Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Politicians And The Media

Tony Abbott’s higher standing in the polls is a reflection of a number of things.
  1. The messages are simplistic slogans, repeated often. When he allows his Shadow Ministers to be interviewed, they are given simple answers to questions, and, almost regardless of the question, trot out the answer robotically.
  2. If asked an uncomfortable question, he will stop the journalist, and pick a more “friendly” journalist; or he avoids as much as possible the more probing current affairs programs, opting for the cream-puff shows that ask only soft questions. A straw poll of appearances, taken and reported  by Bruce Hawker in both the Courier-Mail1 and The National Times2  shows how Tony Abbott has avoided the inquisitorial current affairs shows, and headed for the conservative shock-jocks.  It also shows how Julia Gillard has largely avoided the conservative shock-jocks. (it should be noted that Bruce Hawker is a campaign adviser the Labor Party). The figures show the differences for a range of media up to May 2011:
Julia GillardTony Abbott
Inquisitorial Current Affairs
Conservative Shock Jocks
While these figures are not definitive, they are probably indicative.

Radio Shock-Jocks:
Alan Jones is a Liberal Party supporter, and 3-time candidate at NSW and Federal elections for the Liberal Party. 3 
Other conservative shock-jocks used by Tony Abbott include Ray Hadley, Andrew Bolt, Howard Sattler, Steve Price.

“Current Affairs” shows generally fall into 2 categories: populist, shallow pulp; and inquisitorial. My own classification of some of them is below. The list is not comprehensive.
Shallow PulpInquisitorial
A Current Affair
60 Minutes
Today Tonight
The 7:30 Report
Q and A
Meet the Press

Media Donations:
Lawrence Bull, writing for New Matilda, trawled through the Australian Electoral Commission, and wrote on 1-February this year 4
“Six-figure donations (from media companies) are common, and the relationships don’t end there - Labor has several major investments in media companies and the close relationship between former Fairfax CEO Ron Walker and the Liberals is well known.”
A Summary of his findings is below:
Donations 2000 - 2007
Media Group / Significant Person
Donations to  Liberal
Donations to Labor
News Corp (Murdoch)
Dame Elizabeth Murdoch
Fairfax Media
PBL Entities (Packer)
TEN Network
(2007 Election, as advertising)
(2007 Election, as advertising)
Paul Ramsey Holdings (Prime TV & Private Hospitals)
Seven Network

With the exception of Austereo and the Seven Network, the other media have significantly favoured the Liberal Party. I would expect a rigorous investigation to show that the funding bias reflects their editorial policies.

Summary and  Conclusion:
In short, there would appear to be a financial & editorial bias from many media organisations towards the Liberal Party. Furthermore, Tony Abbott’s use of soft, populist media, and supportive shock-jocks, is effective use of the media from a politician reported to to have said to the Independent MP’s that he’d “do anything” to be Prime Minister. He remains, however, evasive of more discerning questions, especially about his lack of policy detail.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s poor polling results reflect her lack of attendance on the shallow, populist current affairs shows, and the aggressive pro-Liberal stance taken by popular shock-jocks. She is lighter on simplistic slogans, being more inclined to rational explanations.

In preparing this post, I looked at: