The federal Senate has voted to investigate media bias and ownership after Australia’s most popular petition ever called for a ‘Murdoch inquiry’.

The Senate will conduct a wide-ranging inquiry based on former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s petition on the topic.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young moved a motion for the probe, which was supported by Labor and some crossbench members.

It calls for the Environment and Communications References Committee to inquire into “the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia and the impact that this has on public interest journalism and democracy”.

It should report back by March 31 next year.

Senator Hanson-Young’s motion called for an investigation of “any barriers to Australian voters’ ability to access reliable, accurate and independent news”, as well as “the effect of media concentration on democracy”, and how social media has affected the news industry.

“The cosy relationship between the Coalition government and News Corp should be scrutinised,” Senator Hanson-Young told Guardian Australia.

“When you have half a million people signing a petition premised on investigating Murdoch’s dominance of news media the parliament should be listening.”

It came in the wake of Mr Rudd’s petition, which called for a full Royal Commission into media bias and ownership.

Over 500,000 people signed it, breaking the record for the biggest e-petition on the parliament’s website.

A Senate inquiry is considerably less powerful than a Royal Commission.

Labor MPs have mostly shied away from the call for a royal commission, though some Labor senators did find it within themselves to side with the Greens’ Senate motion on Wednesday.