News Corp has been under siege in Australia’s public debate in recent months. Kevin Rudd, with the assistance of Malcolm Turnbull, gathered 500,000 signatures calling for a Royal Commission into Murdoch influence over Australian politics. Rudd has also given multiple testimonies slamming News Corp to a Senate Committee on media diversity.
News Corp has published a number of hit pieces against Rudd in response. Last week, it expanded the attack to the ABC as part of a long-standing campaign to undermine the public broadcaster, and following a 4Corners documentary on the Fox/Trump connection.
In an article titled, “ABC Discusses News Corp and Murdoch 1,700 Times in 30 Days,” The Australian presented the ABC as pursuing an obsessive anti-Murdoch agenda. “The ABC has criticised News Corp publications for ‘banging on about the ABC’ despite the public broadcaster mentioning ‘News Corp’ or ‘Murdoch’ more than 56 times a day,” wrote Australian journalist Sophie Elsworth.
The data analysis was reportedly carried out by the Institute of Public Affairs. It absent from the research section of their website.
Now, the ABC has issued an unusual press release rebutting the bizarre attack. According to the ABC, the real figure is about 10% of the 1,700 figure cited by The Australian. These primarily related to YouTube temporarily banning SkyNews, as well as the 4Corners investigation.
To get to the 1,700 number, The Australian included all individual mentions across local networks. For instance, a mention of “a Murdoch paper” by a caller on the late-night “Nightlife” program was recorded as 50 mentions.
The analysis included numerous apolitical mentions of Murdoch and News Corp. These included reporting on the News Corp share price and quotes of News Corp journalists or papers in relation to particular news stories.
Most bizarrely, the very name “Murdoch” was recorded indiscriminately. Lauren Murdoch, Lindsay Murdoch, Murdoch University, and even Murdoch Road, South Morang found its way into the analysis.
“The Australian’s story is false, misleading and frankly ridiculous,” said the press release. “The ABC has sought a correction from The Australian.”
The vacuousness of the research speaks to the significance of headline grabbing in contemporary media and politics. It’s also evidence of one of the most polarised landscapes of public debate in Australia that we have faced for many years.
Follow Christian on Twitter for more news updates.