Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The Real Despots
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.
In the Herald Sun, Conroy was photo-shopped as a KGB colonel alongside the headline 'Gillard's Henchman Attacks Our Freedom'.
All this over a report which recommends continued self-regulation of the press, supplemented by a public interest test to ensure diversity in media market which is already the most concentrated in the developed world.
No mention of the fact that Conroy outright rejected Finkelstein's recommendation of a statutory News Media Council, replacing the toothless Press Council and incorporating the functions of the current broadcast regulator ACMA.
It was the release of the Finkelstein report early last year which sparked an equally hysterical spray of headline headless chookery. And there has been constant squawking ever sense from an industry that is expert at masking its own interests as the public interest.
Australians should be aware that this calculated misrepresentation of the government's recommendations mirrors closely what happened in the UK late last year after the release there of the report of the Leveson inquiry sparked by the phone-hacking scandal.
Leveson recommended the appointment of an independent, self regulatory body for the press, and a system of arbitration that allows people who have been victims of media wrongdoing to seek redress without having to go through the courts.
Just as in Australia, the release of the report unleashed a tide of ranting, hysteria from sections of the tabloid press with claims of impending totalitarianism and the ritual locking up of journalists.
Ever the voice of reason, former Murdoch editor Harold Evans eventually stepped in, accusing his former colleagues of cynicism and arrogance and declaring he was appalled by the deliberate misrepresentation of the report's findings.
Would only there such sane voices in Australia, where a poisonous media and political climate makes it virtually impossible to have a rational discussion about media regulation and when even the most modest proposal is met with 7-on-the-richter-scale OUTRAGE.
Lost in the noise that a good deal of the media - the broadcasters - are already subject to statutory regulation, that we have independent courts and a dozens of statutory bodies that operate without government interference. ACMA is one.
No-one is considering the possibility that the true despot is not the state, but a growing plutocracy that destroys the possibility of reform and poisons democracy.
Newspapers are businesses like any other. Why are they special? And why should newspaper editors, as Leveson said, be allowed to mark their own homework? Why should they be able to get away with the twisting of facts and outright lies? Who polices them? How can we expect journalists to be true to their own code of ethics when a single employer controls 70% of the industry? If the media protects the public, who protects the public from the media?
When I studied journalism 30 years ago, my lecturer told us two things that have stuck with me. As a journalist, you have a special responsibility to the public - to be fair, to be balanced, and, most of all, to be truthful. Without truth, there can be no trust. And without trust of the public, you cannot expect to maintain the privileges of a journalist.
In that case, The Fourth Estate becomes The Failed Estate. Welcome to the Murdochcracy.
Posted by Mr D at 1:42 PM