The media have become so diverse and pervasive that it is easy to forget that even the largest conglomerates have their roots in the press. Newspapers were the starting point for all of Australia's major commercial news organisations and the ethos of the press continues to influence the culture of these companies, even as they become irrevocably entertainment driven, constantly exploring new technologies, methods and means of communication.
News Corporation Limited, now one of the largest media companies in the world, grew from owning an Adelaide afternoon newspaper. John Fairfax Ltd is still known mainly for its newspapers, which it has been publishing since 1831, but it has interests in a range of other media and is expanding its interests in multimedia. Australian Consolidated Press, the owner of the Nine Network, a stable of magazines and a vast array of other entertainment and commercial properties, grew from the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
The origins of these companies in the press is easy to lose sight of in the tidal wave of announcements about new ventures, new outlets, new policies and programming initiatives. The publication of newspapers remains the central core of several of these companies, even if in terms of quantum and dollars earned the newspaper part of the business has declined in relative importance. This is significant, because it is from the newspaper business that many of the core values, methods and approaches of the media conglomerates have been learnt. Newspapers, with their daily sales of hundreds of thousands of copies, have been excellent for generating cash flow—an asset for any business. It is from the history of the political role and the claimed independence of the press that media companies have learned how to exercise political influence, which may seem disproportionate. By studying the transformation of the newspaper business in Australia over the past 200 years, it is easy to see the establishment