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In the past two decades, Australia’s Chinese-language media landscape has undergone fundamental changes that have come at a cost to quality, freedom of speech, privacy and community representation. The diversity of Australia’s Chinese communities, which often trace their roots to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and Taiwan as well as the People’s Republic of China, isn’t well reflected in the media sector.
Persistent efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage with and influence Chinese language media in Australia far outmatch the Australian Government’s work in the same space. A handful of outlets generally offer high-quality coverage of a range of issues. However, CCP influence affects all media. It targets individual outlets while also manipulating market incentives through advertising, coercion and WeChat. Four of the 24 Australian media companies studied in this report show evidence of CCP ownership or financial support.
Australian regulations are still evolving to meet the challenges identified in this report, which often mirror problems in the media industry more generally. They haven’t introduced sufficient transparency to the Chinese-language media sector and influence from the CCP. Few Australian Government policies effectively support Chinese-language media and balance or restrict CCP influence in it.
The Australian Government should protect Chinese-language media from foreign interference while introducing measures to support the growth of an independent and professional media sector. WeChat is a serious challenge to the health of the sector and to free and open public discourse in Chinese communities, and addressing it must be a core part of the solution.