Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

The federal government’s media reform package has failed to win support among most Australian journalists.

More than 80% believe the changes will have a negative impact on the
integrity of reporting and 85% say the reforms will reduce diversity, a
Crikey survey of Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance members
conducted by Roy Morgan has found.

Journalists
hotly opposed the plan to drop cross-media restrictions (87% against),
compared to only 74% who oppose the plan to relax foreign ownership
restrictions. There is also strong opposition to maintaining the
current limit of three free-to-air commercial TV networks, with 70%
opposed.

Journalists were also surveyed on how the political and
commercial interests of their owners influence their work. More than
half (53%) said they are unable to be critical of the media
organisation they work for, while more than a third (38%) said they had
been instructed to comply with the commercial position of the company
for which they work. And 32% said they felt obliged to take into
account the political views of their proprietor when writing stories.

The
online survey of 374 journalists was conducted over the past week by
The Roy Morgan Centre for Crikey and the MEAA, the union representing
Australian journalists. Journalists from SBS, the ABC, Fairfax, News
Limited, Rural Press and all the major TV and radio networks were
represented among respondents to the survey.

The results show
that most journalists are highly sceptical of plans to relax
cross-media and foreign ownership restrictions and replace them with a
new minimum of five significant media “voices” in metropolitan areas
and four “voices” in rural areas. More than 63% of journalists surveyed
said they believed Australian media companies have “too much influence”
in deciding how Australians vote, and 71.4% said media owners had too
much influence in determining the political agenda.

Alliance
federal secretary Christopher Warren said the survey reveals that the
people who work in the media know the truth about the Government’s
proposed media changes. “The changes will undermine diversity, affect
the integrity of journalism in Australia and further empower media
owners who already have an unwelcome influence on their employees to
report the news in a way that suits the owners’ political or commercial
agendas,” he said. “The health of Australia democracy is at stake and
these media law changes will clearly result in fewer voices and fewer
choices for the Australian people.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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