(Image: AAP/Jason Reed)

As a Crikey subscriber, you hardly need convincing about the threats that media monopolies pose to democracy.

You already know that, as James Murdoch says, News Corp’s output is rife with hidden agendas and disinformation designed to confuse public debate.

You know that News Corp is no longer interested in reporting facts. It operates like a mafia syndicate with a well-funded protection racket for politicians who back its commercial interests and espouse hard-right ideology on issues like climate change.

You also know that many of Murdoch’s critics, while roaring in private, have been bullied into public silence. They live in fear of joining the mounting number in business, politics and media who have been subjected to an onslaught of lies, innuendo and personal smear.

Murdoch’s 70% control of daily newspaper circulation represents an effective monopoly, granting overwhelming power to influence how political debates are covered elsewhere on television, radio and online. This represents a threat to our very democracy.

The culture of fear in Australian politics means that no committee of politicians is capable of conducting an independent inquiry into abuses of media power — they are simply too vulnerable to Murdoch’s influence.

Hence, the need for a royal commission.

My exhortation to you, as someone who values independent media, is simply to read the petition. If you agree with it, sign it. And share it around with your friends and family.

In the 10 days since we launched this petition, more than 350,000 Australians have backed a royal commission to ensure a strong, free and diverse Australian media. Our campaign is backed by GetUp, the ACTU and many more.

Some people, even on the progressive side of politics, have questioned my motives for launching this petition. They say this is all sour grapes for my time in government because of Murdoch’s disinformation campaign attacking our stimulus strategy to avoid recession during the global financial crisis or for dressing me and Anthony Albanese up in Nazi uniforms on their front page, while giving Tony Abbott a dream run to the Lodge.

My skin is thick, having spent more than 30 years in the public eye. The truth is that Murdoch’s bias has increased in the past decade, and has reached an industrial scale. He has campaigned viciously against the progressive side of politics at 18 out of the past 18 state and federal elections.

Some also question my focus on Murdoch. Of course, News Corp’s sheer scale means it needs to face the most scrutiny — in my home state of Queensland, which decides most federal elections, its power is practically unchallenged.

But the petition also raises concerns about Nine’s takeover of Fairfax Media, the sabotaging of the independent AAP Newswire, legal threats against investigative journalists, and attacks on the ABC’s independence and funding. Emerging online monopolies like Facebook, Twitter and Google should also face the royal commission.

Some claim Murdoch is benign, or his influence is waning amid new online outlets. However, that’s exactly what they said in America where Fox News has become the beating heart of the Trump phenomenon, polluting Americans’ minds daily with disinformation and conspiracy theories, most spectacularly on climate.

Finally, they accuse me of hypocrisy, noting I met with Murdoch in 2007. You bet I did. I make no apologies for that. If you were a Labor opposition leader, you would also try to reduce the levels of News Corp bias to something approaching balance (although it still tried everything it could to destroy my leadership during 2007, one confected scandal after another).

The bottom line is: we now have an opportunity for the Australian people to be heard through an official petition to the parliament. There are no hidden agendas; just an attempt to excise this growing cancer from our democracy.

Kevin Rudd is a former prime minister of Australia.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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