20 Jul 2011

Media In The Firing Line

By Wendy Bacon
What sort of questions should a parliamentary inquiry into media ownership and regulation tackle? Wendy Bacon has a few ideas - and we invite you to add your own
Last week Greens leader Bob Brown called for a parliamentary inquiry into media ownership and regulation. His concerns were triggered by the wave of revelations about the conduct of News of the World journalists in the UK. The briefing paper issued by the Greens lays out their concerns and has been published here.

Last night, Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks faced questions from British MPs about their conduct through the phone hacking scandal. This mode of questioning isn't quite what the Greens have in mind, but the transcripts show that MPs were anything but deferential to the media bosses.

Peter Costello argues in the Fairfax opinion pages today that we don't need a media inquiry at all. His view is that an inquiry would actually work to stifle free media. Of how Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy would approach an inquiry, he writes, "they are smart enough to know that if an inquiry opens up ownership and regulation issues, they can promise benefits or withdraw privileges that may have a real financial effect on publishers. And with an inquiry under way, owners and their editors might be a little more careful about their criticism."

Costello may be resting on his own experience of media inquiries in Australia — see NM's timeline here — but the forensic questioning of Rupert Murdoch has surely changed how any such inquiries will be conducted in the future.

Yesterday, Wendy Bacon argued that the time is ripe for Australians to pressure politicians to respond to public concern about the concentration of media ownership and its effects. Today, she gets the ball rolling with a series of questions that such a committee should investigate.

What's missing? What should a parliamentary inquiry into Australian media investigate? Add your ideas in the comments.

Is there too much media concentration in Australia and if so, how can it be corrected?

How do criminal activities which in the UK have gone to the heart of News Corporation media practice impact on the "suitability" (this word replaced "fit and proper" in Australian legislation in 1991) of companies partly owned by News corporation to hold radio and TV licences?

Should News Ltd close one or more newspapers in Australia without there being a buyer what steps can be taken to protect access to media by Australians?

How should press council or some other body be funded to strengthen its independence so it can take on ownership — systematic abuses as well as individual complaints?

What problems for media diversity and practices are raised by media owners who also have interests in mining, sport and casinos?

Has News Ltd's practice of sharing information and stories across the company meant that their Australian tabloid audiences have been exposed to stories resulting from hacking and bribes?

Australia's latest media ownership laws have led to more not less concentration — should they be further revised?

Do News Ltd editors respect the professional independece of their journalists or do they compaign to impose certain views or political lines on their journalists to the detriment of the public — e.g. in relation to climate change?

What policies can be adopted to support diversity in rural, regional and smaller capitals of Australia where there is high concentration and limited media outlets?

How much do new internet ventures and small magazines compensate for the concentration in the mainstream media?

How can methods of accountability be developed which do not threaten the right to freedom of expression?

What forms might regulation take — should it be cross media? How can the dangers of statutory intervention be avoided? Would a publicly funded but independent regulator which is not dominated by current media companies be preferable to the current Press Council and ACMA self-regulation?

How should media owners and politicians relate to each other, if at all?

How could editorial charters of independence help ensure that journalists report the truth and not the company line?

 

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aloewenstein
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 13:35

A parliamentary inquiry into the Australian media scene is essential, and not just to examine the monopolistic practices of News Ltd. Every boss of every major media company should appear and be asked about the cosy, insular club that exists between the political and media elites. Understanding these relationships can only enhance our democracy.

Some questions:

- How often do media editors and bosses meet with political leaders. When, where, what is discussed etc?

- As Eric Ellis states in the current issue of the Spectator Australia, Fairfax bosses allegedly spiked a feature in the Good Weekend many years ago of Wendi Deng (aka Mrs. Rupert Murdoch). Understanding that supposedly rival media companies aim to protect the other's business interests, how often do you meet bosses of other companies and in what context? Have you ever spiked stories? And if so, for what purposes?

- How many journalists take free trips to America, Israel or other countries and always acknowledge this in their published work? What does such visits do to journalistic integrity? Should third parties be allowed to subsidise trips to domestic or international destinations?

- How should journalists and politicians relate to each other? Should private dinners or events attended by journalists and politicians be disclosed to readers if they directly relate to a story and could give the impression of influencing the story?

- Should there be limits on the amount of media any one company should be allowed to own? And should any one family or corporation, such as the Murdochs, be subject to investigation into potential conflicts of interests when owning media companies, casinos or other relevant assets?

