Archive‎ > ‎

You Don't Need to Gag the Media (1999) by Joseph Toscano

One of the most common furphies in Australia is that we have a free media. We're constantly told we live in a free society and the media reports news as it happens. One small experience I had last week reinforces all that is wrong with the media in this country. One small item on the ABC News mentioned that the Murdoch Corporation only paid 6% tax on the 5.4 billion dollar profits it made last year.

This is a major story in anybody's eyes, but not in the eyes of the corporate media. One of the largest media conglomerates that owns over 70% of the Australian print media paying just 6% tax is news, big news. I make it my business to keep abreast of what's happening in the world today so that I can provide an anarchist commentary on what I think are the main news items in Australia.

I waited for the ABC to pick up the story, I wasn't stupid enough to think that the commercial media, the Murdoch, Packer or the Stokes empire would bother letting their editorial staff follow the story. As nothing appeared in the mainstream media about this riveting piece of news, I took the time to pen an innocuous letter to the main newspapers in Victoria, not because I expected it to be published, but because I wanted to prick a few consciences.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Tuesday 23rd March, 1999

Dear Editor,

It¹s interesting to note that the Murdoch empire only paid six percent tax on its 5.4 billion dollar profits last financial year. Compared to other taxpayers, it¹s obvious that much of the corporate world is not paying its fair share of tax. By using a network of over 800 subsidiary companies, the Murdoch¹s were able to legally minimise their tax bill to six per cent. The question the community should be asking itself, is not why the Murdoch empire hardly paid any tax on their profits, but why governments around the world have structured their tax laws in such a way as to allow companies that make billions of dollars profits, to legally pay such little tax. The answer is disarmingly simple, ultimate power does not lie in the hands of governments, it lies in the board rooms of national and transnational corporations.

Any government that has the courage (some would say stupidity) to demand that corporations pay their fair share of tax would soon find they would not be able to attract the capital they need to survive in a capitalist world. The corporate world¹s legal tax minimisation schemes are just one of the hidden costs that communities pay for the dubious privilege of living in a world where returns to private shareholders always takes precedence over community and social needs.

JOSEPH TOSCANO (Libertarian Workers for a Self-Managed Society).

The next day I received a call from the Age Letters Editor. I had the impression that they were interested in publishing the letter. They rang me because they were concerned about possible legal action because I stated in the letter "compared to other taxpayers, it's obvious much of the corporate world is not paying its fair share of tax." They told me that I, as well as they, could be sued if they published the letter as it was. They also stated they had problems in the past when they had suggested other media moguls were not paying their fair share of tax.

I told them I would love to go to court and force the Murdoch empire to table their financial arrangements. I told the Letters editor that I was happy for the letter to be vetted by their lawyers and altered if they were concerned about legal ramifications.

As expected, the letter did not appear in the Letters page of the Age or the Letters page of Murdoch's mouthpiece the Australian or the Herald Sun. To my knowledge no further mention or analysis was made of the Murdoch empires legal tax minimisation schemes anywhere in the corporate or State run media in Australia.

This pathetic little story highlights how the media is gagged in this country. Anything that touches on the corporate media's financial affairs or which questions the role of the ultimate political correctness in Australian society, capitalism, doesn't rate a mention. Self censorship coupled with an active program of defamatory legal maneuvering in the Australian courts, acts as an effective gag on the corporate media. The corporate media may not make the ultimate decisions in our society but it does set the political agenda and defines the parameters of what is possible and desirable in a capitalist society. For all intentional purposes the corporate and the State run media is the mouthpiece for those with power and wealth in Australian society.


Comments