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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs