Holding comedians to account: Nine and News miss John Barilaro, hit Friendlyjordies instead

by | Sep 20, 2020 | Comment Analysis, Government

Once venerable, the Nine Entertainment-owned Fairfax press has sunk to holding comedians to account and protecting corrupt government. Michael Tanner on the rise of vloggers and the stoush between Youtuber Friendlyjordies and the mainstream media. 

Vloggers make for an unlikely symbol of a revolution. Vladimir Putin has sufficient fears over the mobilisation of support behind vlogger turned political dissident Alexei Navalny that an attempt was made on his life. Sergei Tikhanovsky – a vlogger and political commentator in Belarus – had the temerity to run for government in opposition to dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Tikhanovsky’s arrest and a rigged election later, protests against the dictator have consumed the country.

What keeps dictators in power is an absence of room in the mainstream media for disparate views. This necessitates niche approaches, such as vloggers, who gather support from audiences whose voices aren’t heard and whose stories aren’t told, by the mainstream media.

Back at home, Youtuber Jordan Shanks, aka Friendlyjordies, is filling that niche. On September 14, he posted a 26-minute video that alternated between mocking NSW deputy premier John Barilaro, and exposing a well-researched commentary on the corruption that Barilaro has embraced. The research was comprehensive, with sources provided.

At the time of writing this, the video had amassed 351,000 views in four days. It made national news. But what, exactly, made the news? The detailed exploration of the John Barilaro’s alleged corruption? His alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money for personal gain? His failure to declare a property that netted $160,000 per year in profits?

No.

The mainstream media dismissed Jordan as a “controversial Labor-aligned comedian”, and focused instead on the largely harmless pranks he played, having recorded the video at Barilaro’s (undeclared) estate. Barely a mention of the corruption the video attempted to expose. The message is clear: we don’t smear Coalition politicians.

This coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald today is just as insipid as the coverage in News Corp media and commercial TV, glossing over the political scandal in favour of “secondary news”, that is, writing the story about the story.

It is fair to say the reporters have written a balanced report on Jordan Shanks. But Jordan Shanks is not a public official. He is not elected. Their editors, indeed the management of the media organisation, have missed the forest for the trees.

This is a symptom of a bigger problem in Australian media. Concentration. Since Nine acquired Fairfax, there is a domination in the media market in Australia, between Seven, Nine, and News Corp.

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In 2017, the Coalition repealed the two out of three rule of cross-media ownership, which prevented moguls from controlling a free-to-air TV station, newspapers and radio stations in the same market. This enabled the mainstream media giants to increase their influence on the public debate.

Combined, the three media conglomerations wield the power to shape the public discourse. Yet the mainstream media has, and will continue, to stifle debate on matters of public interest while ignoring stories of corruption such as this investigation into the affairs of Barnaby Joyce and Angus Taylor.

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Much has been made of the proposed ACCC legislation to charge Google and Facebook for sharing news. That such a proposal even made it as far as it has is a farce.

First, the proposal arose through mainstream media executives leaning on the ACCC, rendering the Morrison government the de facto legislative arm of its right-wing media supporters.

Second, the idea that Facebook and Google are somehow stealing from these companies is risible. Google and Facebook drive traffic to these websites, for free. Seven, Nine and News Corp do not pay Facebook or Google to do so but they benefit immensely from the traffic that Facebook and Google drive to their paywalled websites.

So why are they seeking to push through such legislation? They appear to be aiming to increase their dominance over the media in Australia by getting the government to intervene to suck money out of Google and Facebook to prop up the ailing finances of News and Nine. ABC and SBS are excluded from the proposed content payments.

The draft legislation would give only a select number of companies access to the companies’ search algorithms.

If the ACCC legislation were to pass and Facebook and Google were to share intellectual property with the media titans – an unlikely development, as Facebook and Google are more likely to simply withdraw from Australia – then the power of these tech giants would pass to the mainstream media companies which support the Coalition government.

No balance; no independent journalism. Merely a government ordained subsidy for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the Nine Entertainment group, which is chaired by Liberal stalwart Peter Costello and which has held a fundraiser for the Liberal Party. A state of affairs rarely seen in a democracy.

This ACCC legislation is not about fairness. It is not about Australian business. It is about solidifying the hegemony of mainstream media, of Seven, Nine and News Corp, over the public conversation in Australia.

Vloggers have become a symbol of protest, of revolution. When they can have significant political influence, it is a symptom of much more sinister issues at hand. As the mainstream media deny and refuse to report on blatant corruption, regular Australians must worry. Are we so different from Russia, or China, or Belarus?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Tanner

Michael Tanner

Michael Tanner is completing a Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy. His writing explores the intersection of economics, the media and public health. His writing has also been published in The Age. Michael’s Twitter handle is @MichaelTanner_

26 Comments

  1. Avatar

    When I was at University in the early 70’s I did an assignment on Media Ownership in Australia that indicated the danger of 3 owners controlling over 85% of the Media in Australia. This was just after Murdoch had actually backed Whitlam during the It’s Time election win, when the SMH was a right wing mouthpiece owned by the Fairfax family. During my career I worked in the Printing Industry including being a Project / Implementation Manager on large systems in both the Chullora Fairfax Printers Plant and the Tullamarine Age Plant. I was proud that I was helping these last commercial bastions of reasonably unbiased press in Australia. After seeing what has happened to these Publications in recent times my conscience is somewhat relieved that both these Printing Plants are now closed. I am however a bit guilty that I also helped get the News International Plant in Broxbourne, England and the News Ltd Plant in Chullora going as well.

    • Avatar

      Continue to speak up then!!!

      • Avatar

        I do! I also support Michael West and The Guardian by subscribing because they seem to be some of the few remaining honest News outlets.

