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Top mayor takes aim at News Corp, backs Rudd's royal commission call

Statewide

Media organisations of all kinds are failing regional audiences, according to a mayor who also represents local councils across Queensland.

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Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) president Mark Jamieson has backed former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Australia’s media landscape.

The LGAQ represents the state’s 77 councils, many of which lost their local newspapers when News Corp shifted most of its outlets to “digital-only” earlier this year.

The Sunshine Coast Council Mayor said he was concerned newspapers and other news outlets were “making the news” instead of reporting it.

“The idea is you report the arguments for both sides of a story, maybe more sides, to enable the public to make an informed decision in their own right about what they think is accurate,” Jamieson said.

“To go through what we’ve just seen in the US, the positions that various media organisations have taken, whether left or right, red or blue, I think that undermines what democracy is all about.”

‘Overwhelming control’

Rudd’s e-petition warns that “Australia’s print media is overwhelmingly controlled by News Corporation, founded by Fox News billionaire Rupert Murdoch, with around two-thirds of daily newspaper readership”.

The petition accuses News Corp of using its power to attack and intimidate opponents.

Fellow former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull signed the petition, which had more than 500,000 signatures when it was presented to Federal Parliament this week.

Jamieson did not sign the e-petition before it was submitted to the House of Representatives but said he would have if he had known about it in time.

The mayor has experience in media — he worked for APN News and Media for 30 years before leaving its chief executive role in 2009.

The same group, rebranded as Australian Regional Media, was printing more than 60 mastheads and running more than 40 news websites when it was purchased by News Corp in 2016.

Jamieson said he understood the world of news had shifted because of giant search engines and social media companies entering the market.

“The traditional media would probably argue, ‘Well, we’ve been hamstrung in our ability to compete’ and that’s why it’s all ended up in the hands of News Corp,” he said.

Questions of relevance

Jamieson said a royal commission was necessary to ensure there were fewer barriers for those wanting to build news outlets, regardless of whether they were on the Sunshine Coast or in the outback.

“People in those communities want to hear what’s going on, want to know what’s going on,” he said.

“I do think we need to look carefully at the media landscape and eliminate barriers of entry, if you like, for those who would like to start off as those old editors did, in many cases 140 or 150 years ago.”

News Corp is not the mayor’s only target.

He took aim at commercial television networks and the ABC over its content for regional audiences.

“Stories are coming in from outside our region which are obviously for the purpose of filling up the bulletin rather than being relevant to this community,”  Jamieson said.

“I think that’s a mistake as well.

“They want to hear what’s happening on the Sunshine Coast, not what’s happened in Mackay or Townsville.

“I don’t think that’s of great interest to them.”

– ABC / Owen Jacques

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