Former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s campaign for a royal commission into media diversity has failed, with the federal government formally advising the Governor-General that the inquiry should not proceed. A petition calling for a royal commission was launched by Mr Rudd in October, and by the time it was tabled in parliament three weeks later it had garnered 501,876 signatures, although it was later discovered that the e-document was littered with fake names.
Source: James Madden, News Corp
Kevin Rudd falls short in bid for royal commission into media diversity
Royal commissions are not established by the parliament. Rather, they are initiated by the Governor-General, based on advice from the federal government.
Petitions for royal commissions are submitted to the Standing Committee on Petitions; if they are procedurally sound, the document is referred to the relevant government minister — in this case Communications Minister Paul Fletcher — for their advice to the Governor-General on whether to proceed.
On Monday, Governor-General David Hurley will receive a letter from Mr Fletcher advising him not to green-light the proposed inquiry.
On Friday, Mr Rudd appeared at a Senate committee inquiry into media diversity — alongside executives from News Corp (publisher of The Australian), Nine, and Australian Associated Press — during which he claimed the “Murdoch media” enjoyed a monopoly of the national media industry. Mr Rudd also said he was “fearful of the Murdoch media beast” when he was prime minister.
News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller told the hearing that the Australian media landscape was in fact “a picture of diversity, not monopoly”, citing the fact that each month, 19 million Australians access at least one of Nine’s media brands, while News Corp, Seven West Media and the ABC independently reach between 17.4 and 17.8 million people.
“Diversity is not just about ownership. It’s about the diversity of sources,” Mr Miller said.
“Australians are smart people who make up their own minds about what media they consume, who they back politically, and what they feel.”
Mr Fletcher declined to comment on the federal government’s advice to Mr Hurley on the royal commission. But he did say that while the Australian media was already “vibrant and diverse”, the federal government was committed to ensuring that it remains so, in the face of the various challenges facing the industry.
“Quality news and public interest journalism plays an important role in the functioning of Australian society and democracy and is essential to informing local communities. Australia is fortunate to have a vibrant, diverse and contentious media sector,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Rules regarding the control of media ownership in Australia support this diverse media sector by limiting the number of media operations that can be controlled by a person in a licence area. Nevertheless, the government recognises there are serious challenges confronting the sector.
“One of these concerns the sustainability of public interest journalism in the light of the bargaining power imbalance between traditional media outlets and global online platforms. This is why the government has introduced the news media and digital platforms mandatory code into the parliament.”
Mr Fletcher said the government was focused on “practical measures to support the strength and diversity of Australian news media.”
Mr Rudd famously launched his campaign for a royal commission into media diversity without telling Labor leader Anthony Albanese. “I thought it would be less complicated for him if he didn’t know,” Mr Rudd said at the time.
On Sunday, Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland reiterated the ALP’s position that a royal commission into media diversity in Australia was unnecessary.