Not One Paper Less: The Case For Media Diversity
Call it a case-study in media diversity, a reminder of what we will lose if one of the struggling newspapers folds up. These are significant political stories and arguments. But, if it were not for one story in a lonely paper in each case, you wouldn’t know they existed.
Take, for example, the factional and policy contest within the Green Party. Today’s Australian describes Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon as the ‘power-broker’ – how nice to apply this cliché to a party other than the ALP – within the NSW branch. It interprets her arrival in Canberra as a challenge to the authority of Bob Brown. This comes on top of The Australian’s reporting during the state election campaign of the NSW Green Party’s policy of boycotting Israel, a story would that not have broken if it had not been for The Australian’s interest.
Or take the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday and today, which described how the new state Treasurer Mike Baird had seen his portfolio stripped of the following functions: land tax, gaming tax, payroll tax, public service superannuation and the Office of State Revenue. It leaves him with fewer roles and responsibilities than any state Treasurer in the nation or any in NSW history. The functions have been allocated to the Finance Minister Greg Pearce MLC. This big story has only been highlighted in The Telegraph.
Mike Baird has been placed 11th in the ministry. The Telegraph says this represents a slapping down of Mr. O’Farrell’s leadership rival. Today it said Baird had only been informed of this allocation of duties on the weekend, although it was decided by O’Farrell’s transition to government team some time earlier, a spokesman admitting the restructure had been in the works for “several months.”
The Sydney Morning Herald will offend half its readership by its decision to publish today ‘How the anti-nuclear lobby misled us all’ by George Monbiot, a green with a long record of anti nuclear activity, who in the wake of the Japanese crisis has brazenly declared he now supports nuclear power. See my comments below, posted on March 22 about the previous Guardian article by Monbiot.
In this latest piece, Monbiot takes on Helen Caldicott, a non-scientist with a history of anti-nuclear advocacy. Among other things he points out that despite her claim that 985,000 were killed as a result of the Chernobyl disaster, a UN Scientific Committee report shows that only 134 suffered acute radiation syndrome, with 28 dying soon after and 19 dying some time later, but not from radiation related diseases. Apart from the 134 people exposed to acute radiation, the 6848 cases of thyroid cancer among young children can be traced “almost entirely” to the Soviet Union’s failure to stop people drinking contaminated milk. Caldicott’s arguments have not been previously analysed and exposed.
On its commentary pages, The Australian prints a piece by University of Queensland law professor, James Allan, about right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt being forced before the Federal Court under the Racial Discrimination Act with accusations of racial vilification. James Allan deftly makes the point that this kind of thing happens frequently in Canada, despite having “one of the strongest bills of rights in the common law world.” He says that Bolt being dragged before the courts “can impose a massive chilling effect on free speech.” He adds:
We shouldn’t have an act that allows complaints of a quasi-defamatory nature to be turned into ones dressed up as racial vilification. Those who think, like me, that the valuable sort of free speech is the kind that protects stuff many find offensive and distasteful will want this 1995 amending legislation repealed.
If it weren’t for The Australian, I wouldn’t have seen such a robust dismissal of this case, or learnt of a factional cleavage opening up in the Green Party. If it were not for The Herald I would not have seen Monbiot’s gutsy defence of the nuclear industry’s record. If it weren’t for The Telegraph I wouldn’t be aware of a fairly cruel demotion of NSW Treasury and of the Treasurer.
Put this down as an argument for media diversity and the traditional over the new media.