- Should Australian defamation laws be tightened or weakened to allow greater accountability of what is published in the daily media?

ben.eltham
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 14:16

One of the problems of current media regulation is that regulators don't regulate. ACMA has quite wide-ranging powers, for instance in regards to talkback radio, which it has consistently refused to exercise.

A more activist approach is clearly required to deal with 2GB, 2UE and the like, who have embarked on a vicious campaign of sexual vilification of the Prime Minister, and an unbalanced campaign against the sceince of climate change, in what would seem to many Australians to be a prima facie breach of their Commercial Radio Code of Practice 2.

wendy bacon
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 15:58

These are great points. I especially agree about the connections between politicians and media bosses. Those watching Murdoch may have noticed that he said he had to keep political leaders away - they were always on to him. Not his exact words and maybe not truthful but interesting.

I have been talking to a few journalists who point out the difficulty of getting frank information from News Ltd journalists who might be afraid to talk publicly. I see from the MEAA that the union has backed the call for an inquiry which is excellent.
The union could assist in making sure that views of journalists can be given.

It was interesting to see Peter Costello batting away the calls for an inquiry today in SMH - so he appeared for Fairfax for the Norris ( 1980s) inquiry in Victoria. Fairfax was a smaller player than - the media owners have always opposed any sort of restrictions on ownership as far as I am aware.

Last year the ACMA found that the snooping and outing of the ex Minister for Transport David Campbell was in the public interest. Many journalists and journalism educators and audiences ( as was shown at the time) would not agree with this - are they out of touch - or just very in touch with media companies?

Peter-Firminger
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 16:03

Good question Wendy! Personally I wouldn't waste the money. The reader/viewer/listener should have enough brains to filter their media input and choose what they consume.

I would make sure regional press is kept local and relevant though (Newcastle Herald and Singleton Argus good - Cessnock Advertiser bad), and that the ABC is given back to the adults - 3pm and I have three ABC channels of kids crap to keep me company and no HD capability to get the ABC 24 News Channel I'm paying for with my taxes.

GocomSys
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 16:17

What can we do as consumers in the mean time?

How about advocating a general boycott? Limited News products are and will forever be tainted! Stop purchasing or watching Limited News media. Do not advertise in Limited NEWS media! Nobody genuinely believes Limited News to say or do anything unless it benefits their bottom line. So let's hurt their bottom line! Even the ABC, awfully difficult as it may be, should desist quoting Limited News slogans and headlines and discontinue inviting Limited News representatives, puppets or cronies onto their programs? Ben Eltham makes a valid point: do not listen to the shock-jocks on talk-back radio!

ben.eltham
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 16:48

Yes the ACMA decision on David Campbell was astonishing. We need a new broom to sweep clean the industry shills at ACMA. The watchdog is a lap cat currently.

wendy bacon
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 17:28

One of the ways that the Scandinavian countries kept a more diverse print online media was by providing subsidies for rural and regional media organisations. There is nothing wrong with this idea. If public funds can go to arts not reason why not news gathering. This links with Peter's point about need to have independent regional media with independent stance.
Some people will argue that the ABC does this job in Australia. But totally agree with your point Dr Dog - we need to look at models.
Good to see that the union MEAA is apparently backing an inquiry - according to BBC.

Julie Posetti
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 18:48

Thanks for this important discussion trigger, Wendy.

I support a public inquiry into Australian media - if there's nothing to hide, why resist? It will be useful in encouraging transparency in media practice, accountability and trust in an important democratic institution.

But I'm not yet convinced a parliamentary inquiry is the best venue for such an investigation. What about a broader public inquiry with government, NGO, judicial, academic and community representation?

I agree that political alliances with media barons (particularly as regards News Ltd given that company's dominance of the Australian marketplace & the evident commitment of that stable to 'regime change') need examination - and that requires inquiries of politicians and political parties' records, not just media.

Re: NewsLtd, here are some specific questions I'd like asked (additional to the excellent ones above) but several should also be put to other media organisations fronting an inquiry:

1) When did John Hartigan (and his editors) first learn of the allegations of hacking, payments to police and cover-up afflicting News International?

2) What steps did he put in place then to ensure such practices were not and could not be happening within NewsCorp's Australian titles? (He says there's no evidence but has initiated an internal examination of records for the past three years - it needs to be taken back 10 years in my view, based on what we know regarding the practices in the UK).

3) What advice did he issue editors regarding publication of copy emanating from the very tainted News of the World when it was clear (at the latest in December last year, when Rebekah Brooks *admits* she was made aware) that the problem was widespread?

