murdoch owns two thirds of the country’s print media. No other democracy allows anything approaching such a dominance of their print media.
I do not subscribe to any Murdoch news media, but I occasionally get sent some of their depredations against reality, and have written extensively about their climate change denialism3-7, their Covid-19 denialism8-10, and many of their other lies11,12. The lies the Murdoch media spread are of two types: The first are those designed to make the Coalition government look good and the Labor opposition look bad; the second are those which attempt to refute expertise based on the assertion that it is only ‘lefties’ which believe science. The latter of these is implicit in the use of the term ‘unelected experts’13, which has recently been doing the rounds. In turn, implicit in this is that ‘elected non-experts’ are somehow superior to people who have spent their life studying a particular field. Who would you want to perform open-heart surgery on you if required: a highly trained, ‘unelected expert’ surgeon or the vastly limited member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, who is definitely a non-expert?
Murdoch’s media interests are spread far and wide in this country, and include the following ‘newspapers’: The Australian (national), The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), The Herald-Sun (Melbourne), The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), The Advertiser (Adelaide), The Mercury (Hobart), Northern Territory News (Darwin), as well as the solely online service news.com.au14. He also owns a large number of community and local newspapers (the full list is given in the Appendix below.
The question now becomes: how do we get rid of the Murdoch media? It starts with personal choice. Simply do not buy any of Murdoch’s paper media or pay for access to his websites or Foxtel; or where they are free, do not use them. Those that are free, will presumably have advertising on them; take note of who the advertisers are and either send details to MFWitches15 or Sleeping Giants Oz16 (you can join the latter as it is a Facebook group), or send a polite tweet, e-mail, Facebook message, or letter to the organisations or company advertising. Recently, on October 28th, I sent a tweet to Myer, which said:
“Dear Myer, you advertise on Sky News. They are the worst Climate Change denying media outlet in Australia. Now, one of its hosts, Alan Jones has denied Covid-19 is a pandemic; after over 44 million cases and 1.17 million dead. Do you want to be associated with such lies?”
When that tweet was written, the Covid-19 numbers were up-to-date, but now (9 days later, November 11), there have now been 51,729,218 cases reported worldwide. That number is increasing at over 600,000 per day. In addition to that, the number of deaths recorded is now 1,277,451, and that is climbing at over 8,000 per day. While many companies are suffering with Covid-19, most are now realising that the damage Covid-19 is doing to them will pale into insignificance compared to what climate change will do. I suspect that is why when advertisers are reminded about the Covid-19 denialism and climate change denialism of the Murdoch media, and the fact that advertising with them appears to condone their lies, some rethink their advertising rather quickly. I and many others have sent such messages to numerous major advertisers over the last year or two. Such tactics have been exceptionally effective, in having the hateful Alan Jones ‘retired’ (i.e. dumped) from radio station 2GB, because the advertising for his show dried up, and commercial radio is all about advertising.
There are some advertisers who will never back away from Murdoch. Such RWNJs like Gerry Harvey (of Harvey Norman) make Murdoch look like a moderate. I simply do not shop there anymore. Finding out who the long-term advertisers on Murdoch’s outlets is something that also could be useful, so you can avoid spending money with them.
Many cafés, canteens, cafeterias, and milkbars have a selection of newspapers for the use of patrons. If you frequent these establishments, politely request that they not supply any Murdoch newspapers, by relating how they constantly lie about Covid-19 and climate change. If they refuse, then again politely indicate that you will not be back, and that you will talk to many other locals about it. I contacted my local café via Facebook and politely asked if they would consider being a Murdoch-Free Zone. The owner replied that ‘As long as I own the place it will be a Murdoch-Free Zone’. I was not particularly surprised, as the owner is a very nice, genuine person. So, I will continue buying their coffee and their delicious lunches.
Newsagents, supermarkets, convenience shops and other places which actually sell Murdoch ‘newspapers’ would be more difficult to tackle. This may be a slow process, but petitions/messages/letters to those outlets may be useful. Boycotting Murdoch has worked in Liverpool (UK) which has had a boycott of his appalling rag, The Sun, for over 30 years. This boycott stemmed from lies the ‘newspaper’ printed about the Hillsborough disaster. It used to have a circulation of over 500,000 copies in the Liverpool area, now it is less than 10,000. This has cost Murdoch as much as £15 million per month over that time. Many outlets refuse to sell it, and reading it has become socially unacceptable17,18. Indeed, there are posters near the doors of newsagents stating that they do not sell The Sun. The enormous Liverpool and Everton Premier League football (soccer) clubs have banned journalists from The Sun from their press conferences, and the ubiquitous black cabs have advertisements on their sides urging people not to buy or sell The Sun.
