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Mar 18, 2013

Crikey analysis: how the papers responded to media reform

Crikey crunches the numbers on how the newspapers have covered the federal government's proposed media reforms -- and finds the coverage heavily negative, with few alternative views presented.

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The country’s major newspapers have responded to the federal government’s proposed media reforms with a deluge of negative articles and opinion pieces, unbalanced by alternative views, a Crikey analysis has found.

Crikey has analysed six newspapers every day since the reforms were announced last Tuesday and counted 100 stories which were negative about the reforms, compared with six that were positive. Another 44 were neutral.

The newspapers surveyed were The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review (and their weekend sisters). Crikey analysed both news articles and op-eds. The result? Media experts or Labor-aligned figures who were positive about the reforms were hard to find in the papers.

The newspapers have been writing up a storm about the proposed changes, under which the government would appoint an advocate to determine whether the media’s self-regulatory bodies were adequately policing press standards and rule on media mergers. Newspaper chiefs have portrayed this as an assault on the freedom of the press, with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy photoshopped as Joseph Stalin in The Daily Telegraph.

Articles and opinion pieces on media reform for the period March 13-18

The Australian was a stand-out, with 40 negative stories and two positive ones. Eleven were neutral. There were slightly more articles than op-eds in the mix. The slant continues today, with six negative stories.

The News Limited tabloids also delivered strongly negative coverage. The Herald Sun has run 11 pieces, all of them negative. The Daily Telegraph, while running the most extreme negative coverage, was more diverse (and prolific) than its Melbourne sister paper. The Tele ran 22 negative stories, 14 neutral and two positive stories.

Fairfax newspapers ran fewer stories about the reforms, and a higher percentage of them were neutral. The Age’s net result was neutral — there were the same number of positive as negative articles. By contrast, The Sydney Morning Herald ran net negative coverage.

*Additional research by Crikey interns Carrington Clarke and Tim Fitzpatrick

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