A few days after the most recent toppling of a sitting Australian prime minister by his own party, former prime minister Kevin Rudd—the first to be so unceremoniously deposed—penned a scathing indictment of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire.
Murdoch, Rudd said, is “the greatest cancer on Australian democracy,” and, far from being a mere media mogul, “operates as a political party, acting in pursuit of clearly defined commercial interests, in addition to his far-right ideological world-view.”
After implicating Murdoch in Brexit and the “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party by Donald Trump via Fox News, Rudd warned that the damage in Australia could be even greater given Murdoch owns two-thirds of the country’s print media. “No other democracy has anything approaching his effective media monopoly.”
At the heart of Murdoch’s Australian media empire is Sky News, the cable station that he acquired in 2016. While once a relatively strait-laced news channel (Britain take note), its evening programming has now taken a decidedly conservative turn, leading one critic to quip that it has “a kind of split personality.” While its daytime schedule continues to operate as a standard news service, “Sky after dark,” as it’s not-so-affectionately known, now features a Who’s Who of Murdoch’s star print columnists who make no secret of their hard-right credentials, making frequent targets of anyone deemed vaguely hostile to their ideological worldview.
One such columnist turned cable star, Andrew Bolt, claimed that Australia was being “colonised” by immigrants who refused to assimilate, paying particular attention to Muslim and Jewish communities. Less than two weeks later, Sky host Adam Giles invited on to his programme the white supremacist Blair Cottrell, a notorious local figure who’d previously been convicted for inciting serious contempt against Muslims.
The comparisons to Fox News are natural but local critics are loath to equate the two, pointing to Sky’s slightly more ideologically diverse range of voices, including former centrist Labor politicians. But this seems largely beside the point. First, the inclusion of centrists but lack of identifiably progressive voices only adds to the political distortion by positioning centrism as the farthest point on the left side of the ideological spectrum. Perhaps more importantly, what concerns Rudd and many other critics, including veteran political reporter Chris Uhlmann, is not so much the influence Sky…