Be Afraid, Please

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The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”– H.L. Mencken

In a world in which everyone is constantly distracted, arguably the most valued currency is your attention. Politicians know it. Journalists know it. As Big Idea professions trying to survive in a post-modernist age, they’re drowning in indifference. Terrorists know it, too. Continue reading

Left Right Out

When people talk about media bias, they inevitably are referring to the house leanings of particular publishers. What’s often overlooked, though, is the bias generated by the necessity of journalists choosing certain frames and narratives to shape what’s known as “news”.

The March-in-March protests around Australia provide an object lesson in how journalists can be captured by those tired frames and by the tired institutions they report on.  While there were some straight accounts of the marches, the general media response was a mixture of sniffy condescension, lazy cynicism or a blank refusal to even recognise this as a story. 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

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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

The Civic Vacuum

A major theme accompanying the destruction of the mainstream media’s business model is what happens to our democracy when we lose public accountability journalism. We’re finding out.

Whether liberal or traditionally conservative, no champion of a vigorous democracy can be happy with the emaciation of the Fourth Estate to the point where it is reduced to being a passive cheerleader or booster for the well-heeled, the powerful and the connected. The civic function of journalism has been almost entirely eclipsed by the market function of commercial media. Continue reading

Free Media VS Free Market

Much of the opposition to the federal government’s tame media reforms stems from a now ritual assumption among journalists and others that “free markets” are synonymous with “free media”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Following the now infamous photoshopped front pages in the Murdoch tabloids, comparing Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to mass murdering dictators like Stalin, came this screeching meltdown by News Ltd columnist Piers Akerman on the ABC Insiders program.

The hysterical view of Akerman and others, mainly in the News Ltd stable, is that by insisting on a public interest test for media mergers and requiring self-regulating newspapers to live up to their own standards, Conroy is starting the process of “putting back the bricks back into the Berlin Wall”. Continue reading

The Real Despots

The front pages of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids in Australia on Wednesday tell you everything you needed to know about the case for media reform in this country.

A modest, some would say timid, response by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to the Convergence Review and the independent media review of Ray Finkelstein was met with an hysterical, deceitful and typically self-serving response by the press.

Western suburbs commuters could be forgiven for expecting a morning raid from the secret police after being confronted by the Daily Telegraph’s front page comparing Conroy to Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Castro and every other go-to despot bar Hitler. Continue reading

Oh, THOSE ethics!

With the report of the Leveson inquiry into UK press ethics due within days and decisions from the Australian government on its own twin media inquiries now well overdue, get set for a coordinated rendering of garments and gnashing of teeth against the coming assault on our sacred freedoms.

In fact, the hysteria-meter has already been activated by brave defenders of freedom – the lone voices speaking up for ordinary folk against the intrusions of unelected busybodies and out-of-touch elites in judiciary, academia and the so-called ‘public’ service. Continue reading