By Crikey reporter Lucy Morieson
If you looked at yesterday’s Financial Review, you might have noticed a letter from John
Murphy, the Labor Member for Lowe. He was writing in outrage at ACCC chairman
Graeme Samuel’s comments that the increasing diversification of news outlets –
particularly via new media forms – should allay any fears regarding media
concentration in Australia.
Isn’t Samuel aware, Murphy asks in his letter, that
“internet penetration in Australia
is low and that most Australians overwhelmingly still get their news and
information from traditional media?”
Murphy told Crikey that he’s “very concerned that all
the information coming from the government suggests that there will be an
increased concentration of media ownership in Australia
– and this represents a threat to the future of our democracy.”
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Murphy says he plans to actively campaign against the
government’s proposed media reforms, and will be “the last one standing” in
parliament when it comes time to debate the issue.
Why, asks Murphy, won’t the prime minister “state publicly
that the existing players will not be able to hang on to their existing assets
if they want to acquire a new one?” Meanwhile, Graeme Samuel “has a very
important role to play as umpire of anti-competitive behaviour and he should be
defending the public interest.”
It’s not that the media moguls shouldn’t be allowed to
acquire more assets – but that they should be made to relinquish existing
assets when they do so. Which would allow smaller players to buy into their
assets – Murphy even floated the idea of a Crikey TV channel.
“I’ll accept the changes if they lead to the most powerful
players selling their assets,” says Murphy. But “the government aren’t taking
their lead from the public interest point of view,” on this issue, but are
relying on “the direction of the existing media players and going ahead with