With investigations into News Corp. already underway in the U.S. and the U.K, the prime minister of Australia has expressed interest in launching Australia’s own investigation. PM Julia Gillard told the National Press Club today that she is “shocked and disgusted” at allegations of improper information gathering by Murdoch’s British tabloids and predicted a “long debate about media ethics in this country.” The head of Australia’s Green Party, Senator Bob Brown, is leading a campaign to investigate the media conglomerate, which controls a large portion of Australia’s newspapers and airwaves, and Gillard said she is open to such a probe:
“I’m also not surprised to see that in parliament, or amongst parliamentarians, a conversation is starting about the need for a review, and I will be happy to sit down with parliamentarians and discuss that review that people are obviously contemplating,” she said.
The news is significant as News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch started his company in his native Australia and grew it into a giant that allowed him to begin acquiring media companies in the U.S., the U.K., and elsewhere begining in the 1970s. Though Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship in 1985 to become an American, his company still casts a very large shadow on the country’s media landscape. Murdoch controls dozens of media brands in Australia, including the country’s largest newspaper, seven of the 11 metropolitan and national dailies, 77 percent of Sunday papers, and numerous broadcast and satellite TV outlets. As British progressive blog Left Foot Forward noted, in “Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide you can only pick up a newspaper that’s been printed by Murdoch.”
An editorial in today’s Murdoch-owned newspaper the Australian defends the company, saying it has “nothing to fear from any inquiry into media behaviour.” It goes on to mock Brown’s call for an investigation as ”tilt[ing] at windmills.” News Corp.’s Australian arm has already launched its own probe.