News Corp statement to Senate inquiry into media diversity

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson

Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, made a statement to the Senate Today’s Media Diversity Inquiry aimed at examining the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia and the impact it has on public service journalism and democracy.

The full text:

Senators, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and apologize for the tyranny of time and distance. The problems you struggle with are deep, they are fundamental and not progressive. When it comes to diversity, sustainability, and efficiency, the recent publication of the Facebook Files presented challenges to lawmakers around the world – we’re finally starting to have a more sophisticated debate about the impact of social media and the power of social media. digital platforms. I understand that the Committee is focusing on the diversity of traditional media, but to be relevant, to resonate in the future, there must be a collective focus on contemporary patterns of creation, distribution and consumption.

I left the Australian coast in early 1985, but I have vivid memories of my early days in journalism, starting as a copier in Melbourne in The herald, having been born in countryside Victoria, Torrumbarry, in a pub to be precise. It’s fair to say that the mandate is now a bit broader and more international, given that it encompasses, among other properties, the HarperCollins books, realtor.com, The Wall Street Journal, The temperature and The sun, and Housing.com, a digital real estate company in India. The hard truth is that our traditional newspapers have become a significantly smaller proportion of News Corp and the words “Digital Disruption” and “Big Digital” are both euphemisms. In Australia, sales of print newspapers have unfortunately suffered a sharp decline over the past decade. There has been a significant shift in power, influence and profitability from the creators of news content to the distributors of news content.

This change was already evident when I was asked to testify as editor-in-chief of The temperature in the House of Lords in 2007 on the fate of the media, but the social, cultural, political and commercial consequences have become increasingly acute. For us, we couldn’t take it easy on this good night.

That there is more diversity in the potential sources of information is indisputable. The Guardian, the BBC and the Daily mail, the publications we compete against, are now widely available in Australia to an extent unimaginable in the 1980s. Proliferation is not the problem, and yet publications are struggling to survive even as their audience and potential audience has. increased exponentially. This is why the Australian Media Code is so crucial and has served as an inspiration to countries around the world. It is a tribute to the Australian Parliament, and I can say, without fear of being contradicted, that its value is recognized in London, Washington, Paris, Rome, Brussels and beyond. This legislation, your legislation and ACCC’s digital reporting will be the cornerstones of global content policy in the future.

When it comes to diversity, it would certainly be remiss not to mention the diversity inherent within News Corp. The temperature and The Wall Street Journal have very different political positions and, in the same London building, The temperature and Sunday Times often at odds with each other. The temperature was strongly in favor of Remain and Sunday Times pleaded for Brexit.

This diversity resonates across the company and is clearly present at HarperCollins, which publishes Ilhan Omar and Ben Shapiro and the Dalai Lama. We recently entered into a historic agreement with the estate of Dr Martin Luther King Junior to publish his archives to the world, including in all formats and languages. Across News Corp, across the world, there are contrasting concepts, divergent points of view, a competition of ideas.

It should be concerning that the competition of ideas is not cherished by all, and that a movement to silence, censor opinions, shame and ostracize has gained momentum across much of the world. world. We should all be wary of a seemingly insatiable quest for outrage, right and left, for a holier theology than you that demonizes deviation.

With regard to the environment, it should be noted that, collectively, we have pursued a policy in line with Rupert Murdoch’s declaration in 2006 that “the planet deserves the benefit of the doubt”. We were the first major media company in the United States to commit to science-based carbon reduction targets – from 2016 to 2020 they have been reduced by 30% and further reductions are well underway. In 2011, we created what was one of the largest industrial solar projects in the United States at our Dow Jones printing center in New Jersey. HarperCollins announced this week that it will be carbon neutral next year and it’s not just by buying carbon offsets. You will no doubt have noticed the pre-Glasgow campaign by many of our newspapers in Australia – to be clear, the initiative came from local publishers. It is important that there are rational responses to energy challenges – ersatz energy is not fuel, and working class Australians will certainly be the most vulnerable if costs rise dramatically. It is also important to the credibility of science that scientists resist the temptation to be social engineers – neo-Malthusian ramblings are not research.

Two closing points on digital issues. First, the digital ecosystem is dysfunctional and while there is unquestionable diversity, there is still no sustainability, even in new media. Ten smart women and men could start a news website in Birmingham, England, or Birmingham, Alabama, and no matter how smart or clever they are, they would be doomed because the content didn’t is not properly valued and the digital advertising market lacks transparency. Second, the impact of so-called social media on sensitivity, on personality must be challenged. The brightest software engineers in the world are making more compelling, more compulsive products, leveraging human instinct, harvesting our insecurities and those of our children. The power of Artificial Intelligence is real and this influence is growing.

Thank you.

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Norman D. Briggs