4) Were any of his journalists assigned to News of the World stories for additional reporting in the past decade? Has he (or his editors) examined their records for evidence of expenditure on PIs, questionable payments to sources etc If not, why not? If yes, what has he found?

5) When was the last NewsLtd journalists dispatched to News of the World in an exchange program or on a placement extended as a 'reward' for journalistic excellence? Did Hartigan/other executives approve such arrangements after becoming aware of the seriousness of the problem? If so, why? And what inquiries have been made as regards their experiences/practices while working at News of the World during the period now under examination?

6) What instructions are NewsLtd editors giving to other executive editors and/or reporters regarding company/editorial policy on coverage of matters of national importance such as climate change and politics? (These questions should also be put to NewsLtd's competitors)

7) What is the internal process for examining NewsLtd journalists' complaints about ethics and professionalism? What is the policy re: handling such complaints and where is it published?

8) When NewsLtd journalists and editors threaten to sue other citizens/their critics (as I have been threatened by the Editor in Chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell) who foots their legal bills?

I'd also like this idea examined: an all media council, comprising industry representatives, community reference groups and journalism/media academics, that acts as a referral body for complaints and investigations sitting above ACMA & the Press Council - both of which have proven ineffectual.

It may also be worth considering an independent 'readers' editor' be mandated at every publication under whose guidance, concerns can be debated and complaints published (online and in print), along with internal findings.

That's my initial contribution to this important discussion. I say: bring on an inquiry, make journalism and media organisations more transparent and thereby strengthen both public trust in journalism and consequently professional journalism's credibility.

@JuliePosetti

Barry Green
Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 22:36

Great discussion. Does that fact that we can have this discussion via the new media of the internet indicate that the old media will become less relevant so why spend more taxpayer funds on an investigation?

In WA, Channel 7 TV, the West Australian Newspaper and Westrac (a major supplier of equipment to the mining industry) are all one company, do we get a balanced reporting of the benefits of the mining boom to West Australians ?

Concentration of ownership is a problem in the media in the same way it is in retail, a stable system requires multiple players for true competition. We understand stability through diversity in environmental matters, the same applies in commercial matters.

My company operates Tourist Radio stations in the South West of WA and the associated website www.touristradio.com.au . The company has struggled to compete with the government funded tourism websites but now delivers more traffic to website participants than the government website. The website includes a link to Newmatilda.com from the home page because I like what you are doing, hope that is OK. The point is, the new media is a far more democratic institution than the old media. Sure there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, there is also a lot of misinformation in the old media, the difference is that only people with the money can get their misinformation in the old media!

David Grayling
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 08:16

I guess the underlying problem is with our 'education' system. If people were taught to think and question everything they are told, then these media shills couldn't find an audience or readership for the crap they peddle.

Another underlying problem is that politicians are happy to be manipulated by the media. Take Sky News. It has a daily parade of politicians who strut their stuff and chest beat and expound the party line (which is not why we elected them)!

Of course, politicians are manipulated by other corporations too, especially the wealthy ones who are making billions from our resources and can threaten the Government itself via massive advertising attacks.

The media is supposed to be a source of news, not conservative propaganda and capitalist indoctrination! The media should be be allowed to act like Big Brother.

It has grown too big for its boots!

www.dangerouscreation.com

Syd Walker
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 08:37

As the trigger for any new media inquiry that might occur in Australia has been the News Ltd phone-tapping and bribery debacle - and as NewsCorp already has such HUGE media influence in Australia (more than in the UK in terms of % market reach) - it seems to me this is first and foremost an opportunity to focus on the Murdoch empire in Australia and that's where the immediate focus should be in any inquiry process.

I know very few people who don't share the view that NewsCorp's ~70% of Australia's daily newspaper readership is far, far too much. 50% would be too much. 30% is probably excessive.

70% makes Australia an international laughing stock. It makes a travesty of our democracy. The situation is particularly dire in many regional areas where ONLY Murdoch newspapers are available in many shops (including NewsCorp local newspapers).

There should be consideration of whether anti-competitive practices were used by NewsCorp to achieve such a high market share - and how to reduce its dominance henceforth. Personally, I'd support a forced break-up of Murdoch's newspaper empire in Australia - similar to the historic anti-trust action taken against Bell Corp in the USA.

If Newscorp did not already have such a dominant share of the newspaper market in Australia other issues might not be so pressing. As it does, there should be NO QUESTION of allowing it to gain even larger slabs of the Australian media.

