Cross media ownership laws: For dummies

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.


smallest cb says:

Just thought i’d get the first comment in. Firstly, I very much agree with your views on the media laws. Its very interesting that the richest man in Australia, James Packer, has inherited his money from his father’s media dealings. Secondly, (I feel that i should bring up the Big Brother debate again), who would watch that show!!! How sad is today’s society.

Nathan says:

Further Survey results:

53% of the journalists surveyed say they are unable to be critical of the media organisation they work for.

38% say they have been instructed to comply with the commercial position of their owner.

32% say they feel obliged to take into account the political views of their proprietor when writing stories.

63% say Australian media companies have “too much influence” in deciding how Australians vote.

71% say media owners have too much influence in determining the political agenda.

Mark says:

This is why the humble blog has started to flourish. Free speech does find an outlet.

Of course, if you have sufficient clout, competing comments can be lost in the morass of paid media commentary. News Ltd’s bumper profit, deal with Google for MySpace search rights, and further plans for the “interactive space” (the internet), are indicators of difficult times ahead to be really confident of discerning of the truth from any media outlet.

Small blogs can still make a difference eg Groklaw’s role in US SCO Unix vs Linux IP stoush that SCO attempted to try in the media backfired largely due to the efforts of a linux-using paralegal who investigated each “devastating” claim made in the press with the assistance of an increasing number of readers. Groklaw does have a pro-linux bias, clearly stated, but tries to report accurately on the issues, claims and tactics of both sides, and has at times had I think hundreds of thousands of visits per week. (envious Nathan?)

So good journalism – ie verifiable truth, backed up by the collaborative nature of the internet, does still happen and can have an effect on society. Sadly, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

Nathan says:

I like to think that it’s about quality of posters not quantity.

I’d like to think that here at we have the highest quality blog readers on the market today. In fact, my readers have more quality than you could poke a stick at, if you were that way inclined.

In fact, the quality of readers here is exceeded only by the quality at where I suspect the only readers are the Phil and Smiz in question.

If only more readers commented, I might have more to do with my time at work.

The Grammar Nazi says:

Heeheeheeheehee. Is anyone else thinking of that James Bond movie? “There’s no news like bad news!”

CB says:

Yeah, I don’t like big brother either. I don’t know how that fitted into the media laws?
love, your big sister

Mark says:

Like the terror sting in the UK?

PS Andrew &amp Sarah were due to go from UK to Spain yesterday. Methinks they may have been delayed.

Steve says:

Congratulation :) Nathan

RjB says:

Can I add my congratulations too Nathan?

Nathan says:

I think it’s an achievement worthy of congratulations… thanks for your help with that rjb.

RjB says:

I do what I can