Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Power of Murdoch

It isn't a myth.

Senator Steve Fielding, the Family First member whose vote allowed Australia's new media laws to pass believes that what is in the media is driven by individual journalists and editors, not owners - on a personal level quite a nice idea, given that I am about to become one of those journalists and editors.

But, as John Garnaut outlines in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald, Australia's Productivity Commission reached a different view.

And then there's the (econometric) evidence - outlined in chilling detail by Garnaut:

In 2000 US local cable companies had made Fox News available in most but not all American towns.

An idiosyncratic cable roll-out provided economists Stefano DellaVigna, of the University of California, and Stockholm University's Ethan Kaplan with a "natural experiment" to compare voting in Fox towns with non-Fox towns.

In 2000 they found towns were significantly more likely to have voted Republican if they had access to Fox's strident political views. "Republicans gain 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News," conclude DellaVigna and Kaplan in The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Four years earlier, when Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole and Fox had not yet arrived, voting patterns of the two groups had been indistinguishable.

The authors say Fox was responsible for an "ideological shift" to the right that was broad rather than candidate-specific.

...Americans would have elected Al Gore president instead of George Bush in 2000 if Murdoch had not rolled out his audacious cable news channel...

Media ownership appears not to matter in America.

It is likely to matter more in Australia, where ownership is far more concentrated.

Garnaut concludes:

We can look forward to the natural experiments thrown up by the coming round of media consolidation.


Kevin said...

This shows that Fox News changes the voting patterns but doesn't it show that it is the access to views that is important. The issue is perhaps giving more access to alternate views in a community.

Fox is a national and international broadcaster and has little local content but is able through a marginal cost of content of virtually zero for new audiences to swamp local content providers. Perhaps a solution is to devise methods to encourage local content even it is it supplied by Fox. This is more likely to bring about a diversity of views as even Rupert cannot oversee all his outlets and if he tried to direct the local people it would leak and there would be a political fall out - whereas he can keep better control of a single source of news.

PM said...

Hi Kevin,

You are a bit optimistic about Rupert Murdoch when you say "if he tried to direct the local people it would leak and there would be a political fall out."

Believe me, it has happened in this country, Australia - bigtime.


http://www.abc.net.au/sundayprofile/stories/s1665376.htm for background on what he has done in this country.

According to his former right hand man:

"He was highly interventionist.... He wrote the editorials, he saw them down onto the stone, the old way of making up tough metal, intervention in great detail and I'm sure that is still the case. Anyone who says that Rupert doesn't intervene just doesn't know Rupert Murdoch. Unfortunately I think he has staff that will respond by conducting self-censorship they would in fact although they mightn't need to. I think the Murdoch organisation is a major problem in terms of truth in public life in Australia and elsewhere."

Bring Back EP at LP said...

Pete, any capitalist will know if he wants to sell newspapers or get people to listen to the radio , watch TV you have to have a variety of views.

Kevin said...

Peter what I am really proposing is that we remove some of the advantages of global and national content providers by "levelling" the playing field for local content producers. You can seem more of the proposal at

The nice thing about this sort of approach is that I suspect it can be done with little or no legislation. It is my belief that a system of encouraging local content providers in the form of employment of local journalists would bring about diversity of ownership.

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