News / Asia

Murdoch's News Corp Faces More Pressure in Australia

News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch holds a copy of The Times newspaper as he leaves his home in London July 20, 2011
News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch holds a copy of The Times newspaper as he leaves his home in London July 20, 2011

Australia is to consider toughening its privacy laws in the wake of the British phone-hacking scandal that has stunned Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Canberra said Thursday that the proposed changes would allow Australians the right to sue over serious breaches of privacy, something that is not guaranteed under current legislation. Australia's Greens Party is asking for an official investigation into the company as well as the broader issue of media ownership.

Phone hacking down under?

Australia is where it all began for Melbourne-born Rupert Murdoch more than 50 years ago with just a single newspaper.  His company News Limited has become the country’s most powerful media organization that controls 70 percent of the newspaper industry and has significant interests in television and online.  But the Murdoch empire in Australia is being scrutinized like never before as the scandal half a world away in Britain intensifies.

The big question in Australia is could phone hacking have happened here?   There are those who think that reporters or private investigators probably have intercepted voice messages.

“I would be amazed if there were no instances in Australia of either newspapers or television current affairs programs, employing PIs to do similar sorts of work. I'd be amazed if that wasn't the case,” said Michael Gawenda, a former editor at the Age newspaper in Melbourne and is a director of Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism.

The issue already is dominating discussions on television news programs.

“But there is no evidence to suggest that anything has gone wrong in News [Limited] in Australia,” said one guest.

“It probably will not be found that anything has taken place which is untoward here for the very reason that there is no competition here.  It is the competition that has driven it, no doubt, in the UK,” added another guest.

Media ownership debate

Murdoch’s Australian group is trying desperately to distance itself from the allegations of phone hacking at its parent company. Senior managers point to the very different cultures between Australian and British newspapers.

News Limited’s chief executive John Hartigan says the industry here is far less ruthless than in Britain.

“They refer to a lot of the media as "red tops" in the United Kingdom. They're very aggressive newspapers," he said. "They have - you know, they're very sensational, they deal with people's lives, private lives, and they - some of the behaviors that have come out have obviously been driven by the need to get in front of each other. I would argue very  strenuously that we don't have those behaviors in Australia.”

The scandal has prompted a broader debate here about media ownership and regulation.

The Australian Greens are questioning News Limited’s domination of the domestic newspaper industry and want an official investigation into its operations. The party’s
leader Senator Bob Brown says too much power lies in too few hands.

“We have the most concentrated newspaper ownership of any similar democracy and that means that two thirds of the metropolitan newspapers [and] two thirds of the suburban newspapers are owned by the Murdoch Empire," said Brown. " And it does not allow for the plurality of views that is healthy for a modern democracy.

When asked if he had have any suspicions that his phone or phones of colleagues had their messages hacked by journalists in Australia. Brown replied that he didn't have "any evidence but I have been told by a very experienced journalist not too long ago in the last few days, you know, you would be unwise to not expect that was possible.  But it is pretty shocking to think that we should even have to think about it.”

No Britain, Australia connection

While tougher regulation of the Australian media is unlikely, the government is considering strengthening privacy laws to allow individuals to sue.  Canberra is also accusing News Limited of political bias.  Ministers say the Murdoch press has a vendetta against the left-of-center government, while News Limited editors say they are simply holding politicians to account.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says in light of the phone hacking scandal the company will have to answer some probing questions.

“I think Australians have been disturbed by them," said Gillard.  "I think they've been disturbed to see the reports in the UK and the kind of things that have been happening with telephone hacking and the like, and I think that does mean that Australians here look at News Limited and they've probably got some hard questions that they want answered.”

In a statement News Limited said the prime minister's remarks were unjustifiable and reiterated that there “was absolutely no connection” between events in Britain and News Limited in Australia. However, the company is likely to face more questions when the Australian parliament resumes next month.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs