Media Political Economy


One indispensable starting point for all media analysis is political economy; the way ownership, revenue sources, audiences and costs of production structure institutional incentives.  With the destabilization produced by digitization and the internet, such concerns have become much more visible than they used to be.  In a concentrated media market such as Australia, the peculiar nature of the media companies becomes particularly important, and I have written several articles on some of them.

‘Quality and Bias in the Australian Press. News Ltd, Fairfax, and the Herald and Weekly Times’ Australian Quarterly Vol 59 Nos 3-4, Dec 1987, p.329-344.

  • In the 1980s, based on my interviews for News and Power (see News and Politics), I wrote this article about journalistic values, and about the way journalists spoke of each of the three main newspaper companies.


  • My most important writing in this area is the book on Murdoch (see home page), but this was accompanied and preceded by several short articles:

‘The Australian at 45’ Inside Story, July 14, 2009

‘Rupert Murdoch’s sixtieth anniversary and the hazards of longevity’ Inside Story 5 December 2012

‘Col Allan, Murdoch’s $100 million man’ Inside Story 15 August 2013

‘From scandal to reform: Leveson’s way forward’ Inside Story 6 December 2012

‘Rupert Murdoch’s Annus Horribilis’ Inside Story 10 July 2012

‘News Corp and the hackers: a scandal in two parts’ Inside Story 15 September 2011

‘The centre cannot hold’ Inside Story 29 October 2010

‘Nine tenths of the law’ Inside Story 3 June 2010

‘UK phone hacking victims’ lawyer Charlotte Harris in Conversation: the full transcript’
The Conversation 22 November 2012

‘Can we talk about the weather Mr Murdoch? The Age 30 October 2013

‘Fox’s hard line might benefit Democrats’ Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 2011

‘Unfair and unbalanced: how News failed to fell government’ Sydney Morning Herald 21 September 2010


  • The only media baron comparable to Murdoch in his internal control and his capacity to influence public policy was Kerry Packer. He was not of course nearly as entrepreneurial as Murdoch, more – in Paul Keating’s memorable phrase – ‘a bottom feeder’, but his impact on Australian public life was considerable.

‘The Labor-Packer Alliance, 1978-1995. RIP’ Media International Australia, No 77, August 1995, p.20-34.
The Packer-Labor Alliance 1978-95 – RIP

‘Packer, ANI and the ethics of corporate secrecy’ Current Affairs Bulletin June 1998 p5-10.

‘Media Ownership Changes 1987 and 2006 – From Alan Bond to CVC’ Media International Australia Number 122, February 2007, p.12-15
Media ownership changes 1987 and 2006 – From Alan Bond to CVC

  • In late 1991 Kerry Packer appeared before a parliamentary committee. His performance made for riveting television, and while opinion was divided on what some saw as his bullying of MPs, most hailed it as a triumph. I reviewed it for the CAB at the time. However in the course of this triumph, Packer had told lies, which thanks to the secret efforts of Malcolm Turnbull, became known to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, and effectively sunk his chances of gaining the Fairfax newspapers. Many years later, in an article in the Age and then on Four Corners, I was involved in making the chain of events public.

‘Kerry Packer in Parliament’ (Current Note) Current Affairs Bulletin, 68, 8, January 1992.
‘How Packer slipped on Fairfax’ The Age 30 November 2006

Sarah Ferguson ‘My brilliant career’ Four Corners, ABC TV, 25 August 2008

‘Only one Bond (and Hawkie) in a lifetime’ The Age 28 December 2005


‘Neither Angel nor Ogre’ Review Essay on Gavin Souter’s Company of Heralds, Media Information Australia No 22, Nov 1981. p.8-12
Neither Angel nor Ogre – A Fairfax History

‘The Fall of the House of Fairfax’ Media Information Australia No 67, February 1993
The Fall of the House of Fairfax
‘Why Fairfax Matters’ Inside Story 27 June 2012


‘Yes, it is our ABC’ Inside Story 5 December 2013

‘Mark Scott on the future of your ABC’ The Conversation 11 April 2012


DevelopmentsinAustralianPolitics‘Media Policy’ in Judith Brett, James Gillespie and Murray Goot (eds) Developments in Australian Politics (Melbourne, Macmillan, 1994) p.322-347

  • This chapter reviewed media policy under the Hawke-Keating governments and the ownership convulsions of the late 1980s and their aftermath.

Pay Television

TVFutures‘From Technological Abundance to Commercial Monopoly in Australian Pay TV: Key Relationships in Institutionalising Subscription Television’ in Andrew Kenyon (ed) TV Futures. Digital Television Policy in Australia (Melbourne University Press, 2007)