No one is shocked anymore by suggestions that the Murdoch media is partisan in favour of the Liberal-National Coalition.
However in this election campaign, all the major media outlets — including the ABC — are helping tip the scales towards the Coalition.
The first week was dominated by exaggerated coverage of Opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s supposed day one “gaffe” — not knowing the exact current unemployment rate. He stumbled, tentatively gave a figure, apologised profusely, all the while looking like a school boy about to be marked down a grade.
This was hardly a political controversy. Nevertheless, the mainstream media obsessed over Albanese’ mistake, from every angle, thereby helping Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s case that Albanese is not up to the “top job”.
The ABC’s David Speers went to town, saying Albanese’s “brain freeze” made him look “genuinely ill-prepared” and that reactions from Labor colleagues are “too colourful to print”.
This may be accurate, but the more important news to interrogate was Labor’s revelation, finally, that it would not commit to raising JobSeeker if it was elected.
Morrison also stumbled on day one, wrongly telling reporters that former education minister and alleged abuser Alan Tudge “is still in my cabinet”.
Morrison’s failure to deal with allegations that ministers have committed rape and the broader problem of sexual violence and justice for women make this a newsworthy issue, but it was given scant attention.
Further, after weeks of compelling accusations from his colleagues that Morrison is a “bully” and a “liar”, Morrison’s suitability to govern was hardly questioned in the same way. Gareth Parker’s Sydney Morning Herald comment on “tough questions” for Morrison about the Tudge revelation spent the first 16 paragraphs talking about Albanese’s “gaffe”!
Unsurprisingly, polls on April 17 revealed a drop in support for Labor after almost 18 months of its growing lead. This was also reported in an exaggerated way, trying to disguise the fact that Labor is still in the lead.
Given Labor’s “small target” strategy and the establishment media’s reluctance to promote third parties such as the Greens, it wants to generate the impression that there is a real contest. This helps attract audience interest and “engagement” and, ultimately, is more lucrative.
The more fundamental reason, however, is the central role the corporate media plays in maintaining capitalist class rule. Even though democratic forms disguise the corporate dictatorship we all live under, an election every three to four years in a system that is rigged to keep the big parties in power means there is no real choice for ordinary people.
There are multiple structural and cultural features of the political system that guarantee big capital’s interests are protected. Clive Palmer’s spend of more than $70 million on election advertising, enough to shift election results, is one of them.
The standard means of protecting billionaire interests is via a sophisticated network of pro-corporate institutions, of which the establishment media is a significant part.
That’s why those with an interest in justice need our own media. People-powered projects, like Green Left, will never by themselves be able to counter corporate power, but reporting on ordinary people’s struggles for a better world, is an important antidote to the corporate spin.