Over 280,000 Australians Sign Former PM’s Anti-Murdoch Press Petition

October 14, 2020 Updated: October 16, 2020

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s petition calling for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has amassed over 280,000 signatures since it was launched on Oct. 11.

It comes as new media laws will soon force tech giants Google and Facebook to compensate Australian media companies for content, with Murdoch-owned News Corp expected to benefit.

Rudd announced the petition via Twitter calling on the federal parliament to investigate the abuse of media monopoly, particularly in relation to Murdoch’s interests.

“The truth is Murdoch has become a cancer, an arrogant cancer, on our democracy,” Rudd said in the video launching the petition.

The former prime minister told AAP he was not surprised at the level of support the petition has received.

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A photo illustration taken in Melbourne shows an online petition launched by former prime minister Kevin Rudd calling for an inquiry into Rupert Murdoch’s dominance over Australian media on Oct. 13, 2020. (William WEST / AFP)

“What I picked up across the Australian community is growing levels of anger about the impact of the Murdoch media monopoly on people’s lives,” he said.

Rudd claimed Murdoch’s News Corp Australia owned 70 percent of print readership in the country, repeating a claim he made during his prime ministership in 2013.

The company owns metro dailies including The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, and The Herald Sun. However, whether the publications cover 70 percent of Australian readers has been disputed.

Current Labor Party and Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese did not say whether he supported the call, telling reporters in Adelaide on Oct. 11, “Kevin is doing that as a private citizen, as a former prime minister. He’s entitled to put his views.”

News Corp publications, particularly tabloids, have been vocal participants in Australian politics, often displaying overt support for certain parties and policies.

“In 18 out of the last 18 federal and state elections, Murdoch has viciously campaigned in support of one side of politics, the Liberal and National Party, and viciously campaigned against the Australian Labor Party,” Rudd said.

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FILE – News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch delivers a keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco on Oct. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Dr. Rob Nicholls, associate professor at the University of New South Wales, said despite News Corp’s large ownership of print and websites Murdoch does not have any interests in public, commercial television, minor interests in radio, and is losing the digital battle to Google and Facebook.

“It seems odd to call for a royal commission merely a year after the report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on digital platforms,” he told The Epoch Times on Oct. 14.

“The recommendations of the ACCC, some of which were accepted by the Australian government, have already identified many of the issues that any royal commission might deal with,” he added.

The Digital Platforms Inquiry was a comprehensive review conducted by the ACCC into the state of the Australian media landscape and the extent of Google and Facebook’s market power.

The logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google on a tablet in Lille, France
The logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google on a tablet in Lille, France, on Oct. 1, 2019. (Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images)

The ACCC found that the U.S. tech giants had developed a substantial userbase in the country, with 19.2 million Australians using Google-owned platforms, and 18.6 million on Facebook-owned platforms—from a population of over 25 million.

Further, in 2019 Google generated $4.3 billion (US$2.91 billion at the time), and Facebook $674 million. In comparison, major Australian media groups Seven West Media generated $1.1 billion, Nine Entertainment Co. brought in $1.48 billion, and News Corp generated $1.2 billion.

Nicholls said the ACCC’s impending media bargaining code that will compel Google and Facebook to pay media publishers for content may have influenced Rudd’s decision to launch the petition.

News Corp Australia’s CEO Michael Miller has been a firm supporter of the code, arguing the tech giants might need to pay up to $1 billion a year to Australian media.