Ideology will drive news of the future: Scott

Australia’s media landscape is at risk of becoming increasingly segmented by politics and ideology as has happened in the US and UK, according to ABC managing director Mark Scott, who gave his views on the current media landscape in a wide-ranging speech.

In an address to The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism titled “New Journalism for a New Public”, Mr Scott said that the risk of a newspaper market monopoly for News Corp in Australia had never been greater than right now.

“Given the aggressive editorial positioning of some of their mastheads and their willingness to adopt and pursue an editorial position, an ideological position and a market segmentation, you could argue that News Corporation newspapers have never been more assertive in exercising media power,” he said.

“This is worth reflecting on when thinking about life without Fairfax in print most days of the week. News Corp currently sells around 70 per cent of papers purchased in capital cities in Australia and, with the exception of the Fin [The Australian Financial Review], is a monopoly provider in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart.

“With Fairfax perhaps retreating to a weekly edition at some time in the future, fairly conservative modelling could see that figure at closer to 80 per cent, with Perth the only city without the News Corp monopoly through the week.”

Mr Scott also made the assertion that Fairfax is on the path to becoming a digital media company and signalled the prospect of a future where the company does not produce a daily print product at all.

A spokesperson for Fairfax told The Newspaper Works that the company has an optimistic view of the future of their print product, in contrast to the forecast given by Mr Scott in his speech.

“His comments were wrong – probably due to taking as truth the misleading rubbish written by some of our rivals,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that Fairfax had no plans to change the print editions of their major mastheads and that recent results have increased company confidence in their news product.

“At our half year results in February, we were pleased to be able to inform the market that we had doubled the profitability of our metro papers.

“We achieved this through taking tough decisions that allowed us to improve the efficiency of our processes and getting subscriptions right, among other measures. Our mastheads are strong and resilient.”

News Corp Australia declined to comment.

Mr Scott said that despite “dramatic transformations” and the struggle for profitability currently taking place at News Corp and Fairfax, the major commercial media organisations “remain robust in setting and shaping a media agenda”.

“If they are breaking fewer stories or missing major stories because of a cutback in an investment in journalism – it may just be that the rest of the ecosystem swirls around a less substantive core of news,” he said.

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