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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More