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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.

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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23 comments

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23 thoughts on “Crikey analysis: how the papers responded to media reform

  1. Bill Hilliger

    As this article shows, oh for the fair and balanced Murdoch media, just not there is it?. Just like Fux News. Even if they gave away free Lupert photographs with every paper sold, I still would not buy any of their cr*ppy products. Sky business news m*rons have been in overdrive all day on the issue.

  2. Steve777

    The Murdoch tabloids in particular are campaigning for regime change to a government that will provide them with a more friendly commercial and regulatory environment. In the case of News Limited that is the winding back or ideally the destruction of the NBN and the ABC and the removal of any other obstacles to their takeover of as much of Australia’s news, communications and entertainment business that they can get their hands on. The dying newspapers are being used to provide free advertising and campaigning for their preferred side of politics.

  3. David Hand

    Conroy’s changes are a joke. They are a bad idea. They are being rushed through. Even Crikey is against them.

    Why all this angst about balance? When something is such a bad idea in the first place, why is there surprise when everyone criticises it?

  4. littlemaths

    David – the way I see it, it’s not so much about balance as it is a need for the negative side of the discussion to offer something a little more substantive and intelligent than, say, “they are a bad idea”.

  5. shepherdmarilyn

    How the hell do you think making papers tell the truth is a bad idea David? The problem with the Murdoch hacks here is they forget they are working for a criminal organisation and the very day Williams had his bid spray another 600 hacking victims were named to the met.

  6. shepherdmarilyn

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/supergrass-identifies-800-potential-new-victims-of-phonehacking-8538285.html
    Here we go, in Britain the criminal behaviour is more far reaching than first suspected and the number of victims into the thousands.

    How many of these illegally obtained stories were published here.

  7. Steve777

    If something is a bad idea a responsible news outlet would give enough information that its audience can judge for itself whether or not it is a bad idea. Clearly labelled commentary could provide analysis of the changes, give the pros and cons and conclude whether or not it’s a good idea. It could push it’s case for one side or another in clearly labelled editorials. It does not compare proponents of ideas or legislation it doesn’t like to mass-murderers. The editors of the Daily Telegraph in particular apparently thinks its readers are stupid and need to be told what to think.

  8. Achmed

    David Hand – you support this type of behaviour?
    Self regulation has been found to be nothing short of useless. News Corp have been hacking phones and lied for years about it. Editors and executives have been sacked, jailed and charged and the paper in the UK shut down in shame.
    The High Court in Australia has found that staff have lied, distorted the truth and fabricated news articles.
    The Australian Presss Council has found that they have run stories that are “gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive”

  9. Mike Flanagan

    Hi David:
    It is the accurate portrayal of your last sentence that is the essence of the debate.
    Over the course of the last few years we have all witnessed a media analyse policy and portray a government and its’ executive members in a most derogatry, demeaning and medacious way.
    Even the debate about the proposed legislation is being diverted by Kim Williams and Turnbulls comparison of Print Media Circulation figures to internet viewer or subscrption figures of the likes of Crikey, is really fallacious.
    I doubt that weekly viewing figures for all the Australian independant news net sites would amount to a days ciculation of the Murdoch Press.
    With regard to the print media, after the consolidation of Symes and Fairfax we were left with two major players dominated by Murdoch. Both of which have aped each other in professional journalistic standards by adopting an editorial policy of commentary rather than factual reporting and analysis.
    Murdoch’s 85% domination of this market combined with both his propensity for direct and subversive influence on editorial material together with his vindictiveness leaves little oxygen for the dissemination of a rational discourse for the nation’s betterment.
    With print media circulation figures projecting their economic demise we can easily assume that we will only be seeing News billboards, reprinting Ruperts inane tweets each day, throughout our cities and suburbs.
    I have severe misgivings as to whether that can be the basis of an intellectual and rational public discourse that served the nation and its’ inhaitants.
    Yes, ‘balance’ inferrs that all points are view are relevant, and it is the presses responsibility because of the “fourth estate” mandate to portray accurately the alternative commentary to underpin the public discourse.
    This we haven’t got today, and until we remedy this ‘balance’ we do a disservice to the nation as a whole.
    In relation to Conroy’s timid response about Print to the last two enquiries and the public outcry, they are at a step in the right direction to encourage a better quality discourse than we have experienced for the past many years by setting the parameters by which the press council must self regulate .

  10. Achmed

    David – did you miss this article by Bernard Kene?

    Or choosing to ignore?

    The day News Ltd supported newspaper regulation