07 August 2013

Murdoch does not "control two thirds of Australia's newspapers"

Briefly I'd like to rebut the new (or old) host of Media Watch, Paul Barry's claim that Murdoch 'controls two thirds of newspapers' in Australia (Media Watch 5/8/13)

This is a common claim from the left, and it's a convenient little sleight of hand - while it's a true figure if you're talking about audience share it is not the same as 'controlling' the media

For example, if there were 1000 supermarkets, and Coles and Woolies owned 500 each, but Coles had 66% of the shoppers - how many supermarkets would they control?

50% each, clearly

In my hypothetical situation Coles have a bigger market share and therefore influence perhaps, but they are simply winning in an open contest (assuming equitable conditions of course), they don't 'control' the market any more than Woolies

It's the same for newspapers in Australia, News Corp have about two thirds of the circulation, but they only own about 33% of the newspapers - time for some real figures (3 year old data will have to suffice, sorry):

In Sydney there are two main dailies available - The Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) -

Tele = 374,000
SMH = 207,000

In Melbourne it's The Herald Sun (News) vs The Age (Fairfax)

Herald = 515,000
Age = 197,000

(I'm discounting The Australian as Australia's only national daily as it has a fairly insignificant circulation, if you credit off the Fairfax national AFR as well then we're only talking 60,000 people nationally)

That's roughly 64% vs 36% in Sydney, and a ridiculous 72% vs 28% in Melbourne but these two papers are available to exactly the same audiences within each city - does Murdoch 'control' two thirds of the two major cities' newspapers? According to the logic of the ABC and many lefties he does, despite having the same number of publications and being on a level playing field as Fairfax, I've never seen a news retailer not selling the SMH along with the Tele

Winning audience share from your rival through the free market is not control, it's providing a product people want in a fair fight with another product - 'control' implies that News Corp own the majority of newspapers, thus limiting access to leftie opinions, but that's simply not true - people choose to buy News products over Fairfax, which is readily available to them (they own 33% of newspapers available and 11 of the top 25 circulating ones, while Fairfax own 10)

Yes, that provides News with the ability to influence two thirds of the audience, but that audience chooses to engage with that publication, the constant claim that News Corp 'controls' the printed press is merely a sook from the losing side

The truth is 'Murdoch' can speak to two thirds of people, and try to influence them, but there is no undue control on his part, clearly two media empires effectively owning every major print publication in the country is control and that should be looked at - but both companies need to be considered and the 'two thirds of newspapers' figure is complete bull designed to attack the 'Hate media' as Labor like to call them (except when they are backing them)

I encourage Paul Barry to correct this statement to at least say that they have 'two thirds of market share', or 'control a third of all newspapers', as they are in no way the same thing - it's a small distinction but an important one, as it implies an unduly gained influence rather than simply achieving more sales in a fair fight, and to be honest I'm pretty sure media people who use that figure know exactly what they're doing by using it

I'd also take this opportunity to express my dissatisfaction with the refreshed Media Watch since Jonathan Holmes left - under him I found it to be one of the few enjoyable ABC shows, occasionally I found a choice or two a little unbalanced, but in the main I found him objective and willing to take on all the media outlets

Conversely Paul Barry spent his first episode praising Julia Gillard and since then has almost exclusively attacked 2GB (and maybe some other right wing talkback stations) and News Corp over fairly small issues

If you watch this week's show, you'll see the criticism of News (with the false claim that riled me) followed by slathered praise for Fairfax's investigation into Labor corruption

Not a huge problem on it's own, aside from the one falsehood you could find this week's particular angle fair, but after weeks of nit-picking over right-wing radio and newspapers it's become somewhat obvious

Ultimately if there's a major story from 'the right', like cash for comment, then obviously it should be used, but in any given week you can easily pick on the Age or the AFR (The Australian have a whole section on it), or the ABC, not to mention Today Tonight or ACA for sheer nonsense or some other questionable issue just as much as you can find the racist guy who the shock jock humours - to delve through talkback radio calls or minor News ltd stories to the almost total exclusion of all others is blatant bias

I would've complained to the ABC but why bother, there's streams of this bias picked up daily and nothing ever gets done, and the website has no activity, so I use my own blog for the sake of posterity

Hopefully market forces will prevail and Paul will lose any viewers Holmes gained..

not that they mind if anyone's actually watching the ABC, but they've lost me


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