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Australia to hold media inquiry

Australia's government has promised a media inquiry amid complaints by MPs that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is biased and owns too many of the nation's newspapers.

Calls have been growing for an Australian inquiry into News Corp since the New York-based media company closed its top-selling British newspaper the News of the World in July over illegal phone hacking allegations. News Corp owns 70% of Australian newspapers.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy said there would be an inquiry into the Australian media and the terms of reference were under discussion with the Greens party that supports Labour's minority government.

But Mr Conroy said the inquiry would not be "an attack on News Ltd", the Australian subsidiary of News Corp.

Mr Conroy said the inquiry could cover areas including protections for privacy and the role of the print media's self-regulatory watchdog, Australian Press Council.

Mr Conroy said the government disagreed with a motion to be proposed by Greens leader senator Bob Brown in the Senate on Thursday. That motion would call on Mr Conroy to "investigate the direct or indirect ramifications for Australia of the criminal matters affecting" News Corp's British subsidiary, News International.

There have been no allegations made in Australia of the type of phone hacking that has led to at least 16 arrests in Britain. The News of the World stands accused of illegally hacking into the voice mails of celebrities, politicians and even a murder victim in search of scoops.

Labour lawmakers have accused News Ltd publications of being biased toward Australia's Liberal Party conservatives and that the company founded by Mr Murdoch, an Australian-born American, had too much control over Australian newspapers.

They blame the media for their party plumbing record lows in opinion polls four years after Labour first came to government.

Liberal leader Tony Abbott dismissed the need for a media inquiry, saying there was no evidence of any new problems in the Australian industry. He said: "This looks like a naked attempt to intimidate the media."

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