Australia’s Getting A Senate Inquiry Into The Murdoch Media Thanks To Kevin Rudd’s Petition

Finally, after Kevin Rudd‘s petition for a Royal Commission into the Murdoch media’s dominance in Australia got over 500,000 signatures, we’re getting the next-best thing: a Senate Inquiry into media diversity.

The motion, moved by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, didn’t even need to go to a vote, because even the government – which Rudd, Hanson-Young and others accuse of being in bed with Murdoch – didn’t oppose it.

“The cosy relationship between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinised,” Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia ahead of the motion.

“When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media the parliament should be listening.”

Both Rudd and fellow former PM Malcolm Turnbull will be called upon to give evidence at the inquiry, Guardian Australia reported later in the evening.

“Our parliamentary petition for a Murdoch Royal Commission is already having an effect,” Rudd said on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

While a Senate Inquiry isn’t quite what he has been calling for, he did wholeheartedly back it, calling it “a useful first step to a full Royal Commission”.

It’s set to look into the current state of public interest journalism in Australia, with the findings due at the end of next March.

That includes assessing voters’ access to “reliable, accurate and independent news”. Keep in mind Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp Australia owns all the major newspapers in Queensland and a very significant chunk in most other states.

Murdoch media (think newspapers, TV channels and magazines) reaches around 16 million Aussies each month.

The other major player in the Aussie media industry, Nine (which also owns PEDESTRIAN.TV), has a similarly large footprint across its TV channels, newspapers and radio stations.

The inquiry’s also going to look at the impact of this media concentration on Aussie democracy, which seems important when we have news papers running headlines like “Kick This Mob Out” on election day.

“The US election has highlighted the need for truth in journalism and the need to call out unsubstantiated and false claims,” Hanson-Young said in parliament.

Another aspect of the inquiry is a look into how the internet has affected traditional business models and the viability of current publications in Australia.

In particular it’s going to look at the impact of platforms like Facebook and Google, which the government has already been pushing to bargain with local publications to pay them for listing content.

Rudd’s petition itself was tabled in parliament on Monday by Labor MP Andrew Leigh, who said: “A healthy media isn’t a luxury – it’s fundamental to a strong democracy.”

Judging by he way the Senate voted today, it seems nobody can argue with that.