News Corporation is facing significant legal and financial challenges in the United States and Australia, with two defamation cases against them. The cases, involving Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems in the US, and Lachlan Murdoch and Crikey News in Australia, have sent a clear message that News Corporation’s influence is diminishing.
The Dominion case has been settled for $US797 million ($AU1.2 billion), a quarter of the company’s cash reserves, while Lachlan Murdoch has dropped his defamation case against Crikey News. There is also another defamation case in the US with Smartmatic versus Fox News, which could lead to further damage to News Corporation. There are concerns that this could be the beginning of the end for the company, which is facing declining revenues and subscriptions.
The decline of News Corporation’s ability to influence politics and public opinion has been a slow process, but the company’s recent legal challenges have accelerated this. The shift in audiences to younger generations, who prefer to find their own news from niche outlets, has contributed to the decline of legacy media. News Corporation’s empire took a long time to build, but, as with all empires, it has a use-by date. While it is not certain that the company will fail, it is possible that it could happen quickly.
However, the end of News Corporation’s media empire does not necessarily mean that mainstream media in Australia will improve. Sensationalism and right-wing media will always exist if there is a receptive audience and an enterprise with the resources to provide these types of services. It is important to understand the impact of declining legacy media on the media landscape and the wider community. News Corporation’s legal challenges could be a turning point for the industry, and it remains to be seen what the future holds.
News Corporation’s influence over the past two decades has been a disaster for good quality journalism in Australia, according to Eddy Jokovich and David Lewis, co-presenters of the New Politics podcast, suggesting that News Corporation had “fundamentally changed news and current affairs for the worst in Australia.”
Jokovich pointed out that the negative effects of News Corp’s influence extended beyond its own media outlets, such as The Australian and Sky News. He noted that many former News Corp journalists and executives had moved to other media organisations, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Nine Media (formerly Fairfax Media), and had brought their focus on commercial interests and target demographics with them.
“This has fundamentally changed the ABC,” Jokovich said. “It’s lost its point of difference and has become a dumbed down news operation. And it’s also very similar to a lot of other material that you can find within the mainstream media.”
Despite these criticisms, Lewis did acknowledge that there were still some good quality shows on the ABC, such as Landline, AM, and PM. However, he also expressed concern about the quality of other shows, such as Q&A, which he called “unwatchable unless there’s a really good panel on it.”
Lewis suggested that the ABC could improve the quality of its programming by featuring independent journalists and regional correspondents on its shows, rather than relying on the same pool of well-known commentators and pundits.
“We’ve got to be sure that we get in decent panels on Q&A, that we get in decent topics on Insiders,” he said. “I don’t think we should use commercial journalists who are employed by other big companies on these programs, I think it’s better to use independent journalists.”
Lewis suggested that there was still a good appetite for quality journalism in niche markets, but that it was becoming less likely to find such journalism in legacy media. “The legacy of News Corporation is a sad one,” he said. “But there is still hope for the ABC and for good quality journalism in Australia.”