Murdoch press savages Australian rival in pay TV row | Media | The Guardian

by peterjukes

The AFRs editor, Michael Stutchbury – who until last October was economics editor at the Australian – described the Murdoch camps attack on his paper as a “trademark elbows-out reaction”. Stutchbury accused the Australian of focusing “almost exclusively on questioning the motives behind the story”, which he said should have been subsidiary to the substance of the AFRs stories.Dr Tim Dwyer, senior lecturer in media and communications at Sydney University, said the row between the newspaper groups was symptomatic of Australias newspaper duopoly, where Murdoch and Fairfax have 90% of the readership between them. “In terms of western democracies thats a very extreme level of concentration and it explains why theres such head to head enmity between the two major players,” he said.Murdochs News Limited papers dominate the market with 70% of the countrys readership, including eight of the 12 major daily newspapers. In three state capitals – Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart – the only major daily paper is Murdoch-owned. Fairfax Media owns 21% of the readership, including the AFR, and the Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age. “Theres a huge tension over creating audiences and this spat is the latest battle in the branding war between them,” said Dwyer. David McKnight, author of Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power, says the duopoly of the Australian print market is damaging journalism.”This is the latest in a whole lot of incidents where, mainly News Limited through the Australian newspaper, has damned and dismissed Fairfax on a political or commercial basis,” he said.McKnight added that the Australian had made no real attempt to independently report or investigate the allegations about pay TV piracy made by Fairfaxs AFR. “Whats happened is that the Murdoch press in Australia has basically just blustered, unquestioningly quoted its own parent company, uncritically reported sweeping denials, refused to address specific facts and launched personal attacks. The result is that the public loses out and the story is shut down,” said McKnight.”In a more competitive newspaper market like Britain, if a big story like this broke in one newspaper it would be followed up and enhanced or disproved by the other papers. Above all, there would be a real testing of the facts, which has not happened here.”

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