Political economy and discourse in Murdoch’s flagship newspaper, The Australian

John Sincliar

Abstract


The Australian is News Corporation’s flagship newspaper in Australia. The only truly national, general daily, The Australian demands that it be taken seriously, not only as a ‘newspaper of record’, but as an actor in the business, politics and culture of the nation. Established by Rupert Murdoch in 1964, The Australian is widely understood to be his vehicle of influence, but more than that, it may serve as a case study of how his proprietorial influence is mediated in practice.  The political economy of The Australian is striking in that it is not a profitable operation, and although it serves to cross-promote other interests of News Corp Australia, the paper appears to exist principally for the purpose of exerting its overt ideological agenda. An implicit assumption in the political economy literature is that ownership entails control, but there are rare opportunities to examine just how this is mediated.  However, the chance to research this issue came at the end of 2015, with the retirement of Chris Mitchell, the longest-serving editor-in-chief of The Australian, and the subsequent publication of his memoir in 2016.  The present study shows that in addition to the predictable neoliberal agenda of the Murdoch-owned media evident in the US and UK, The Australian under Mitchell’s direction pursued campaigns of its own. Although these were not in conflict with the international agenda, they had peculiar inflections that suggest the editor-in-chief has had “relative autonomy” to assert control and influence in his own right. The complex mediation of proprietorial control considered here has implications beyond the particular case of The Australian.  


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