You know the federal government’s plan to “reform” the Australian media will produce greater concentration of ownership because the government tacitly acknowledges this will happen. But do you know the proposed laws are guaranteed to create another equally insidious effect — fewer journalists and diminished journalism? Here’s how it will work in three easy steps:
Step 1. As soon as the new laws are passed by parliament there will be a lunge by existing media owners to snap up assets they are prevented from owning under the existing cross-media regime. Companies like Southern Cross Broadcasting, Fairfax, Ten Network, Austereo and Prime TV will become juicy targets in the greatest (and probably last) media land grab in Australia.
Step 2. This frenzy will result in bidding, counter-bidding and very full prices being paid in what will effectively be the final consolidation of the Australian media industry.
Step 3. To justify the prices paid in this one-off acquisition binge, buyers will have to cut costs — and the price of journalism will be near the top of the list. Newspapers with 300 journalists can and will be produced with 200, amalgamated TV-radio-newspaper regional newsrooms will be run with half the staff, content will be syndicated and recycled, cross-media synergies will see journalists working for more than one medium.
Fewer media owners. Fewer journalists. Homogenised journalism. Less diversity. Has there ever been such a concerted — or misguided — attack on press freedom mounted by a government in a modern democracy?
And all for … what?