ABC chair Ita Buttrose and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

The Coalition’s cuts to ABC funding will reach a cumulative total of over $1 billion by 2024, according to a new study of media and its ownership in Australia, which also confirms the extraordinary dominance of News Corp in the Australian newspaper market.

Who Controls Our Media, by academics Benedetta Brevini and Michael Ward and commissioned by GetUp, dissects the market share of each major media company across newspapers, television, radio and online, as well as examining the impacts on national broadcasting of seven years of Coalition cuts.

Brevini and Ward show that total funding lost each year by the ABC, including via the cessation of tied funding for programs like the Australian Network regional television service, will reach $638 million this year and just over $1 billion by 2023-24, in the absence of any additional funding.

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The report also examines the relative share of newspaper readership, with News Corp having 59% of readership in 2020, well over twice the readership of Nine Entertainment on 23%, and Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media on 15%. Readership broadly matches revenue, with News Corp controlling 62% of revenue compared to 27% for Nine and 11% for Stokes. News Corp also controls 17 of 31 metropolitan newspapers.

News Corp is also one of Australia’s biggest tax dodgers, and in recent years has received far more from taxpayers via grants from the Coalition than it has paid in tax. Paul Kelly, one of the company’s most senior editorial figures and editor-at-large of The Australian, has endorsed critics’ accusations that News Corp is a partisan outlet, saying “this is merely the working rule of established media. Centre-right newspapers back centre-right parties…”

The ABC and Nine both ranked ahead of News Corp on news site ratings in December 2020 but News Corp leads commercial television revenue via Foxtel, which earned revenue of $2.2 billion in 2020 compared to Nine’s $1.2 billion.

A significant issue about the report is exactly why it took GetUp and communications academics to prepare it, when it’s exactly the sort of report the Australian Communications and Media Authority should be releasing at least annually in order to enable Australians to have an independent look at the media landscape.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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