In Australia you can obtain ‘Murdoch-Free Zone’ posters for commercial premises19. If your local café is a Murdoch-Free Zone, encourage them to obtain one (they are free to download). There are even stickers floating around which have been put on the mastheads of Murdoch rags in assorted outlets in Sydney, which say “Murdoch Media is Propaganda – think for yourself” (I haven’t been able to find the source for these).
Sporting clubs can be requested to ban journalists from Murdoch publications. This might be difficult for the Brisbane Broncos NRL team, as they are over 68% owned by Murdoch. Maybe let them know you will boycott their games and not buy their merchandise.
Entertainers are also another avenue to explore. If entertainers could either not talk to Murdoch journalists, or ban them from their venues, that would demonstrate clearly that they are being held to account.
The Herald Sun has behaved just as appallingly during the second Covid-19 wave in Victoria, as The Sun did. All the Herald Sun did was snipe and attempt to undermine the health measures that were put in place by the Premier Daniel Andrews and his Chief Health Office, Brett Sutton20. This lockdown has proven to be exceptionally successful, such that from 687 new Covid-19 cases on August 5th, there have now been twelve days in a row of no new cases in the first part of November21. This is an extraordinary achievement, when you consider that in the UK, their second wave has taken off and while having a population about 10 times that of Victoria, it has been getting over 20,000 new Covid-19 cases per day for the last two weeks22, that is 30 times the single day maximum suffered by Victoria. Andrews and Sutton have been so successful that now other countries are looking at how it was done with a view to implementing a similar lockdown as their second wave spirals out of control. However, you will hear little of this from the Herald Sun.
The sort of disgraceful behaviour by the Herald Sun and its ‘journalists’ included asserting that Andrews wanted to stifle democracy (he was trying to save lives) and that masks were not useful (they are). They also encouraged anti-lockdown protestors; blamed multiculturalism; and blamed ‘Afghans’ for the spread of the virus20. The Herald Sun was simply trying to make sure that Andrews’ and Sutton’s job was more difficult than it needed to be, with the aim of making them fail, so that more people got ill and more people died. This was solely to make the Victorian Liberal Party appear to be a viable opposition. They failed miserably, and Andrews’ popularity still remains quite high, while that of the Liberal opposition leader has collapsed. To use the second wave of a pandemic, during which hundreds were dying, to gain some sort of political advantage is disgusting and demonstrates the depravity to which Murdoch will not hesitate to sink. It is imperative that Melbourne do to the Herald Sun what Liverpool did to The Sun.
I have no illusions that there will be a Royal Commission into the media while this government is still in power, or that if there was one, that any of its recommendations would be enacted. Therefore, it will be up to the populace to attempt to retrieve Australian democracy from the hold which Murdoch has over it. Boycott Murdoch media.
Appendix: Murdoch holdings
The Australian, including weekly insert magazine The Deal and monthly insert magazine
The Weekend Australian, including insert magazine The Weekend Australian Magazine
New South Wales
The Daily Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph, including insert Sunday magazine
Sunday Herald Sun including insert Sunday magazine
The Courier-Mail including weekly insert magazine QWeekend
The Sunday Mail
The Gold Coast Bulletin
The Advertiser including the monthly insert the Adelaide* magazine
Messenger Newspapers, including:
Eastern Courier Messenger
City North Messenger
East Torrens Messenger
Mitcham & Hills Messenger
The Sunday Tasmanian
Northern Territory News
The Sunday Territorian
NewsLocal (formerly Cumberland-Courier Community Newspapers)
Inner West Courier
North Shore Times
The Manly Daily
Central Coast Express Advocate
Leader (Vic) newspapers
Quest (QLD) newspapers
Messenger (SA) newspapers
New South Wales
Tweed Daily News
Coffs Coast Advocate
Messenger Newspapers, including:
Northern Times Messenger
Weekly Times Messenger
Southern Times Messenger
Gold Coast Bulletin
The Northern Miner
Herbert River Express
The Cairns Post
The Daily Mercury
Central Queensland News
The Morning Bulletin
Fraser Coast Chronicle
The Gympie Times
The Sunshine Coast Daily
The Queensland Times
Warwick Daily News
The Dalby Herald
Chinchilla News and Murilla Advertiser
The Western Star
Australian Golf Digest
Super Food Ideas
news.com.au publishes stories and multimedia created by a team of about 51 reporters.
Business Spectator is a business news website
CareerOne is a job site co-owned by News Corp and Monster.com
Punters.com.au, an Australian horse racing news and form guide website
Racenet.com.au, Australia’s Premier Horse Racing News, Form Guides & Tips
KidSpot, a parenting website
Brisbane Broncos Ltd (68.87%)
Foxtel (65% with Telstra)
Fox Sports Pty Limited
Sky News Australia (through Australian News Channel)
Sky News Extra (through Australian News Channel)
Sky News Weather Channel (through Australian News Channel)