In that context, it shuld be a matter of major concern that while we all obsess about phone tapping in Britain, NewsCorp might walk off with the whole of Austar and possibly our nation's overseas TV contract too!

Perhaps we really need two inquires. The first is best run by the Senate. It should focus on Newscorp. Let's see if politicians in Australia catch a dose of courage from their British counterparts.

There's also a need, it seems to me, for a process that should be outside of Parliament and open to the community, to review long-term, strategic issues to do with the media and information technology. This could look into some of the innovative suggestions for longer-term media reform. It would provide for input from the public as a whole into the future of an industry that's crucially important to us all. It should also look into the excessive power of lobby groups in the media (in cases when a rational case can be made that such bias exists) and review how accurately the Australian media reports some of the most crucial issues of our times (eg. climate change, 9-11 and wars such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya).

On some key issues, the problem of systematically-biased, woefully inaccurate and highly selective reporting goes beyond NewsCorp alone. The ABC, for instance, has failed to report the other side of the story about NATO's attack on Libya as egregiously as NewsCorp.

Which brings me to the final matter I think cries out for review. Who has the fortitude to deal with this I do now know. I'd like the think the Senate could, but have my doubts.

The last few years has clearly seen increasing penetration of the media by the so-called 'intelligence services' as the budget of the latter has gone through the roof at a time of general contraction in the media industry. This has been clandestine and represents a grave threat to our democracy. It's a rock that urgently needs turning over.

David Leigh made a start in The Guardian more than ten years ago, but since 2001, as we all know, western 'intelligence agencies' have had budgets sky-rocket (ASIO's annual spend has increased an order of magnitude) and the powers of these agencies have also been enormously expanded. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2000/jun/12/pressandpublishing.mondaymed...

To what extent has 'intelligence agencies' penetration of the media facilitated this unprecedented growth in its peace-time powers? Anyone care to look into that? Or are we all too anxious about our personal 'security'?

David Grayling
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 09:13

"The media should NOT be allowed to act like Big Brother" was what I'd intended to say. Sorry!

Peter-Firminger
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 11:42

I think a break-up of the Murdoch Media empire is difficult, unless you're also going to tackle the Coles/Woolworths monopoly (and Telstra - or has the NBN done that already?).

I'm not comfortable with the Chinese Government (or any other offshore entity) buying huge slabs of Australian land (for mining or offshore food security or any other reason) so I think there is the need for a broader study than just the media when it comes to ownership monopolies or foreign ownership in general - business, (mineral) resources or land.

Back to media - maybe there is a need for a national publicly owned printed news outlet - similar in charter to the ABC. But without advertising, it wouldn't be viable financially.

Peter-Firminger
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 12:06

An excerpt from <a href="http://www.fairgofairfax.org.au/save-our-illawarra-mercury">Fair Go Fairfax</a>:

<blockquote>
<em>...Now the company wants to remove the Illawarra Mercury and Newcastle Herald from the Fairfax Media Metropolitan Journalists Collective Agreement, an agreement which our editorial staff have been part of for almost 24 years.

This agreement covers the wages and conditions of editorial staff at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun-Herald, The Age, The Sunday Age, The Australian Financial Review and BRW, as well as the Illawarra Mercury and Newcastle Herald.

Fairfax's plan to take the Mercury and Newcastle Herald off the metropolitan agreement and place us on a separate regional agreement is a blatant attempt to cut wages and downgrade conditions for 180 reporters, sub-editors, artists and photographers. Staff employed under the new agreement will be paid 10-15 per cent less than metro rates.

It will also lead to a major decline in the quality of two important daily newspapers, servicing Australia's seventh and ninth biggest cities.

...

Removing the Mercury and Newcastle Herald from the agreement means both staff and readers will be treated like second-class citizens. The same thing happened to the Canberra Times two decades ago when they came off the metro and were placed on a stand-alone agreement. They have been left out in the cold ever since, paid 10 to 15 per cent less than their metropolitan counterparts...
</em></blockquote>
But I guess that's a Human Resources issue?

lukealexander
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 14:04

It would be good to see a web-page go up where you could enter your country/ region/ city (it could have a range of scales from local to global {are satellites global or something else?}) and the site would access a db to tell you what companies Limited News owned or had interests in. That might help people organise a boycott of sorts for starters and demonstrate clearly the concentration of ownership.

