There’s a kind of political kismet to the fact that the Orwellian Finkelstein media review is released while international crusader for free speech Mark Steyn is in this country on a speaking tour.
“I have an undream?”
If Finkelstein’s recommendations are implemented they would create an oppressive regime of essentially government-controlled media and overturn our cherished principle of freedom of the press.
They would in essence create a “licensing” of every media agency and even, more disturbingly, most website and blogs. Well, those that are actually remotely popular - those with more than 41 hits per day.
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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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The federal government’s media inquiry released its long-awaited report today – 469 pages of policy discussion for interested parties to absorb on a Friday afternoon.
Guess they don’t know the end-of-the-week pub habits of journalists too well. Stay tuned to The Punch as we delve through the other 459 pages in the coming days. Here’s what it looks like at this point.
Over the past couple of weeks there has been speculation that the inquiry would propose the establishment of a media ombudsman or a licensing system for journalists. Turns out the inquiry has only ended up making one significant recommendation.
I’d been mapping out a strong, passionate critique of the media inquiry on my computer for the past fortnight. It was going to be the best article ever; a high water-mark in awesomeness.
I was going to suggest that yes, a lot of very ordinary journalism gets published in newspapers these days (“Hey, this bloke just sent us some old nudie pics of someone that sorta looks like Pauline Hanson! How about I run them on the front page?”), but that’s absolutely nothing new.
And if we’re going to start investigating the state of journalism then we probably ought to start with the crap on Today Tonight (which is sometimes is the highest rating show on a weeknight), given the broadcasting spectrum, as opposed to paper, is a finite public resource.
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From a crowded field, one of the more embarrassing moments from my troubled phase as a teenage Trotskyist involved selling issues of the socialist newspaper Direct Action on the streets of Adelaide. On occasions I sold it outside Football Park, Adelaide’s home of Aussie Rules, where I hoped to capitalise on that niche readership of people who both loved their footy and loved the idea of capitalism being paralysed by its contradictions.
In hindsight “selling” isn’t the right word. On a good day I sold three copies of Direct Action. On most days I sold no copies of Direct Action. The reason I sold no copies of Direct Action is that it wasn’t a very good newspaper. It was a crap newspaper. It was preachy, dour, earnest, poorly designed, massively overpriced for what it was, and full of articles which were about as far away from mainstream sentiment as you could imagine, with discussions of whether indigenous organisations should take up arms against their oppressors, calls for trade bans with pariah nations such as the United States, editorials calling for transgender prisoners to be given sex changes on Medicare.
Today, about three million Australians will shell out a couple of dollars to but their favourite Sunday newspaper. They do so because they like and enjoy it.
IT’S a quarter to teatime at the media inquiry. Chair SIR ROBERT ELDERBERRY-TONSON is hearing evidence from journalism expert DR. WILLIAM FOXBOTTLE-SMYTHE. The late afternoon sunlight ripples through the plate glass windows…
SIR ROBERT: So what’s to be done Doctor.
DR. WILLIAM: Well, I’m not advocating that we ban newspapers.
SIR ROBERT: Who said anything about banning newspapers?
DR. WILLIAM: Certainly not me.
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