Doesn’t concentration of ownership matter anymore? Have we given up the ghost?

Hardly anybody wants to defend the appalling record of the West Australian newspaper, which means that Kerry Stokes’ aggressive move on the Board is getting warm fuzzies from many journalists.

As this recent story in The Australian shows, the West has so undermined its credibility that it has trouble getting support even on basic issues of media freedom in its continuing battle with the Government. Now nobody seems to want to mention concentration of media ownership issues.

Stokes’ Channel Seven is not only the winner in the ratings war, but also a comparatively pleasant place to work, with less of the bullying, d-ck-swinging culture problems of its competitor, Channel Nine. As a result, journalists like Stokes, with his rags to riches success story, provides a corrective to the rich kids Packer and Murdoch.

And yet if Stokes succeeds in his moves on West Australian Newspapers, the two dominant media organisations in the state will both be effectively controlled by the same owner. Channel Seven is the leading television station, and the West Australian the only print outlet that really matters.

This at a time when the West Australian Government, mired in continuing corruption inquiries, should rightly be subjected to searching scrutiny.

Can we trust Channel Seven and the West to report with fearless independence? Can we trust them to report on each other, when necessary? Can we trust Stokes not to get too hand in glove with the Government, united though they may be in their criticism of present management at the West?

We might draw some conclusions from today’s Yahoo7 website, on which the news of Stokes’ move on the West Australian board is buried in a strange and poorly written business news item while the story about the s-x discrimination allegations against Nine boss John Westacott get front page billing.