Unfortunately I don't have the web-skillz to do this, but could be a nice data journalism project. If you were in the mood you could add in some visualisation stuff too.

Could go viral on FB and help people get a better idea of the influence of NL on the media they follow.

Infact you could build in other Media conglomerates and make a database/visualisation of media ownership. They could be a useful tool to people, like that petrol prices website (I've never used that, not sure if it is useful).

Or does this already exist and someone can point me in the right direction?

lyndenbarber
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 15:03

Julie Posetti asks: "When NewsLtd journalists and editors threaten to sue other citizens/their critics (as I have been threatened by the Editor in Chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell) who foots their legal bills?"

Why, Julie, do you assume that only News Ltd journalists and editors ever resort to legal threats? This seems to indicate your recent legal experiences are biasing you towards a one-eyed vision of the Australian news media. I speak as someone who has been threatened by lawyers acting for a Fairfax journalist, Jim Schembri of The Age. (Disclosure: I am a freelance who sometimes contributes to News Ltd's The Australian)

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 15:04

The Australian Mainstream media, and especially the warmongering, genocide-complicit, genocide-ignoring and climate denialist Murdoch media, deserve critical exposure over outrageous, genocide-ignoring non-reportage and mis-reportage on matters linked to mass human mortality notably war, war deaths (12 million US war-related deaths in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan alone) and climate change (10 billion predicted to die this century due top unaddressed, man-made climate change; see “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ ).

Decent people should boycott Murdoch media around the world (see "Boycott Murdoch Media To Save Planet", Countercurrents, 18 July 2011: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya180711A.htm ).

On 20 July 2001 The Age On-line National Times published the article alluded to by Wendy Bacon by Peter Costello on hacking-, bribery- and Murdoch scandal-related calls from Greens leader Senator Bob Brown Brown, Labor Senator Stephen Conroy and PM Julia Gillard for an inquiry into Australian media and entitled “Media inquiry just a tool top stifle critical comment” (see: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/media-inquiry-just-a-tool-to-s... ). The sub-heading read: “Starting a debate about media bias is one way to get the focus off the carbon tax.”

I sent the following comment on the article to The Age which substantially censored me ("stifled comment") as shown by publishing my comments except as indicated below (thereby providing evidence for what The Age does not want its readers to read or to know; the only evidence of censorship was ... before the censored out part) (for details of the article and the censorship see: http://gpolya.newsvine.com/_news/2011/07/20/7116607-oz-ex-treasurer-on-f... ) :

"I agree with Peter Costello that the media should be free to say what they like (remember Voltaire's famous aphorism) - but they should also be accountable by an authoritative process of scholar- and scientist-informed non-punitive public exposure that corrects blatant falsehoods.
As a 5 decade career scientist involved in academic teaching for 40 years I am appalled by the huge gulf between scientific perception and public perception, notably in the area of climate science.

While one cannot prevent the more notorious climate change denialists from spouting their dangerous, anti-science rubbish, our Democracy demands some kind of authoritative mechanism to correct the falsehoods … CENSORED OUT: if only to correct the inherent intellectual abuse of children in particular.
An important example is the area of holocaust denial which has been criminalized in a number of Western European countries in relation to the Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation) that was a part of a much greater WW2 Holocaust in which 30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies died. Sensible scholars say that holocaust denial in general (e.g. Mainstream ignoring of the WW2 Bengali Holocaust in which Churchill killed 6-7 million Indians) should not be criminalized but for the sake of both free speech and scholarship merely exposed by some kind of formal judicial process i.e. the only punishment would be public exposure of the egregious falsehood END CENSORED OUT.”

As a 5 decade-career scientist and 4 decade career academic teacher I endlessly write to the media under my own name to expose horrendous civilian deaths in the US African and Asian wars and about the worsening Climate Genocide. The silence is deafening through ignoring and censorship.

For more details of censorship of informed, credentialed, non-anonymous, professional comment by The Age see “Mainstream media censorship”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/ , and “Censorship by The Age”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by-th... and http://agecensors.blogspot.com/ .

