Senators' probe into Google-Facebook 'not a News priority'

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A parliamentary inquiry in Australia will probe challenges to journalism from fake news and the power of Google and Facebook following a vote forced by minority senators.

But the move does not have the support of Senate members of Australia's governing Liberal-National coalition, nor is it a priority for the local News Corp unit.

The motion to set up a Senate Select Committee was supported by Labor, Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and Jacqui Lambie, with Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz leading government opposition, claiming its powers were "a retrograde step for our democracy".

Wide-ranging powers covering fake news, clickbait, the impact of Facebook and Google's market power on journalism, and the role of national broadcaster the ABC in rural and regional journalism, and that of the government in ensuring a diverse media come under scrutiny in the Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism.

While national daily The Australian - and especially media editor Darren Davidson - who interviewed Xenophon (pictured) at the weekend - has been campaigning on the power of the Google-Facebook duopoly, it quoted a spokeswomen for its publisher that the company was "more focussed on the media reforms that the federal government announced on the weekend".

It said Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood had welcomed "the opportunity to discuss the complex issues impacting upon the traditional media and the measures we are undertaking to ensure the continued strength of independent media voices".

Paul Murphy chief executive of journalists' union the MEAA said it had long called for the government to act over the crisis affecting journalism, citing the latest cuts in Fairfax metro journalist numbers as an indication of the seriousness of the crisis in public interest journalism.

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