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Media ownership: Keating's blatant bias

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WARWICK SMITH M.P. Shadow Minister for Communications

23 October 1991

Media Ownership: Keating's Blatant Bias

Mr Keating denies we have massive concentration of print media. This despite the fact that today Mr Murdoch's News Ltd has a 62% share of Capital City and National Newspapers, almost 70% of metropolitan press, 77% of Sunday Newspapers, 50% of suburban newspapers, 10% of regional dailies and 36% of the

mqjor magazines,

Mr Keating does not believe that magazines should be counted in any examination of print media concentration. By coincidence, Mr Packer has nearly 50% of the major magazine market sewn up,

Mr Keating questioned whether Mode magazine (which does not rate in the top 30 magazine circulation) or Women's Day (circulation close to 1 million) would have an impact such as to qualify it under the cross media ownership rules. He could also

include Woman's Weekly (circulation of over 1 million). Is this because he sees them as unimportant "women's" magazines? Does he believe they have no ability to influence their audience, or does he believe they have no message to sell? The answer, of course, is no.

Mr Keating's agenda is transparent for all to see. It might have been appropriate for Mr Keating to mention The Bulletin which, although it does not match the circulation of the major women's magazines, is nevertheless the major political forum in Australia - a magazine which incidentally was right behind Keating in his failed leadership bid. It also featured in a favourable light the Tourang (Packer/Black) bid

for the Fairfax empire.

Mr Keating said that Fairfax journalists "should get their history right". Fairfax has made a bid to the Herald and Weekly Times in 1987. Who got it? None other that News Ltd. Who made the decision? None other than the Treasurer. How was the decision reached? The views of the Foreign Investment Review Board were never made known despite repeated requests in the Parliament.

By contrast, Mr Keating refused the British publisher, Robert Maxwell's proposed acquisition of 49% of The West Australian newspaper prior to FIRB even considering it. Where is the consistency?

Mr Keating, when Treasurer, constantly refused calls from his backbench for an inquiry into the print media. It is true that such an inquiry will not tell many of us what we do not already know. However, now that the Fairfax Group is up for




grabs, we do have a Parliamentary inquiry. As many editors at the time said, it was the present Government's policies that got us into this mess. The cross-media

ownership limits introduced in 1986 have led, directly and indirectly, to an increasing dominance of major players within the print media, in television and to a lesser extent in radio.

It is obvious there is a widespread belief that the sale of the Fairfax assets should not result in an even greater concentration of media ownership. Is this what Mr Keating also believes?

Contact: Vivienne Shield, Launceston 003 31 4322 Mr Smith is in Canberra 06 277 3332