paforclive

ME ME MEDIA

Posted on: March 14, 2013

conroy

The Daily Telegraph’s now viral front page juxtaposing Senator Stephen Conroy with Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Castro, Kim-Jong Un and Ahmadinejad was ironically an argument for and against free speech. Going in this hard on the man would not occur in most countries around the world, yet its crassness and overt sensationalism puts in question the Telegraph’s judgement. 

The Telegraph has shown lateral thinking by putting its cartoon on the front page but loses points for being sloppy and not including Hitler. One imagines the response if Sen Conroy had taken the harder line advocated by the Finkelstein Review.

That gold mine I call twitter provided two gems by way of response, from @geeksrulz and @firstdogonthemoon:

geeksrulz

dannolan

The reforms announced by Senator Conroy include:

  1. stronger self regulation via a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA)
  2. a new public interest test for future media mergers via a reach rule
  3. an incentive to increase Australian content
  4. an update to the ABC and SBS to factor in their online content

The PIMA would be a single person sitting above the existing Australian Press Council to ensure that complaints are appropriately managed, in addition to assessing whether any future media mergers are in the public interest. Given that News Corp already owns 68% of the Australian newspaper circulation, it could hardly be argued on an objective basis that some ownership restriction takes place. Malcolm Turnbull argues that the Hawke Government opened the doors for media ownership grabs when they allowed the HWT merger to proceed. Well, that was 22 years ago, and no internet.

The other question that lingers is why is print news remains unregulated where television and radio is?

The fact is that the proposed reforms represent a three pronged attack on the Murdoch and Fairfax interests. The body overseeing the body that oversees the media is seen as a threat to executive media operations and would seek to subject them to closer scrutiny. It could be argued however that the ACCC’s powers could be boosted to avoid unfair competitive advantage. Secondly, the PIMA would, in the media companies’ view, restrict market opportunities and hence trade. Thirdly, shock horror, such a person would demand that all reporting be  balanced and fair minded, not just a mouthpiece for its owner’s market fundamentalism and unashamed Americaphilia.

The News Corp publications have done a fine job in directing traffic in this way, starting with unwavering support for the Iraq War that resulted in anywhere up to 400,000 deaths for an invasion predicated on at best hopeful evidence of WMDs. More recently, the campaign against the ALP’s response to climate change has been sustained and, as Robert Manne calls it, ‘intellectually incoherent’. It has provided the Opposition with the wind assistance that has supplemented its feral negativity since the ALP formed government with cross bench support. The News Corp media have also made the portrayal of the changes as an attack on free speech almost too easy. It has employed tactics like the above front page to convey to its readers this fallacious and sensational message. So we have idiotic symbiosis where the media provides a dog’s breakfast and the reader digests it.

The Reach Rule proposed by Sen Conroy prevents a City based television broadcaster from purchasing regional interests where they would be able to broadcast to more than 75% of the population. How measurable this is remains unclear. Muddying the waters even more is the increasing uptake of digital content. When was the last time you recorded a program when you knew it was available online the next day?

Providing incentives to television stations by halving their licences in return for 1,490 more hours of Australian television in 2015 is a welcome one that surely must be the piece which does attract the most bipartisan support. The updating of the ABC and SBS charters in the digital climate is also logical.

So will these reforms  impact heavily on the way that journalists work’ as Malcolm Turnbull suggests?  It is an attempt to address concerns that the media can be too concentrated in the power of a few. There are doubts about its rushed timing and execution (an unfortunate characteristic of this Government), and it has attracted the inevitable criticisms of ‘changing the media when you don’t like the message.’ If that were the case, these reforms would have been announced long ago.

The impression I get via twitter is that some News Corp contributors feel that these reforms are a severe check their ability to produce factless diatribe and not be scrutinised. I await the snide IPA tweets with interest.

There will be some heavy lifting to convince those cross bench MPs who are upset that the reforms do not go far enough. If it causes angst to the MPs whose support it needs as well as the interests it is serving notice to then it seems to be somewhere close to an unhappy medium.

Writing this has served to crystallise in my mind what the media is. Jonathan Holmes makes the point that it is hard to believe the media anyway, let alone in their treatment of these reforms. Find out for yourself by reading seems to be the take home message. Read widely, follow people whose views challenge you and your opinions, not just those you unreservedly agree with .

These next two weeks will be fun reading and viewing.

Thanks to @geeksrulz and @firstdogonthemoon for their images.

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