Those who are calling for more stringent media regulation fail to recognise that there is already an incredibly powerful regulator in place which has the ability to act when community standards are not met by publishers and broadcasters.
The power of this regulator is growing by the year, as technology opens new channels to respond and engage when the media is seen to have erred or gone too far.
The regulator wasn’t set up by the government. It doesn’t have an official name. It is currently reading this column. The regulator is you.
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If you asked any normal person to describe the September 11 terror attacks, the word “unbelievable” would be one of the first adjectives to spring to mind. Unbelievable, as in defying comprehension.
For a small but loud group of people – people I am somewhat reticent to write about for fear of inviting a deluge of emails from wackos – the September 11 terror attacks are unbelievable in a different way. They are unbelievable because, they argue, terrorists did not hijack planes and fly them into the Twin Towers. Instead, they believe the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, either a controlled detonation or a joint operation masterminded by the United States itself to justify a war against Islam. Some of them argue that Osama bin Laden didn’t exist, or was not behind what happened, despite his appearing in a film claiming full responsibility.
It is not so much an opinion as a diagnosable mental illness, but there you go. They think it’s the truth, and that’s why they give themselves the silly name of “truthers”.
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The Labor Party might be moving towards the termination of its disastrous shotgun wedding with the Australian Greens, but there are a number of policy positions spawned by this marriage of convenience which are still very much alive. The argument over preferences and formal alliances between the parties is largely an irrelevance to the day-to-day lives of voters. What matters most is the impact this relationship continues to have on public policy.
If Labor is serious about this discussion, its cooler-headed members should broaden the debate to include issues such as media policy, as the once-sensible ALP has disappeared into a vortex of paranoia.
The best politicians are those who cop scrutiny on the chin and get on with governing – in recent years, two of the best examples would be Bob Carr and John Howard – but in Canberra right now it is the whiners who have got the upper hand.
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The Federal Government’s media inquiry was ordered in response to journalistic behaviour overseas which has no equal in Australia. It was also championed most enthusiastically by those who were either in on the lie, or indifferent to the lie, about the crisis in Australia’s political leadership, an 18-month period of indulgent paralysis which came to a head in Canberra last Monday.
Against this backdrop it is hard for those of us in the press not to be suspicious about something which seemed politically motivated in its inception, and which would now subject the entire media, both mainstream and independent, to the most heavy-handed regulation Australia has ever seen.
It is impossible to discuss an issue such as the media inquiry without being accused of journalistic self-interest. However, the inquiry has such dramatic implications for freedom of speech – and potentially also the proper use of public money – that it also raises broader issues of public interest.
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