By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation
By Robert Manne (Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $19.95, soft cover, 141 pages)
When veracity and fair play are at stake, dissension follows. That’s the case as Murdoch’s flagship is put under the microscope with this derisive analysis.
There has been unprecedented scrutiny of Rupert Murdoch’s empire in Britain this year, but what about his ownership of 70 per cent of the press in Australia?
In Bad News, Robert Manne investigates Murdoch’s lead political voice Down Under – The Australian – and how it shapes and distorts the national debate.
Robert Manne states that “The Australian sees itself not as a mere newspaper, but as a player in the game of national politics, calling upon the vast resources of the Murdoch empire and the millions of words it has available to it to try to make and unmake governments”.
He argues that the newspaper is ruthless in its pursuit of those who oppose its worldview and it is driven by contempt for its rivals.
Then there is the question of power without responsibility: since 2002, the Australian sees itself as judge, jury and would-be executioner of leaders and policies.
With the help of a series of damaging case studies, Manne examines the paper’s campaigns against the Rudd government and more recently the Greens, its climate change coverage and its unfeeling pursuit of its enemies and critics. Then he considers the standards of the paper and its influence more generally.
Wondering whether the prestige of the Murdoch empire will ever recover, the professor of politics at La Trobe University finishes on a sympathetic note over the thought of a government press inquiry – for the good of democracy – to break Murdoch’s stranglehold.
However, there is no clear-cut, easy legal means of regulating bias from the press and is unsure about whether he would support it if there were one.
Quarterly Essay #43 is compelling in its analytical depth, painting a brilliant picture of what happens when a newspaper goes rogue.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.