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Will journalism be compromised?

Kelly Hughes  |  27 July 2018  |  News

In a historic deal, Fairfax Media will merge with Nine Entertainment by the end of 2018 to create a media giant valued at $4.2 billion dollars.

Last year the Coalition, with the support of various crossbenchers, scrapped old regulatory regimes of diverse media ownership in Australia and laid the foundations for this exact merger to take place.

The Coalition argued companies struggling to stay afloat in a competitive media market (such as Fairfax) would benefit immensely by merging with a more commercially viable media entity (such as Nine).

Nine will absorb Fairfax, as well their bred-in-the-bone integrity of quality, independent, transparent journalism.

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Fairfax Media originated over a century ago, and its name has a strong reputation. It also means a great deal to those who value quality journalism.

Fierce and integral, public-interest journalism is the standard upheld and practiced by Fairfax journalists, in which they take pride in themselves for doing so. Fairfax chief executive Grey Hyward said the deal would not compromise the company’s strong editorial independence.

“If management started bullying editors into writing stuff because there was commercial benefit to it, the business would fall apart,” he said.

“There is nothing in this deal that would remotely risk the independence of our journalism.”

But it’s fair to say that exact point should be every Australian’s biggest worry.

Fairfax media was a catalyst for a Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Sector. It spearheaded the brave Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, shining a light into the darkest corners of Australia’s shameful history. Last year, Fairfax won 11 Walkley awards, including taking out the top prize for excellence in journalism.

Some of Australia’s best investigative reporters Adele Ferguson, Kate McClymont and Nick McKenzie are Fairfax journalists who have sparked inquiries, commissions and palpable change with the immense power and weight of their reporting.

Media organisations, such as Nine Entertainment are better known for their tabloid journalism and 60 Minutes exposes that garner commercial interest and caters to a different audience.

After the merge, Nine will be the majority shareholder with 51.1 per cent of the combined entity, and Nine CEO Hugh Marks will lead the new company. But does this mean Fairfax journalists will have to compromise on their honed, investigative public interest skills to please their new boss?

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating went to town last night on the new merger, saying the “pus” from the “carbuncle” that is Nine’s media culture will tarnish Fairfax and compromise their quality journalism.

Speaking to the 7:30 Report last night, he said the news laws were a “disgraceful piece of legislation” and is “an exceptionally bad development”.

It’s a scary reality to come to terms with, especially when the Nine and Fairfax merger looks more like a takeover than an amicable coming together.

If Australian’s want investigative journalism that is strong, fierce, within the public interest and holds the rich and powerful to account, they must continue to support it.

And so too, should Nine’s new editorial staff. Investigative journalism is expensive, and without the editorial support and integrity from higher up, quality, independent journalism will not survive.

I, for one, don’t for a second want to entertain the idea of what we’d do without it.  

 


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