The issue at the heart of the government’s plan to abolish Australia’s cross-media rules is stunningly simple: how much power do media owners have, is it bad for democracy and will it increase as a result of the new laws? But there’s a problem. Almost no-one in the commercial media or in politics is prepared to seriously discuss the issue.

How often have you seen meaningful analysis or investigation about the power and influence of Australian media owners in the Fairfax or News Limited newspapers or on commercial TV? How often have you heard any sitting member of Parliament publicly address the issue?

You don’t hear or read about this issue for reasons that are obvious to insiders but to which the public is oblivious. Journalists in the commercial media won’t investigate it for fear of jeopardising their career paths, and politicians won’t talk about it for fear of negative coverage by the angry media owners and executives.

As a result of this fearful self-censorship, the looming prospect of one of the greatest power hijacks in the history of Australian democracy goes undiscussed. Why? Because of the grotesque conflict of interest that affects the very people who are entrusted to lead the debate on the country’s most vital political and social issues. A veil of silence has been placed on presenting Australians with a proper insight or vigorous debate about the power of media owners.

The spectre of media power suppresses the discussion of media power … it’s all so neat.

Peter Fray

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