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Crikey analysis: how the papers responded to media reform

Crikey crunches the numbers on how the newspapers have covered the federal government’s proposed media reforms — and finds the coverage heavily negative, with few alternative views presented.

The country’s major newspapers have responded to the federal government’s proposed media reforms with a deluge of negative articles and opinion pieces, unbalanced by alternative views, a Crikey analysis has found.

Crikey has analysed six newspapers every day since the reforms were announced last Tuesday and counted 100 stories which were negative about the reforms, compared with six that were positive. Another 44 were neutral.

The newspapers surveyed were The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review (and their weekend sisters). Crikey analysed both news articles and op-eds. The result? Media experts or Labor-aligned figures who were positive about the reforms were hard to find in the papers.

The newspapers have been writing up a storm about the proposed changes, under which the government would appoint an advocate to determine whether the media’s self-regulatory bodies were adequately policing press standards and rule on media mergers. Newspaper chiefs have portrayed this as an assault on the freedom of the press, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy photoshopped as Joseph Stalin in The Daily Telegraph.

Articles and opinion pieces on media reform for the period March 13-18

The Australian was a stand-out, with 40 negative stories and two positive ones. Eleven were neutral. There were slightly more articles than op-eds in the mix. The slant continues today, with six negative stories.

The News Limited tabloids also delivered strongly negative coverage. The Herald Sun has run 11 pieces, all of them negative. The Daily Telegraph, while running the most extreme negative coverage, was more diverse (and prolific) than its Melbourne sister paper. The Tele ran 22 negative stories, 14 neutral and two positive stories.

Fairfax newspapers ran fewer stories about the reforms, and a higher percentage of them were neutral. The Age’s net result was neutral — there were the same number of positive as negative articles. By contrast, The Sydney Morning Herald ran net negative coverage.

*Additional research by Crikey interns Carrington Clarke and Tim Fitzpatrick

23
  • 1
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    As this article shows, oh for the fair and balanced Murdoch media, just not there is it?. Just like Fux News. Even if they gave away free Lupert photographs with every paper sold, I still would not buy any of their cr*ppy products. Sky business news m*rons have been in overdrive all day on the issue.

  • 2
    Steve777
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    The Murdoch tabloids in particular are campaigning for regime change to a government that will provide them with a more friendly commercial and regulatory environment. In the case of News Limited that is the winding back or ideally the destruction of the NBN and the ABC and the removal of any other obstacles to their takeover of as much of Australia’s news, communications and entertainment business that they can get their hands on. The dying newspapers are being used to provide free advertising and campaigning for their preferred side of politics.

  • 3
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Conroy’s changes are a joke. They are a bad idea. They are being rushed through. Even Crikey is against them.

    Why all this angst about balance? When something is such a bad idea in the first place, why is there surprise when everyone criticises it?

  • 4
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    David - the way I see it, it’s not so much about balance as it is a need for the negative side of the discussion to offer something a little more substantive and intelligent than, say, “they are a bad idea”.

  • 5
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    How the hell do you think making papers tell the truth is a bad idea David? The problem with the Murdoch hacks here is they forget they are working for a criminal organisation and the very day Williams had his bid spray another 600 hacking victims were named to the met.

  • 6
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/supergrass-identifies-800-potential-new-victims-of-phonehacking-8538285.html
    Here we go, in Britain the criminal behaviour is more far reaching than first suspected and the number of victims into the thousands.

    How many of these illegally obtained stories were published here.

  • 7
    Steve777
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    If something is a bad idea a responsible news outlet would give enough information that its audience can judge for itself whether or not it is a bad idea. Clearly labelled commentary could provide analysis of the changes, give the pros and cons and conclude whether or not it’s a good idea. It could push it’s case for one side or another in clearly labelled editorials. It does not compare proponents of ideas or legislation it doesn’t like to mass-murderers. The editors of the Daily Telegraph in particular apparently thinks its readers are stupid and need to be told what to think.

  • 8
    Achmed
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    David Hand - you support this type of behaviour?
    Self regulation has been found to be nothing short of useless. News Corp have been hacking phones and lied for years about it. Editors and executives have been sacked, jailed and charged and the paper in the UK shut down in shame.
    The High Court in Australia has found that staff have lied, distorted the truth and fabricated news articles.
    The Australian Presss Council has found that they have run stories that are “gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive”

  • 9
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi David:
    It is the accurate portrayal of your last sentence that is the essence of the debate.
    Over the course of the last few years we have all witnessed a media analyse policy and portray a government and its’ executive members in a most derogatry, demeaning and medacious way.
    Even the debate about the proposed legislation is being diverted by Kim Williams and Turnbulls comparison of Print Media Circulation figures to internet viewer or subscrption figures of the likes of Crikey, is really fallacious.
    I doubt that weekly viewing figures for all the Australian independant news net sites would amount to a days ciculation of the Murdoch Press.
    With regard to the print media, after the consolidation of Symes and Fairfax we were left with two major players dominated by Murdoch. Both of which have aped each other in professional journalistic standards by adopting an editorial policy of commentary rather than factual reporting and analysis.
    Murdoch’s 85% domination of this market combined with both his propensity for direct and subversive influence on editorial material together with his vindictiveness leaves little oxygen for the dissemination of a rational discourse for the nation’s betterment.
    With print media circulation figures projecting their economic demise we can easily assume that we will only be seeing News billboards, reprinting Ruperts inane tweets each day, throughout our cities and suburbs.
    I have severe misgivings as to whether that can be the basis of an intellectual and rational public discourse that served the nation and its’ inhaitants.
    Yes, ‘balance’ inferrs that all points are view are relevant, and it is the presses responsibility because of the “fourth estate” mandate to portray accurately the alternative commentary to underpin the public discourse.
    This we haven’t got today, and until we remedy this ‘balance’ we do a disservice to the nation as a whole.
    In relation to Conroy’s timid response about Print to the last two enquiries and the public outcry, they are at a step in the right direction to encourage a better quality discourse than we have experienced for the past many years by setting the parameters by which the press council must self regulate .

