Rupert Murdoch and the Conspiracy Machine – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Running through all of these stories, with striking consistency, are networks of class power. None of this criminality would have been possible were it not for the relationships between the Murdoch press, politicians, the police, judiciary and sections of the business establishment. And those relationships themselves were predicated on the power accumulated by Murdoch’s awesome media dominion. Yet, something about the nature of these relations lent itself to illicit practices. The history of News International’s involvement in criminal conspiracies is not one of aberrant crookedness, defying the integrity and professional standards of the industry. Somehow it is inscribed in the very network of relationships that makes media power what it is today. It is in the structures of news production itself.
News is not a given set of facts, but rather a carefully sorted and selected presentation of pieces of information that, in their total effect, produce a common stock of ideas and knowledges about the societies in which media institutions operate. Stuart Hall and his colleagues at the Centre for Cultural Studies in Birmingham identified some of the mechanisms by which the ‘newsworthy’ is identified and produced for mass consumption. The media is overwhelmingly reliant upon ‘accredited’ and ‘authoritative’ sources of information. This is embedded in the ideology of ‘objectivity’, a rigorous distinction between fact and opinion, which underpins the journalist’s professional code.
Since most journalists are not well-placed to determine independently what is fact and what is not, they become dependent on sources which have already established legitimacy: politicians, courts, police, intelligence agencies, academic and technical experts and, in certain contexts, the representatives of business and high finance. In deciding whom to report on as an objective source of information, the media create a hierarchy of credibility, which tends to validate existing hierarchies and already dominant ideologies. In addition, because they rely on predictable sources of information, journalists tend to gravitate toward powerful institutions that produce constant supplies of the material from which their livelihood is made. This gives already powerful institutions, as well as the PR agencies they work through, the opportunity to be the ‘primary definers’ of what is news.