Does it really matter, in 2016, who owns the media? This is the question being posed as the Turnbull government seeks to reform Australia’s media laws.
According to a 2015 Reuters study, Australians get the majority of their news online with social media named as one of the main sources for news. This trend away from traditional media shouldn’t surprise anyone, with only 39% of Australians believing that they can trust most of the news being reported. The lack of support for traditional media can be attributed to any number of factors, from media bias to falling media standards; journalistic editorialising to infotainment; the availability of online content versus the effort involved in buying a newspaper. Even online news paywalls are driving consumers away from traditional media groups, as they can find similar content elsewhere for free.
New media groups are carving out niche followings with targeted content, youth appeal, and in some cases, simply going back to the basics of journalism. The rise of Buzzfeed will go down as a classic example of how new media groups can eschew the format of traditional media, launching themselves off the back of cat memes to produce serious investigative journalism.
And one of the biggest issues faced by traditional media is the perception of bias. Almost all News Corp news outlets are tainted by the perception that solely exist to spew right-wing rhetoric and cheer on the Conservative political parties. Readership of Rupert Murdoch’s once proud flagship, The Australian, has been in freefall for the better part of a decade, because of the editorial direction taken by Chris Mitchell, Rupert’s handpicked Editor-in-Chief. Since 2003, it has become the vociferous mouthpiece for all of Murdoch’s local interferences, and readers have turned away from it, opting for less opinionated news services, that they can find for free, online.
The challenge of setting up a new media news service is as easy as starting a blog, setting up a YouTube channel, or even launching a podcast. The days of requiring a multi-million dollar inheritance to build a media empire are long gone. All it takes today is persistence and some tech-savvy.
So while there is some dispute over the effect scrapping these would have on competition and media dominance, the 75% audience reach and “two out of three” rules hardly seem relevant in the digital age.
When you look at the bigger picture, it really isn’t much of a concern.