      • Avatar

        I subscribe to both too

  2. Avatar

    The unholy trinity of all trinities,
    Seven, Nine, and News Corp.Personal embargo’s on one and all.

  3. Avatar

    “This ACCC legislation is not about fairness. It is not about Australian
    business. It is about solidifying the hegemony of mainstream media, of
    Seven, Nine and News Corp, over the public conversation in Australia”.

    Correct Michael, and guess who wrote that legislation!

  4. Avatar

    The only thing I used to watch tv for is news now i don’t watch it at all. the free to air channels are just propaganda and nothingness
    oh i don’t watch cabal tv ether

    • Avatar

      Haven’t watched TV in years. Didn’t even own one til a friend took pity on me and bought me a second hand one. I actually pity him more for thinking that TV is such a necessity, which these days it clearly ain’t. I still appreciated the gesture, but shows how entrenched the media and commercial television is, in the human psyche.

      • Avatar

        A big screen TV is a big computer monitor. I have mine in the usual place, in the loungeroom, but it’s permanently hooked up to my desktop computer which functions as a workstation, a dvd player, and gaming system all in one. I flick over to watch 7/9/10/abc/sbs mainly for sport or media watch and Q&A, or world movies sometimes.

  5. Avatar

    Solid article, much better than the trash in SMH. #barilarobruz #koalakiller

  6. Avatar

    I am glad that a well educated young person has not been brainwashed by the media or by political parties. I hope Mr Tanner maintains his principles and independence when he is high up in the ranks and continues to fight for a free press even when its against his best interests.

  7. Avatar

    Google could solve this problem by blocking Murdoch and Nein “news” content from its feeds. It’s not like they’d lose much if anything in terms of merit of relevancy,

    At the very least, they return controls to users that allowed them to block or disfavor objectionable content from these sites themselves. Some years ago, Google had such a feature.

  8. Avatar

    The entire debacle borders on the absurd, almost stranger than fiction. One of the highlights was this self-own in that misguided SMH article:
    “On the question of why his content appeals to young people, he said ‘because I’m not The Sydney Morning Herald’.”

  9. Avatar

    Great to see Jordan’s efforts are hurting their fragile egos. The systemic corruption in our government that is never spoken off by Newscorp, unless to attack another parties political standing and reputation, it conveniently goes under the radar for our current government. It’s a breath of fresh air to see that they’re beginning to feel the pressure. It really shows when they start pushing the ACCC to make it harder to access independent voices, that aren’t mindlessly following Murdoch.
    I hope poor Barilaro, uses his time off to heal his wounds haha

  10. Avatar

    You’ve gotta love independent journalism!
    Should be more of it rather than the biased diatribe and distorted propaganda from Murdoch’s Muppets.

  11. Avatar

    I noticed Nine Entertainment’s efforts to sully Friendlyjordies in the (Liberal Party’s) Sydney Morning Herald didn’t appear to work. They put the story up there and after a long list of reader’s comments where nearly every comment was in support of Jordies, and also critical of main stream media like the SMH itself, they took the article off the front page very quickly. I don’t think it was what they expected. I also noticed many of the comments thanked the SMH for bringing Jordies and the new Barilaro video to their attention, and many said they had made a donation to support Friendlyjordies’ efforts.

    Jordies is one of most gutsy, intelligent, and politically well informed of young people we have in this country at the moment. He is willing to point out the bullshit that gets covered up every day by our appalling media. He calls a spade a spade, and that is very refreshing.

    Labor should pay attention, they could learn a lot from him and stop being so damn gutless.

  12. Avatar

    There is no such thing as investigative journalism in the mainstream media any more. Just press releases / leaks from the government masquerading as news and opinion articles lacking in any real opinion.

  13. Avatar

    Amazing work Michael! We love FJ

  14. Avatar

    Thanks, Michael. What a ridiculous article by SMH. They just want a return to the cosy “two party” media ecosystem of NineFax and Murdoch.

    In sheer desperation, even playing the Race Card. It’s really time that the name of Lisa Davies was more in the spotlight. It is her leadership that has brought SMH to its knees.

  15. Avatar

    It’s the political influence that Michael West rejects that makes Michael West the best!

  16. Avatar

    Stick to medicine

  17. Avatar

    Pity you do not address the dodgy Koala plan of Berijilian, Constance , Kean and Stokes . My question to you is why . It is a good story of duplicitous behaviour of NSW Libs

  18. Avatar

    2 things to note from this media experiment..
    smh’s /news.com.au efforts to sully Friendlyjordies have backfired spectacularly, only adding to his “readership”..
    It re-enforces the scomo strategy of drip feeding advanced information to “friendly” news sources.. what a wonderful way to control media coverage. I keenly noted the absence of analysis of the FJ claims.
    Just genius!

  19. Avatar

    Thanks Michael Tanner! You give me hope for the future

  20. Avatar

    People of my age Remember the Age and SMH as really good often authoritative reads at the beginning of the century.

    They remember what a mighty little organisation SBS was before it was Stepforded.

    These days the see the cowed remnants of the ABC and the Guardian fearfully toeing the government line on enviro damage, corporate corruption, massive tax dodging and loot on demand from TNC’s.

    For long time the battle for democracy has indeed been fought by hardy independents on the Internet and the sustained attacks on social media the last few years follows the familiar pattern seen in neutering MSM.

    Only the sustained insanity of the powers that be have prevented an earlier collapse and now we wait to see, with the US election, whether things are indeed beyond retrieval, not that the hollowed out husk of the US Democrats can inspire much optimism for a return to reason either.

    Global warming, forget it, a plot involving communist gay capitalist greenie satanist catholic muslim gummint sponsoring a hidden build up of Soviet tanks hidden in Wyoming.

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