The ability of Australians to access news from a wide variety of sources in the age of the internet is often cited whenever anyone complains that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia owns so much of our local media.
An example of the extent of that ownership is on display at the bottom of the regular column by right-wing commentator Peter Gleeson.
Along the bottom of the page containing his words of wisdom in News Corp’s The Courier-Mail in Brisbane is a strip advertisement (pictured) reminding readers that they should tune in and become Sky News viewers to see Gleeso at 10pm every Monday to Thursday night in his own show The Front Page.
Oh, by the way, Sky News is operated by Australian News Channel Pty Ltd which bills itself as an “unrivalled 24-hour multi-channel, multi-platform news service provider” which also happens to be a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp Australia.
So, to promote diversity a News Corp publication urges its readers to watch a News Corp-owned TV network to see the same News Corp commentator pretty much repeat the sort of views they’ve just read.
But in Monday’s column there was — just above the strip ad — a small item in which Gleeso explains that viewers of the WIN Television Network in regional markets around the nation will soon also be able to watch him in a show called Gleeso’s Australia from 7pm to 8pm each week night focussing on regional issues and news.
Oh, and by the way in case anyone was worried, Gleeso informed his readers that he would continue to appear later each night in his current program on Sky TV.
The new WIN TV show starts from 27 January 2020 and is possible under a deal struck last year between WIN and Sky News.
From September 2018 WIN’s free-to-air regional network covering a potential audience of eight million Australians has been screening the news, current affairs, and “after-dark” political commentary programming of pay TV channel Sky News.
At the time the deal was spruiked as delivering more news and more programming choices to regional audiences. Diversity, if you like.
However, you might recall that in only June this year the same WIN Television Network announced it was closing regional TV newsrooms in Orange, Dubbo, Albury, and Wagga Wagga in NSW, and in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland. The decision cost the jobs of around 40 staff.
So now, instead of investing its money in keeping open genuinely local newsrooms to deliver genuine local news, WIN is presumably paying News Corp Australia a pretty penny (they are, after all, dealing with a Mr KR Murdoch who likes to make a quid or two) to recycle its news and largely right-wing commentators’ shows free to regional audiences.
Has this deal expanded diversity? We think not.
But it also points to a rather puzzling question for which right now we have no answer.
Why would a pay TV owner allow their product to be accessible for free to anyone in any viewing market?
Is there a bigger more long-term plan afoot here?