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

zeroxcliche
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 21:10

@ Syd Walker

not that this will be much help but I have been 'interviewed' by ASIO and federal police as well as dealing with state security (as far as I know each state has its own ASIO like organisation for protecting key infrastructure and people). I just wanted to put it out there that I was one of five people who broke into the Pine Gap facility - even though we were caught we were never charged because it was deemed not in the public interest - so while some were arrested and charged at the front gate - some of them grannies, we who had to dodge helicopters,frequent patrols and trek about seven kms got away scott free because of the media policy of ASIO/Federal police. So it was not the rule of law that was important but public perception and covering their own backsides. Just to make it clear Pine Gap is just a set of covered dishes and if compromised can be replaced by back up dishes all around the country - it would be the infrastructure in Alice Springs CBD that is of value and even then it simply acts as funnel to Langley and the Pentagon so its all largely symbolic. Despite this ASIO and federal police expend significant/over the top resources on the whole circus. I have often found at protests that police come close to outnumbering protesters and that ASIO or state security spends significant time researching people involved to the point where its laughable and incompetent, and reveals a complete lack of understanding of the situation. Even conservative Australia who would back a substantial national security budget I would warn that significant money is being wasted and is more related to them expanding their budgets than securing the country- real issues like the presence of foreign agencies in Australia - China for instance following Falun and Tibet activists, foreign govt hacking, Burmese activists being monitored etc these issues are more than enough to bloat their budgets. They are drawn to the issues by their background political culture much like the police except they can detain people for a week without charge, laws they tested on a visiting US activist during the Bush APEC conference. Their eagerness to crackdown on activists is like a coin they sell to politicians - activism should be viewed as something to be managed as part of democracy, Sure arrest people but monitoring phones, filming and tracking people and then after that hyping up the threat so it sounds good to their bosses - the public are getting completely ripped off.

ianmilliss
Posted Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 21:44

There are both political and regulatory issues here. The most important political issue is the failure of politicians to slap down the current bullshit about "media is there to hold government to account". In fact that is the voters job, media is there simply to report news. Media is now casting itself as a political player and claiming that propaganda, lies and vendettas are somehow legitimate tactics. It is not as if Govt lacks some fairly straightforward means of weakening the worst parts of the MSM. A good start would be a swift kick in the revenue stream by removing all govt job ads and running them online through a dedicated govt site.

There are also potential regulatory means. In Canada regulations prohibit the broadcasting of “any false or misleading news". There don't appear to have been any harmful unintended consequences. Could that be implemented here? It would need to be backed with stiff penalties such as fines calculated as a few days turnover rather than some trivial fixed amount or even worse a back page apology or retraction.

Ultimately the real solution is to create more diversity. Can maximum shareholding in any MSM enterprise be limited to 15%? Can SBS and ABC funding be massively expanded? Can we ban SBS/ABC board members who are employees of commercial media or are present or past politicians or officials of political parties?

There was a time when media regulation was a given. There will always be attempts to muddy the waters in such a debate but none of this involves censorship, especially in this online ageWhen the MSM is trying to create monopolies the regulation must aim for the opposite, opening up more opportunities for diversity. The media is not just any sort of business, there are particular social dangers attached to the way mass media is managed. Rather than selling news to the public the MSM has changed so that it is now in the business of selling large blocks of manipulated public opinion to the highest bidder and the highest bidder is increasingly those corporations who want to use that power in socially destructive ways eg to block climate change action, public health initiatives, etc. At the very least their ability to do this should be limited.

josken1
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 - 01:41

Mannie De Saxe
The media attacks in Sydney on Clover Moore are yet another example of the reprehensible behaviour of the media - newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph and talkback such as 2gb and 2ue - to give a few examples.
But all of these attacks are done through the machinations of the NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell.
Because Barry and his crones (cronies?) in the NSW state parliament and the Sydney City Council are resentful that Clover manages to retain her two positions to which she was legally and resoundingly re-elected time and time again, they are trying every method they can to get their message across that no person is able to hold down the two jobs at the same time, and thus they are trying to oust her and replace her with politicians more favourable to the policies of the current NSW government.
The media may be the message but the politicians are using the media for their own nefarious ends!
Is this not a case of collusion between the media - or sections thereof - and the politicians who are running the state at any given moment?
This should be enough for an enquiry of its own, but perhaps as part of a wider investigation.

adambrereton
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 - 12:14

The problem is how to regulate the industry without it being a punitive campaign against News Ltd., and avoiding unnecessary govt intervention into the body that's meant to keep it accountable.

I guess this is the problem with self-regulation. It's inappropriate for the govt to intervene in the press, but almost required if they're not prepared to do it themselves.

I think probably the best place to start would be to revisit the cross-vesting laws that were dissolved by Howard in 2006 (thanks Steve Fielding!). It's at its heart an antitrust issue, where one company has become so powerful through total domination of the media landscape that they're almost untouchable.

