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The Media Inquiry We Need

August 31, 2011

We all grumble about the media. The question is Lenin’s question: what is to be done? An inquiry could collect every grievance that everyone has ever had with their local radio stations and the mistakes in the deaths’ notices. It can go from one end of the country to the other and hear submissions in Town Halls. It can persuade itself that a lot of reporting and editing is bad, that ownership is concentrated, that there is all sorts of bias. But you can hear that confirmed on Media Watch every week. The question is: what to do?

Especially given newspapers are in decline anyway. Carve The Australian out of News and who would buy it to run at a loss? Rupert Murdoch subsidises media diversity and journalists’ jobs.

I’ve got a different proposition: an inquiry into the junk that chokes Pay TV.

The quality is trash.

We were promised better.

Diversity is non-existent.

Just about everything on it is cheap and nasty and now it’s being filled with ads every eight minutes.

Focus on that. Perhaps pass a statute on privacy. Double funding for the ABC and SBS. As for an inquiry? Its chairman would be like the man in Jewish lore being required to sit on the city’s walls and wait the coming of the messiah. “At least the work is steady,” he mused.

  1. August 31, 2011 4:07 pm

    What are governments trying to achieve?
    And what are they prepared to do to reach those objectives?

    There is no point in having an inquiry without first having at least some idea of the answers to those questions.

    Pay TV is crap. In my opinion. And it yours. Perhaps most people agree. But does the government have a right to formally declare it crap? I think not. And it if they did, that declaration is pointless unless it comes with a directive that showing TV declared crap by the government is no longer allowed. That way lies madness.

    So what levers do governments possess to influence the nature and quality of journalism being produced?

    At the highest level:
    * Rules relating to media ownership and control
    * Access and pricing of licenses to produce/publish content
    * Tax and compliance regulations relating to those businesses

    At the next level down in detail:
    * Content rules relating to: advertising, content origination, personal privacy, rules to do with corrections or errors.
    * Codes of conduct and independent tribunals with actual power to impose meaningful fines, or correction orders

    Any inquiry must be heading towards varying these levers, or else it is just an expensive navel gazing exercise.

    In the end the ultimate responsibility lies with the public to vote with their eyes and ears. They only do it ’cause we watch it. The crap would stop tomorrow if it didn’t rate better than expensive non-crap.

  2. August 31, 2011 7:23 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Bob, I don’t have Pay T.V for all the reasons you articulate; however, if you think Pay T.V is rubbish, my god! free to air commercial T.V is even worse!! endless so called ‘Reality’ shows, from Cops to Ambos, so called farmers looking for wives? biggest, fattest, stupidist, losers; Ladettes (slappers) to ladies? my bloody kitchen rules, & don’t get me started on those wonderfull examples of so called current affairs programs ‘Today Tonight’ and ‘A Current Affair’, In the words of Bob Ellis,” And so it goes”.
    The dumbing down of our society continues, but sadly the more crap dished up, the more people watch, yes, more funds for both the ABC and SBS, and maybe we really could start to become a ‘Smart Nation’ by osmosis. (There, I feel better now I’ve got that off my chest, time for a lie-down).

  3. September 1, 2011 5:49 pm

    Isn’t the issue diversity? Crap is not there because we want it, it is there because some people want it and it’s cheap to make. Those of us who don’t want crap have no choice although we did until Howard set out to destroy the ABC and the even more intelligent and “cosmopolitan” SBS. So change the ownership rules, force divestment if necessary, double funding for the ABC and SBS and while you are at it remove the advertising from the SBS and remove the right wing commissars from the ABC and rebuild their internal cultures of providing quality media rather than aping commercial mush.

    Do you need an inquiry to do that? Only to give it a facade of public involvement. Why bother? All we are talking about is rolling back Howard’s toxic rule of mediocrity and he didn’t bother to consult before he did it.

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