Enclosing the Commons

iStock_000017089639_LargeThe existential attack on the ABC in Australia is just the latest extension of creeping libertarianism, imported wholesale from the US and promulgated by the Murdoch press and the now dominant right-wing fringe of the Liberal Party.

For these people, there is no legitimate public space, no community, there is only the market. And anything not given a dollar value by the market must, by definition, have no intrinsic value. Continue reading

Media House of Cards

Proponents for the dismantling of media ownership laws rightly make the point that in age where everyone can publish across multiple platforms it is anachronistic to maintain regulations designed for a different age. But if we are going to deregulate, why not go the whole hog?

Discussion about Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposals to dismantle specific laws for specific media platforms overlook another consequence of new technology: While consumers are plugging into a global media market, current laws still are mainly designed to protect local media. And those tired and clueless oligopolies will only get more powerful with the inevitable consolidation that Turnbull’s changes will spark. Continue reading

Reframing Freedom

“Members of the Gillard government think the `top legislative priority’ should be to overhaul media laws, Attempts to control how news is reported and analysed will undermine freedom of speech by restricting the freedom of the media. This is a dangerous step to take as often it is the media that is the public’s advocate for the right to know and its guardian against abuses of power.” – The Australian, Feb 27, 2013

“The ABC has now reached the point where it is prepared to believe the word of asylum seekers, who have every motivation to exaggerate and manufacture claims of mistreatment in order to secure Australian relocation, over the word of our navy and government. Rather than being evidence of navy brutality, these latest claims are evidence that the ABC is out of control.” – The Daily Telegraph, Jan 23, 2014

Continue reading

Drama in Pyjamas

The enemy are inside the gate and they’re wearing PJs.  At the ABC, they are shamelessly promoting a seditious left-wing agenda, spreading traitorous leaks and, worst of all, giving free publicity to  Twitter. that decadent online lounge of the latte-loving elites.

It must be a huge story because The Australian, Rupert Murdoch’s loss-making broadsheet, has devoted acres of space to it in recent weeks. All the big gun columnists have been rolled out to deliver a patent leather kick up the polyester-clad behinds of the public service broadcasters. Continue reading

Freedom: A Moving Feast

‘Freedom’ is getting a real workout in the Australian media nowadays. It’s a peculiarly American view  of freedom, though – the Platonic, chiseled-into-granite view of the word. Hands instinctively go on hearts at its very mention.

Take the taste test and it is revealed as the Rupert/IPA flavour of freedom. In other words, it’s supposed stark and uncompromising nobility is in stark contrast to its ideological contingency.  How else do you explain the shifting views of Murdoch’s loyal footservants? Continue reading

Happy News

A rich vein of work in journalism studies is that existing norms and narrative functions of the craft are seen as obsolete by a new generation of media-savvy digital natives. This funky crew wants performers who mash up satire, news & popular culture and break the fourth wall between medium and audience.

It’s an exciting idea and one that draws as its inspiration successful US news/comedy/satire  hybrids like Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert The Colbert Report. Continue reading

Yada Yada Yada

 

Depressed by Australian politics? Take a trip to the US and witness the media conversation there. This is the original recipe for our post-modern show about nothing, featuring professional partisans rattling off practised punchlines like Jerry versus Newman.

On a sleepy Sunday at Dallas-Fort Worth, an airport the size of a small Australian city, chino-wearing business travellers hunch over laptops at fast-food joints lit by hundreds of screens showing the talking heads sparring over Obamacare or the debt ceiling or fracking or whatever else might raise a temperature. Continue reading

The Mates’ Media

Ask any New Zealander living in Australia, and you’ll hear how we learn to shrug off  lame  jokes about “fush’n’chups” and sheep bothering. What we rarely point out  in return is that Australians, for all their relative wealth, have  an unevolved appreciation of women in power.

This blogger spent a week in his native NZ the week before last, attending a funeral of a loved aunt who had a family of seven daughters and two sons. Naturally, it was  a women-dominated event and one in which strong female voices could be heard without their asking for permission to speak. That’s characteristic of NZ, the first country in the world to give women the vote.
So it was a shock to return to Australia and a series of events, all of which suggested this country is in a process of devolution in gender politics: A menu prepared for a fund-raising dinner for the conservative opposition that featured crude and juvenile references to the female Prime Minister’s body parts, a shock jock who questioned the PM to her face about the sexuality of her life partner and a chorus of apologists – male and female – who sought to normalise this trashy, lowbrow, ratings-chasing outrage-mongering.
Whatever the merits of Julia Gillard’s political effectiveness as prime minister, it is now blatantly obvious that a large chunk of the electorate – egged on by a overtly  sexist media – cannot or will not deal with a woman in power. These mostly old men, trading off their reputation as ‘authority’ figures, channel the most vicious and sexist prejudice for ratings. The vile Alan Jones is the worst of them, but there are an army of jowled grumps behind him saying something similar.
Why do Australians’ put up with this trash? The short answer is they don’t. The media, as Wendy Bacon has recently revealed in her series on women in the media,  is still controlled by men. Not only that, but opinion pieces and political commentary are overwhelmingly by men.
The culture of newsrooms in Australia is male denominated. It always has been. And while other industries, such as financial services and health and retail and banking are starting to promote women like
Gail Kelly at Westpac or Sally Macdonald at Oroton, the media is still overwhelmingly a mates’ club.
None of this should be party political. That it has become so says a lot about the nature of politics in this country, which is clearly hellbent on importing the manufactured and idiotic culture wars that have paralysed the  American political landscape. The result is that what is decent and human is decried as “politically correct” by agents of power who want to pretend their power does not exist at all.
So under the guise of ‘freedom’, powerful voices seek to belittle or suppress the voices of those who traditionally are under-represented   in our media – those from other cultures, the disabled, the gay and lesbian, the agnostics, the adherents of faiths other than Christian, and, the biggest group of all – women. The disgusting  treatment of our first woman prime minister is just the latest manifestation of that.
It’s time all of us -women AND men – to put an end to it by demanding of those who hold power in the media and the advertisers who fund them that we will no longer accept as “OK” language that demeans anyone because of their gender, race, sexuality or faith.
That’s the way it’s going to be, whether you like it or not, MATE.

Of Human Bondage


An increasingly unhinged Australian mainstream media, with a few honourable exceptions, has been revving up the scary-o-meter in recent days about this country facing a future of debt, deficits and public penury for as far as the eye can see.
 
“A decade of deficits spells a bleak future for Australians,” was the headline on the increasingly tabloid ABC television news, warning of a crisis bigger than the one where Bates went to jail in Downton Abbey.  I spluttered over my warmed up risotto (my lovely wife was out at the movies) and quickly checked my Bloomberg terminal.

Continue reading

Talk is Cheap

Our public broadcaster is our most trusted source of news. So why does it spend so much time and money chasing cheap and predictable opinions from a small group of people who have plenty of other places to bang their tin drums?

Continue reading