A tort of privacy would also be a good idea. It's where tort law's been going for a while anyway, as far as I understand.

Syd Walker
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 - 13:01

@lukealexander I like your idea. Here's a brief 'day in the life' of someone who thinks there's way too much Murdoch, even without seeing a mass of red blobs on an I-Pad screen :-)

I live in a rural part of FNQ. My local convenience store is a few km away. There I have a choice of three free-sheet weeklies. Two are Murdoch owned (the third is a rather thin start-up by ex-NewsLtd employees - we'll see how they go!). There's also one regional daily paper (the Cairns Post) usually on the racks. Murdoch owned. At weekends, the store also stocks the Australian. Murdoch owned.

If I go further to the local newsagent, I have a wider choice. It includes the State capitals Courier Mail, Murdoch owned. The Townsville paper and the paper from Port Douglas are also often available. Both Murdoch owned.

I go home and turn on the TV. I'm in an area with variable terrestrial reception and I want some overseas options such as BBC and CNN (so I can keep an eye on the bastards). There's no cable, of course, but I can use Austar. I understand it is part-owned by Murdoch and a bid to grab the lot is in progress.

One of those overseas netwrok options, incidentally, arguably the most disgusting TV on earth from my political perspective, is Fox News. Murdoch owned. I can also get the Fox business channel and various other Fox offerings.

With regard to Australian TV, the cross media ownership rules do me no good whatsoever. Austar doesn't carry the Australian commercial channels 7, 9 and 10. They, presumably, are competition for the Murdoch fare on offer via Austar - notably several flavours of Sky. Murdoch owned.

I can't get ABC 24 on Austar. So I do watch rather a lot of Skynews. But every now and again I like to go to the raw footage of events. So I check out A-PAC - the equivalent of C-SPAN in Australia. It's also carried by Austar. I understand it is run by Murdoch and associates on contract.

That's before I go online (heaps of Murdoch there too - although I can take them or leave them rather more easily on the net).

On the other hand, if I go out for walks, there's no Murdoch to be seen in the local bush - nor is advertising content (yet) painted all over the sky. For these small mercies I am truly grateful.

If it is NOT Parliament's job to inquire into, review and make recommendations to remedy this grotesque unipolar corporate dominance of this nation's mass communications I don't know what is.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 - 14:24

The Murdoch media have a disgraceful, anti-science, climate denialist line that represents a major threat to Humanity. That is why I am arguing around the World that decent people should Boycott Murdoch Media (Google “Boycott Murdoch media”; see “Boycott Murdoch Media and other MSM over Egregious Censorship, Warmongering and Climate Change Denial”, Bellaciao, 21 July 2011: http://bellaciao.org/en/spip.php?article20967 ).

The Age On-line today (22 July 2011) published an article by Michelle Grattan about the calls by Greens Senator Dr Bob Brown and PM Julia Gillard for an inquiry into media in Australia in the wake of the appalling Murdoch media scandals in the UK (see “Pressing news to discuss. There is a case for an inquiry into our media, but it must ask the relevant questions”: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/pressing-news-to-discuss-20110... ).

Any educated causal reader of the Yellow Press of White Australia immediately discovers its Black Heart of censorship, non-reportage and false reportage, most notably in relation to climate change by the Murdoch media. A 5 decade career scientists and 4 decade academic teacher, I am a relatively rare example of an Australian scientist willing to make informed public statements in the public interest.

I made 2 such informed comments about this article but both comments were completely censored by The Age - one supposes for containing facts that The Age does not want its readers to read or to know (for more details of the article and the censorship see: http://gpolya.newsvine.com/_news/2011/07/21/7137548-grattan-on-murdoch-a... ).

Censored Comment 1.

"PM Julia Gillard is again being "tricky" in calling for an inquiry into Mainstream media (MSM) in Australia but ignoring the key Elephant in the Room issues.

1. Foreign ownership. US citizen Murdoch's News has about 70% of Australian city daily readership and has a grossly disproportionate say in Murdochracy Australia affairs. Thus both Rudd and Gillard made craven pilgrimages to Murdoch in New York. Fiji's anti-racism and anti-corruption military leader Frank Bainimarama has taken an appropriate step against Murdochracy and foreign ownership of media, forcing Murdoch to sell the Fiji Times to a Fiji citizen.