  • 10
    Achmed
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    David - did you miss this article by Bernard Kene?

    Or choosing to ignore?

    The day News Ltd supported newspaper regulation

  • 11
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn,
    I can understand why a Ministry of Truth might be attractive to you. It is handy if the government of the day can tell media organiations what the truth is. It is one of the keys a totalitarian state uses to stay in power and your support for such measures is no surprise.

  • 12
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Littlemaths,
    Here’s some big maths for you. This article points to 100, that’s one hundred, articles critical of the legislation. Maybe you might read some of them?

    If you haven’t, here is a simple precis.

    A public interest media advocate (PIMA) will be appointed to arbitrate what is acceptable for media organisations to report. The problem is that the legislation does not define what the public interest is and how it would be defined. This government, and most Crikey commenters, believe News Ltd is mis-informing the public and the PIMA would give the government of the day power to define “truth”.

    Let’s shift the discussion to the reverse position. The coalition wins government and appoints Andrew Bolt as the nation’s public interest media advocate.

    See any problems?

  • 13
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    David, you are yet to explain why the reforms are bad. Your straw man reply at 6:09 does not. Please provide some detail you think the way you do.

    BTW I don’t know which Crikey you read but the articles in the one I read are fairly neutral toward the reforms and scathing of the histrionic reaction of the newspapers. Could you please provide a link to the articles where you formed that opinion. I must have missed them and am keen to see the other side of the debate.

  • 14
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Matt, my efforts at 6.24 and 6.29 are in moderation. I will have another go.

  • 15
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    According to the ABC website, among other changes-

    The Public Interest Media Advocate, who will be appointed by the Minister, will decree whether a media complaints handling body is “authorised”. Only media organisations that are members of an authorised body are able to maintain their exemptions to privacy laws.”

    The problem is that the legislation does not define what the public interest is and how it would be defined. so therefore the minister, by appointing his or her own PIMA, can exert enormous control over the media. Do you really want Conroy to have this power? This government, and most Crikey commenters, believe News Ltd is mis-informing the public and the PIMA would give the government of the day power to define “truth”.

    How would it be if a future Coalition minister appointed Andrew Bolt as the PIMA?

  • 16
    David Hand
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    According to the ABC website, among other changes-

    “The Publ ic Interest Med ia Advocate, who will be appointed by the Minister, will decree whether a media compl aints handl ing body is “authorised”. Only media organisations that are members of an authorised body are able to maintain their exemptions to privacy laws.”

    The problem is that the legi slation does not define what the publ ic interest is and how it would be defined. So therefore the minister, by appointing his or her own PIMA, can exert enormous control over the media. Do you really want Conroy to have this power? This government, and most Crikey commenters, believe News Ltd is mi s-informing the publ ic and the PIMA would give the government of the day power to define “truth”.

    How would it be if a future Coal ition minister appointed Andrew Bo lt as the PIMA?

  • 17
    burninglog
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Please?

    Why is this such a shrill issue in this country, when something similar is happening in the UK?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/mar/18/press-regulation-deal-close-talks

  • 18
    Gratton Wilson
    Posted Monday, 18 March 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Public Interest” may be difficult to define but surely the media would be capable of defending an article being in the public interest if it were so. For instance a weird story about Malcolm Turnbull and a cat is hardly in the public interest, yet I understand such a story has been published and Malcolm Turnbull sued the newspaper and I think won the case. I would like to hear the newspaper’s justification of why it considered such a story was in the public interest.

  • 19
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Public Interest” may well be hard to define and that is why we have a Court system that is independant of the legislature or parliament.
    This morning’s Harcher article is a case in point. Harcher sets the agenda with nothing but BS. Carr, who explicitly denies Harcher’s claims, advisers us that no contact was made with his office to confirm Harcher’s claims. Meanwhile the ABC continues their cloning of the Murdoch and Fairfax line by reinforcing Harcher’s fictions. Even after Carr refutes the claims but the ABC spends the morning news repeating the initial Harcher fictitious reports for maximum affect and coverage.
    Even the ABC’s Washington correspondent can’t even get their sources right on this mornings news bulletins.
    So with both Carr and Butler rejecting the Harcher inspired BS we have yet another example of the Media’s Canberra Press Club members desire to usurp the voters fundamental rights, to serve their mogul masters.

  • 20
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your explanation. I am not sure that the public would stand for a radical appointment to PIMA nor do I think such an appointment would survive the resultant outrage and court challenges. It seems to me that self regulation needs some assistance to be effective and that this is a reasonable suggestion.

  • 21
    Posted Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    David: if Mr Bolt would be prepared to demonstrate that he is capable of acting in the interests of the public, then he’s as welcome to the position as anyone. Frankly, it would be novel to see him working within the boundaries of media law.

  • 22
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The big problem that Conroy has with this is that he is clearly not dis-interested. His visceral hatred of News Ltd is so well known that any move to control the media, however reasonable from an objective point of view, is seen as vulnerable to his manipulation.

    Having said that, in my view, the problem Conroy has is that he has procrastinated too long, can see the election looming, has limited sitting days to pass the legislation so he is ramming it through to have a legacy to look back on as he croses to the opposition from September. If he had more time, I believe he could re-assure cross bench MPs and get it through. It’s not sinister, just plain old ALP Federal incompetence. As usual.

  • 23
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 19 March 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Shorter Hand-on-it,the intolerable must be tolerated, without (effective) recourse.

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