Media protection has aligned itself with the Liberal Party’s response to the COVID pandemic, whereas rubbishing Labor’s, writes Dr Victoria Fielding.
AS AUSTRALIA as soon as once more faces a COVID-19 nationwide emergency, there appears to be an acceptance amongst the media commentariat that the politicisation of the pandemic within the second half of 2020 was an unlucky flip of occasions, unconducive to unity and efforts to squash the virus.
For instance, Katharine Murphy in The Guardian wrote:
Andrews, who was as soon as near Morrison … feels (completely accurately) that the prime minister shafted him with all of the politicking from Canberra throughout Victoria’s lengthy (however in the end profitable) lockdown throughout the second wave.
Even with this hindsight perspective of the affect of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s poisonous politics, media commentators characteristically place the blame for this politicisation on the toes of the politicians. They skate previous the elephant within the room: the function the media performed on this politicisation and the harm this political framing has completed to the nation’s efforts to combat COVID.
Along with 1000’s of others, I spent a variety of time on Twitter within the second half of 2020 calling out the bleedingly obvious media bias within the protection of the Victorian second wave which villainised Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. We pointed to how this protection contrasted in opposition to the equally blatant hero-worship of NSW’s COVID response. We have been sneeringly known as “Dan Stans”.
A analysis report by Canberra University’s News and Media Research Centre discovered that media protection of the pandemic within the first half of 2020 emphasised nationwide solidarity and framed the pandemic as a well being disaster.
But the second half of 2020 was characterised by political narratives targeted on blame, particularly blaming Victorian Premier Andrews for the pandemic’s unwell results. Similarly, critiquing the 2021 protection of the NSW outbreak as in comparison with Victoria’s, Denis Muller in The Conversation stated politics is secondary in protection of the NSW COVID disaster, however in Victoria, politics was central.
We all noticed these political narratives kind, and we known as them out time and time once more. However, it wasn’t simply that the pandemic was politicised, it was politicised in a biased manner.
The query stays: why did this occur? Why was the media’s COVID narrative so biased in opposition to Labor governments, whereas privileging the voices of Liberal leaders?
There is little question that Scott Morrison aimed to opportunistically politicise the pandemic and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian did her finest to assist.
But that’s simply the beginning of the story. Journalists themselves of their overwhelming majority threw their highly effective weight behind this narrative, consuming the “gold-standard-NSW-versus-incompetent-Victoria” trope for breakfast, fully rejecting all evidence to the contrary.
This meant journalists not solely didn’t name out the Prime Minister and NSW Premier’s poisonous contribution, however as a substitute helped to advertise and reinforce the facility of this politicised narrative.
There are robust ideological and cultural explanation why this media bias exists and has existed since earlier than the Labor Party and the Liberal Party shaped. These biases are principally unconscious, a by-product of dominant methods of seeing the world in wider society, however in some instances additionally symbolize partisan-centric-conscious bias within the case of some shops: *cough* *Murdoch* *cough*.
To perceive the place this pro-Liberal bias comes from and in flip the place the anti-Labor bias resides, it’s essential perceive media inequality.
An perception into media inequality is given by the sorts of sources utilized in COVID-19 protection. An as-yet unpublished research by a Griffith University and Canberra University researcher in contrast the sources utilized in COVID-19 information tales printed by The Australian and the ABC.
They discovered essentially the most used supply throughout each shops have been trade voices.
We all bear in mind what number of instances the ABC requested café house owners for his or her complaints in regards to the Victorian lockdown. This deal with trade sources represented an financial framing of well being measures that have been inherently against any well being intervention which had a adverse affect on enterprise.
Unfortunately, lockdowns are adverse for the financial system. But so is the pandemic. This financial framing doesn’t simply replicate a deal with the financial system, however reveals that the media see the financial system in a selected manner.
The media predominately frames the financial system as working finest when it’s “free”, or in different phrases, when there is no such thing as a intervention in it.
Whether that “intervention” takes the type of COVID-19 restrictions like a lockdown, local weather motion, a coverage to control unrestrained company greed, welfare funding, or takes the type of collective motion by employees via unionism — the core assumption made by journalists is that authorities and labour motion intervention has a adverse affect on the financial system.
In flip, that this adverse affect flows onto society extra usually.
Within this explicit financial body, enterprise house owners and leaders are framed because the heroic engine rooms for the financial system and integral for nationwide well being. This hero body transfers seamlessly to Liberal politicians who’re the mouthpiece of trade.
It flows simply as seamlessly into an acceptance by the media that Morrison’s “let’s live with the virus” technique was higher for the nation than Andrews’ choice for locking down till the virus was eradicated.
The taken-for-granted financial credentials of Liberal politicians and the shut relationship between enterprise and the Liberal Party provides Liberals two benefits in media framing, a bonus that performed out in COVID reporting.
The first is that their political opposition to Labor insurance policies are assumed to be professional till confirmed in any other case — fairly the political headstart.
The second is that when Liberal politicians do take motion, equivalent to implementing a lockdown (albeit too late), or spending billions on a union-designed JobKeeper program to maintain the financial system out of recession, this motion is seen as vital, prudent and never wasteful. Yet, the identical actions taken by Labor politicians are framed as illegitimate.
And, when Liberal intervention is, characteristically, designed to assist their trade mates on the expense of everybody else, this intervention will get the large tick from media too. They can’t lose.
When you’re assumed to be talking on behalf of trade, you’re talking on behalf of the financial system and also you’re mechanically assumed by journalists to be doing the correct factor by the general public.
Conversely, these taking political motion which is framed as unhealthy for the financial system – Labor politicians and unions – are mechanically framed within the media as villains, accountable for unhealthy financial outcomes and thus unhealthy for the nationwide curiosity.
This bias is the supply of the anti-Andrews media narrative and in addition the supply of bias in opposition to a swathe of different Labor insurance policies: the stimulus bundle that saved the financial system from the Global Financial Crisis; the mining tax; the carbon tax, rinse, repeat and rinse once more.
In a nutshell, when justifying their insurance policies, Labor politicians are all the time combating the idea they’re hurting the financial system, and Liberals are all the time benefiting from an assumption they’re serving to financial outcomes.
Even in the midst of a well being disaster, insurance policies are judged by the foundations of the free-market logic, as a substitute of being evaluated on well being measures.
This bias might sound refined at instances, however it’s powerfully omnipresent within the media and it has actual penalties for a way the general public perceive the world.
Naming and shaming this bias is wholesome for democracy.
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