2. False reportage. The Murdoch media are notorious for disseminating false, anti-science climate change denialism in a process that has perverted both public education and sensible public discussion about the urgent need to effectively tackle climate change. One cannot stop creationists, flat earthers or climate change denialists from spouting their dangerous rubbish but there needs to be an automatic, public, credentialled, science-based mechanism for countering this intellectual abuse of children in particular.

3. Genocide commission and genocide ignoring. Australia-complicit post-1950 US wars in Asia alone have been associated with 26 million war-related deaths, so far - but this carnage is essentially unreported in Australia. The Australia complicit WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians killed by the British) is essentially unknown in Australia."

Censored Comment 2.

“What gross hypocrisy over Australian media by the slavishly pro-US Gillard Labor Government which is trying to censor David Hicks telling Australia about his 5 years of torture at the hands of neocon Labor's American friends by seizing his royalties - a dangerous precedent because one can imagine a decent government seizing the profits of Australian mainstream media for supporting Australia-complicit US Asian wars that have been associated (so far) with 26 million war-related Indigenous Asian deaths since 1950 that are of course not reported by Australia's appalling mainstream media.

The Elephant in the Room crimes of the Murdoch media - and to a lesser extent of other Australian Mainstream media, notably the cowardly, unethical, taxpayer-funded ABC - involve (1) censorship, non-reportage and under-reportage, most notably of the huge crimes of the US and its war criminal allies and (2) dangerous, anti-science, false reportage in support of the fossil fuel Lobby and climate change denialists, noting that climate genocide from unaddressed man-made climate change is predicted to kill about 10 billion people this century.

Indeed my carefully researched and composed prior comment on this article has evidently "gone astray", most likely because it contains authoritatively-sourced facts that The Age (arguably Australia's most progressive medium) does not want its readers to read or to know (Google "mainstream media censorship").”

Conclusion: if you are fair dinkum about tackling climate change you must Boycott Murdoch Media and only access the other Mainstream Media (MSM) electronically.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

trendev
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2011 - 19:06

Trendev
An inquiry into the media is clearly needed, and should be instituted but not conducted by parliament. It should be a wide-ranging and potent commission with the power to compel attendance and evidence, so that politicians, media owners, managers, employees and consumers, and academics, and commentators, and Uncle Tom Cobley, can all be quizzed. Amongst other things, this might remove the perception that politicians want a parliamentary inquiry only to protect themselves from scrutiny and loosen the media ties that they currently have. The inquiry should at least cover ownership, reach and affiliation matters; journalistic and editorial ethics and the regulation and oversight thereof; and influence and bias.

Funding of any Media Council (complaints, investigations and regulation body) could be through registration licences to be paid by all media organisations, according to publication reach, volume and revenue; and the costs of investigating and proving successful cases/complaints would be levied against the wrongdoing organs. This could insulate media oversight from resource starvation by self-interested politicians who wish to protect their media friends; and it might even help the politicians who know, deep down, that the media really aren't their friends. Thus such a body would need to have statutory powers, legal authority and substantial, indepentent status - perhaps as a division of the Federal Court.

An issue to be contemplated by an inquiry is the current confusion between "balance" and "objectivity". During election campaigns, media organisations demonstrate "balance" through the mechanism of giving equal time to opposing viewpoints. None of the expressed viewpoints is required to be objective, dispassionate or even halfway sane.

I believe it is more important for media outlets to be dispassionate, logical and intellectually even-handed in their dealing with issues, than it is for them to give a gallop to all views - though that is ONE of the ways through which they might attempt to achieve objectivity.

It is also essential that media outlets do not simply avoid issues that they don't want to give an objective and sufficient airing. (e.g., News Ltd media of late have largely avoided, and certainly not analysed in depth, the News International perfidy; and there is widespread "censorship, non-reportage and under-reportage" of many local and global issues by most media, as discussed by DrGideonPolya.)

Thus the inquiry might well ask why the ABC is required to be both balanced and objective, but that the tabloid and shock-jock media are not? Could a case not be made that the ABC should be vigorously left-wing (in a very dispassionate way, of course) in order to balance the rabid right, which is already very well represented and trumpeted by the egregiously toxic Alan Joneses, Neil Mitchells and Herald-Suns.

GocomSys
Posted Monday, July 25, 2011 - 10:59

Re.: Norway incident.

EXTREMISM of any kind = potential HEADLINES for NEWS corpse publications. As always excellent fodder for indiscriminate sensationalistic exploitation by “leading” Limited NEWS “churnalists”! Q.E.D

I refer to my post on 20/07/11 at 4:17PM

And yes, we need a media enquiry!