Tonight I was going to spend a bit of time writing about my thoughts on the water crisis, the Israel situation and other events of global significance. But I changed my mind. Instead I’m going to run another one of my journalism tutorials for the uninitiated… My bachelors degree says I’m an expert (or it might, if I pulled it out of the envelope).
I have probably said something about cross media ownership laws before – but if I haven’t, let me say, for the record, that laws restricting cross media ownership are a good thing. Allowing the one super duper media company to control the media across the spectrum is not a good thing. Anyone who thinks that the press is free from editorial constraint is naive – the owners of a publication can dictate what gets printed. If an owner has control over more than one outlet they start to have the dangerous capacity to control the public agenda. For example – in a small country town if one party owned the local radio station and newspaper – they’d have almost total control over the messages getting out to the locals on any given issue – they’d essentially control what’s left of the public sphere (the place in which public discourse takes place (these days it’s talk back radio and the letters and opinions pages in newspapers)). This is a bad thing if you believe people should be able to reason out truth for themselves, rather than being told what to believe.
Funnily enough, in a survey conducted by crikey, journalists aren’t exactly over the moon with the proposed new laws. Here’s the stats (and a neat summary of the proposals – a voice = 1 media outlet).
The results show that most journalists are highly sceptical of plans to relax cross-media and foreign ownership restrictions and replace them with a new minimum of five significant media “voices” in metropolitan areas and four “voices” in rural areas. More than 63% of journalists surveyed said they believed Australian media companies have “too much influence” in deciding how Australians vote, and 71.4% said media owners had too much influence in determining the political agenda.
Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren said the survey reveals that the people who work in the media know the truth about the Government’s proposed media changes. “The changes will undermine diversity, affect the integrity of journalism in Australia and further empower media owners who already have an unwelcome influence on their employees to report the news in a way that suits the owners’ political or commercial agendas,” he said. “The health of Australia democracy is at stake and these media law changes will clearly result in fewer voices and fewer choices for the Australian people.”
I guess there would be positive benefits if someone with taste (say Fairfax Holdings) bought out Channel 10. At least they’d have the decency to take Big Brother off the air.