Just A Few Words: Media Inquiry In Australia

I’m going to make this brief; I’m still a bit crook. But the media inquiry being flagged by the federal government is undemocratic and wrong.

What puts the tin hat on it for me is that the Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, has flagged that a single regulator, with God-knows-what beefed-up powers, could “police” the media.

Conroy also wants to explore “media diversity” — an old euphemism for breaking up large media companies and rendering them, in bloc-terms, useless.

Can I just say that there’s not exactly an historical avalanche of investment into media companies in Australia; it’s true that News Corp, Fairfax and APN own the lion’s share, but there’s a dearth of people out looking for mainstream media investment opportunities in this country.

And the last time a really meaningful investment hit these shores — disgraced Canadian tycoon Conrad Black — he was hounded out of the country as fast as the agitators could get his head to spin.

(And that was well before Black was in disgrace).

But having said all of that (and having once worked for Fairfax for four and a half years in its advertising division) I must also say I, too, don’t like the idea of further concentration of media assets in this country — and my views on it are as an ordinary citizen. I have no loyalty to Fairfax.

Even so, I’m alarmed at the witch hunt apparently being developed by our so-called government and its Communist buddies over at the Greens.

All of this smacks of Stalinist tactics, and points in one direction and one direction only.

To bring the media to heel.

Speaking politically — and from the involvement I have had in the political process over the last quarter of a century — it’s a fact that at times, the media will give your side good coverage, and at times, you’d like to line the editors and journalists up and shoot them.

When the coverage is good, it’s excellent; and when it’s bad, you hate it.

That’s life.

That’s life in terms of the interaction between politics and the media.

The curious thing in all of this is that most of the press gallery journalists — not all, but most — are privately or openly sympathetic to the Left.

I just wonder how many of them have fallen into the “bad books” of late because they have dared to objectively question the current government and the current arrangements of government.

Certainly, the leader of the Communist Party Greens, Senator Bob Brown, has been looking for something with which to hit the Murdoch press so hard that it never stands up again, nor sees the light of day.

Or if it hypothetically did, to ensure the entity was emasculated.

And those who follow these matters in Australia know that not just the Greens, but the ALP as well, have resented the Murdoch press for years on account of its propensity to deliver balanced comment.

Or simply stated, it employs right-wing people and left-wing people.

One wonders whether the bleatings about bias are really about the fact Murdoch’s papers present both sides of the debate.

And the Fairfax press…perhaps I’d better not comment, but I don’t know why the ALP has an issue with them.

On the wider scale, this issue boils down to an attempt to, in equal measure, control and muzzle the press.

It must not succeed.

In a free and fair country, the “fourth estate” — the press — must be independent and in turn, free to comment.

The irony in all this brouhaha over a “media inquiry” is that media, by its nature, and by its evolutionary path, is fragmenting.

Anyone can now post a blog for example, and increasingly, these blogs are being featured in Fairfax and Murdoch publication vehicles.

(I’m not talking about me: yes, I’m a commentator on the mainstream right wing, but one happy to sink the boot into my own side when indicated. I don’t think my column registers in the wide world. At least, not yet 🙂   and I don’t expect a call from a newspaper any time soon).

The simple fact is that the press must be free; and if it is unduly biased, its consumers will vote with their feet.

Let the people decide — not the government.

Look at the alternative…a Stalinist, Gestapo-type regime, where “control” is enforced by a central and centralist government agency charged with the “elimination” of bias.

I’m sorry, that’s not a power I want in the hands of any body of politicians, which is what a government is.

Even if that body of politicians were from the Liberal Party.

The press must be free; by all means legislate or regulate things like taste, decency, defamatory content and so forth if you will.

Even on things like taste and decency, I think the market is a better regulator — for example, 5% of the population buy universally-available magazines with naked or semi-naked pictures in them; the other 95% don’t even go there. Is that market regulation or what?

No no no, this mooted media inquiry is dangerous stuff. You can’t confuse the freedom of the media with self-interest in a democratic society.

You can seek to influence the media; you can legitimately manipulate the media through skill and endeavour; and for the less-scrupulous, you can try to buy the media off or otherwise illegally distort it.

But in round overall terms, if you believe in a free society, you can’t muzzle or shackle it.

And I haven’t even really gotten into this issue; so much for a short post. But as I said at the outset, I’m still a bit crook.

I’d like to know what people think.

But the one enduring freedom in a democratic society is in its media, and that cannot be curtailed without being lost.

What do you think?