An online petition launched by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling for an investigation into media dominance by Rupert Murdoch has obtained a record number of signatures.
More than 500,000 Australians have signed the petition to Parliament since it was launched three weeks ago.
News Corp Australia controls 70% of local newspaper distribution.
Murdoch did not comment on the petition.
The petition is likely to be submitted to Parliament, but they are not obligated to act on it.
Rudd, Labor premier from 2007 to 2010 and again in 2013, has been a constant critic of Murdoch and his newspapers that have called for his re-election against him.
He praised the level of response from the public on Wednesday, saying it was “grateful”.
“Half a million Australians have spoken. They have broken records to make their voice heard: Australia needs a Murdoch royal commission to protect the lifeblood of our democracy,” he wrote on Twitter.
Like Murdoch, News Corp did not respond to the public petition and ignored it in its news coverage.
What is the criticism?
Among the recent controversies, News Corp’s newspapers were accused of playing down the role of climate change in their reporting on last summer’s wildfires. And he published some misleading reports about the spread of the Corona virus and the impact of the general lockdown in Australia.
The company defended its press against accusations of political bias, racism and skepticism about climate change. Its newspapers are among the best-selling newspapers in Australia.
Rudd’s petition calls for a royal commission – the highest form of public inquiry in Australia – to look into “the abuse of monopolistic media in Australia, especially by Murdoch’s media.”
Domestically, Murdoch owns 14 of the capital’s 21 daily and weekend newspapers, as well as radio stations, “Sky News Australia” and “news.com.au”, the most widely read website.
News Corp Australia also has the only capital newspapers in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
The petition also calls for a scrutiny of the dwindling diversity of the media in Australia, claiming that News Corp’s power has grown in recent years as other outlets have been folded or merged.
The former prime minister described Murdoch and his influence as a “cancer on our democracy”.
And in recent weeks, Murdoch’s newspapers have run negative stories about Rudd.
Another former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has consistently criticized Murdoch’s authority over Australias two major political parties.
He signed the petition, and is among other notables, such as British actor Hugh Grant who expressed support for the investigation.
what is happening now?
The petition closed for signature on 4 November with 501,766 signatures registered on the Australian Parliament website. The petition was so popular in its first few days that it overshadowed the parliament’s website.
The petition will likely be submitted to Parliament. However, unlike some countries, the Australian government is not obligated to respond or act upon it.
And since the petition did not have the support of the ruling liberal national government or labor opposition, observers say this makes it unlikely that this public uproar will incite an investigation by a royal commission.