Today we launch “The powers that be: an expose of how media and power works in Australia” as part of Crikey’s 15th birthday coverage.

Over the coming months we will be exploring the ties between politics, big business and the media and uncovering how cosy relationships between establishment players are increasingly distorting democracy in Australia.

Politics editor Bernard Keane kicks off the series from Canberra, with a look at how political parties have become considerably more expert at controlling communication:

“Every MP now has a set of daily talking points based on a theme determined by the leader’s office. Media training is centred on learning the skill of delivering those talking points regardless of what you’re asked. MPs who go off-piste and offer their own take are quickly identified as troublemakers and pressured by the leader’s office to stick to the script.

“This means that one of the oldest rituals of Parliament House, the group media conference, in which the journalists that show up shout over one another to deliver their questions of politicians, are increasingly devoid of substance, becoming mere simulations of media accountability.”

We’ll also be looking at how the balance of power between the government and corporate Australia has shifted in the last decade, and why the shadow of News Corp hangs over politicians and governments (it’s not why you would expect). Is there an area of establishment power you want exposed? Get in touch.