Groups such as the Institute of Public Affairs play a dominant role in providing newspaper commentary in Australia, particularly via the Murdoch press but also in some of the better quality Fairfax papers. Partly, no doubt, when it comes to papers like The Australian this is so because the propietor endorses the views. But I wonder too whether it is also because groups such as the IPA provide a way of getting copy on an outsourced basis at much lower cost than using full-time journalists. The newspapers are experiencing well-known financial problems and a major cost is full-time journalism. It is better to get copy from those with an ideological axe to grind who are willing to accept low rates of pay in order to get their ideology across. In support of this I notice Fairfax also publishes a lot of stuff from the IPA and both Fairfax/Newscorp publish outsourced material from groups such as the Australia Institute. Rupert Murdoch’s notoriously fickle politics might make sense if you assume his attention is mainly on the bottom line – he likes to back winners but also keeps his journalism bills down.
Of course this suggests that social democrats could make a bigger impact if they combined to form a think tank that supplied copy on a regular basis to the media. To some extent groups such as the Australia Institute and the non-aligned Grattan Institute do this but I think not as effectively as the IPA although I certainly believe the quality of the research done at Grattan far exceeds the low level prejudice generated by the IPA