Freedom of the press. A beautiful thing. By all means, the 177-yo Sydney Morning Hearld (SMH) executed full autonomy over what it published. In the end, the public didn’t buy it. For the staff to seek the union to block the Nine Network’s takeover of Fairfax Media smacks of the identical numb-skulled action that has brought them to this predicament. If the paper decided to listen to what the audience wanted to read (the mood) as opposed to telling them they “don’t get it” it might have retained its independence. Take a look at the pictograph above – 20 anti Trump articles in one day. Overkill?
Last year the SMH had to take two massive rounds of lay-offs inside of 12 months because the product wasn’t reaching. The SMH staff took a vote to strike because their evil overlords put profit ahead of people. Welcome to the free market. When one journalist at the SMH became a scab (because he admitted the paper’s journalism was the problem) he was vilified by his fellow workers. Instead of opening their minds that they maybe the root cause, they protested. Finger on the pulse?
It certainly makes a strong case for how the diminishing readership base (i.e. the free market) viewed the content. Not very highly. It is why The Guardian now asks its readers for charity so it can stay alive? Could it be that media jobs don’t exist to serve the journalists needs but that of their audience? The Fairfax scribes might reflect on the fact that the taxpayer funded ABC – which produces identical product – was not the friendly ally it believed it was but the mortal enemy who ended it. As an audience, if we’re not offered a differentiated product where the same content is free to consume, who would pay for the one that costs?
Yet the sale of Fairfax was obvious. Digging a bit deeper into the stats of the ABC reveals its biased left leaning journalism has dwindling popularity. Comparing 2016/17 and 2015/16 it is clear that TV audience reach for metro fell from 55.2% to 52.5% and regional slumped from 60.3% to 57.3%. If we go back to 2007/8 the figures were 60.1% and 62.4% respectively. For the 2017/18 period, the ABC targets a 50% reach. Good to see taxpayer dollars openly championed with enhanced levels of mediocrity. Yet the ABC screams for more funding.
Throwing more money won’t fix the problems. The ABC’s wage bill is 50% of revenue while its multicultural sister station SBS runs on 31% of revenue for salaries. Why hasn’t the ABC got superior economies of scale? On a global basis, the UK’s BBC spends 22.7% of its revenues on salaries. How can Nine Network survive on advertising revenues? Could it be audience numbers allow advertisers to make rational decisions to tap them?
Criticise Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian for right wing media bias but at the very least he serves a market who is willing to pay for the content. Simple. It is no difference overseas. Fox has more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined. Don’t belt Fox viewers for following “Faux News” but question what is it about their offering that they’re missing? At what point do the likes of Fairfax or Time Warner realize the problem lies within.
In Fairfax’s case we have the answer – market forces.