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Media Week: Why two out of three ain't bad

Media Week

In today's Media Week, guest columnist and publisher Paul Hamra tells why he has decided to oppose a proposed change to Australia's media laws, a reform that will ultimately benefit one company over all others - and at the expense of consumers.

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I wasn’t sure how I felt about the proposed changes to Australia’s media laws.  Until this week.

As a news publisher, driven by a belief that media diversity is good for communities and democracies, I started InDaily more than 12 years ago – albeit in a different guise as The Independent Weekly – on that premise.

Idealistically, I thought more media would broaden our views, increase our competition, and inspire better journalism and insights, with the net effect of making South Australians feel and look better, more informed, more knowledgeable and more engaged.

I’d like to think we have achieved an element of this noble pursuit in a town known outside of Adelaide as NewsCorp’s town – dominated by one media company able to drive an agenda to a degree that resembles group-think.

Almost 13 years down the track, I feel like we have found our place; we co-exist in “News Town”, and this has been helped by the proliferation of other online voices.

Quite surprisingly, earlier this year I was approached by global accounting firm EY to enter its Entrepreneur of the Year program. I was talked into doing so by those who thought it would be a good way to tell the “independent media” start-up story and make clients, suppliers and staff – past and present – feel proud to be a part of the InDaily story.

So I nominated and was announced this week as one of 15 finalists. It was humbling as I heard the other finalists’ stories – real stories about passionate and successful South Australian businesspeople. Regardless of my reason for entering, I now feel honoured to be in this group.

I told the organisers during the process that if I was a finalist, “don’t expect The Advertiser to mention our company, Solstice Media, or InDaily”.

“It makes a point of pretending we don’t exist,” I said.

And guess what? The story on the front page of the business section of The Advertiser listed the South Australian finalists – minus me.  I was deleted.

So, the story was, if not “fake news”, certainly not the whole truth. It didn’t tell the full story of all of the finalists because they don’t like me or my company. Indeed, they don’t like competition of any form. So we don’t exist.

The awards had 15 finalists – 13 from SA and two from the Northern Territory. All but one of the SA finalists were listed in The Advertiser.

But it’s not just us.

The Advertiser’s recent online write-up of this month’s SA Media Awards kicked off with the company’s annual claim that its journalists and photographers “have dominated” the annual event.

Certainly, NewsCorp employees took out awards in several categories, and deservedly so.

But the story pointedly didn’t mention any of the other deserving winners – including, quite remarkably, Alex Mann, who won four separate awards for his work on the ABC’s 7.30 program, including Best Coverage of Sport and the evening’s major gong: Journalist of the Year.

It didn’t mention how Today Tonight’s Hendrik Gout – a former editor of The Independent Weekly – took out the award for Best Investigative Reporting, or that InDaily’s Bension Siebert took home his second consecutive Young Journalist of the Year prize.

Nor any of the other worthy winners across radio and TV.

Because, of course, NewsCorp dominated the awards.

Such episodes have only firmed up my opposition to Malcolm Turnbull’s new media laws, specifically the abolition of the “two out of three” rule, where it is proposed that any one company can own interests in all three categories of mass media in one city – newspapers, TV and radio stations.

If this law is passed, it would mean NewsCorp – which currently owns The Advertiser, Sunday Mail, The Australian and The Messenger masthead – could add a television station and a radio network to its local stable in Adelaide.

So if NewsCorp decided, on its own whim, to omit some facts from a major story, it will pretty much mean it didn’t happen.

Readers and viewers will see only what that one media company reports.

That type of media concentration is power to control the news. Surely that can’t be good for our great state.

Paul Hamra is managing director of Solstice Media, which publishes InDaily.

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InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.

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