Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News will radicalise politics in Australia within a decade just as Fox News has undermined democracy in the United States, Kevin Rudd has told a parliamentary inquiry into media diversity.
“For those concerned about the cumulative impact of Fox News in America on the radicalisation of US politics, the same template is being followed with Sky News in Australia,” Rudd told the Senate in a written submission. “We will see its full impact in a decade’s time.”
The former Labor prime minister and his Liberal counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, will be called to give evidence at the Senate inquiry into media diversity set up last year. The inquiry will examine the dominance of News Corp Australia and its impact on democracy.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young won support for the inquiry following the popularity of Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into the Murdoch media, which was unsuccessful but garnered more than half a million signatures.
The terms of reference for the Senate inquiry do not mention News Corp Australia or Murdoch but call for an examination of the “state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia and the impact that this has on public interest journalism and democracy”.
In his submission to the inquiry, which is due to report in August, Rudd says Fox News is a “legitimising echo-chamber for this increasingly far-right, extremist worldview” and is the model for News Corp’s Sky News Australia, which has a line-up of rightwing commentators, including Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Alan Jones, at night.
Guardian Australia has reported Sky News videos are growing in popularity online on YouTube and Facebook, particularly with an international audience, as they pushed Trumpist conspiracy theories including that the US election was illegitimate.
Rudd says Murdoch’s “template for America”, which was to “demonise the agency of government”, is also his “vision for Australia” and that Sky News Australia is a vehicle for this radicalisation.
“It’s a template which Murdoch has believed would maximise his personal, business and ideological interests – by demonising the agency of government; undermining essential government regulation; and most importantly by minimising corporate and personal tax,” Rudd states in his submission.
“Trump achieved all three. It’s also Murdoch’s vision for Australia.”
Rudd outlines seven political and public policy areas that he believes are affected by the dominance of the Murdoch media, due to its ownership of major metropolitan mastheads in every major city except Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as magazines and websites.
The areas are the National Broadband Network, debt and deficit, climate change, race, corruption, biased coverage of political parties and free speech.
“Murdoch’s blatant race-baiting has seen it targeted for criticism by a wide variety of ethnic communities across Australia,” he writes.
The former member for Griffith is not a fan of the news media code currently being examined by another parliamentary committee because it will improve News Corp’s bottom line.
“Increased revenue for News Corp from social media ‘clicks’ could create an added incentive to produce sensationalised or deceptive coverage,” Rudd said.
“Digital platforms will also be required to provide advanced notice of algorithmic changes – information that will be largely useless to industry minnows, but of huge benefit to larger players like News Corp which have the resources to process and act on that information.”
Rudd’s major recommendation in his submission is to call a royal commission into the Murdoch media – a proposal already rejected by both sides of politics.
He also recommends parliament legislate a minimal level of funding for the ABC after the public broadcaster lost $783m in funding since the Coalition came to power in 2014.
“The government of the day would be allowed to add to this funding level as they see fit but, if they want to cut below this funding level, they should be required to legislate and therefore to obtain approval from the Senate,” the former prime minister states.
In its submission to the inquiry last month the ABC said it cannot fill the void created by the closure of hundreds of newsrooms in suburban and regional Australia.
The first public hearing of the media diversity inquiry is scheduled for the end of next week.
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