Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Define The Public Interest - Australian hysteric

Blandishments, blather and bombast emanates from conservative politicians in Australia and their megaphone media organisation News Corporation.

As noted in my blog 13 March 2013:  "The evidence is clear from this coverage why a Public Interest Test is needed in Australia. Surely the coverage by the News Corporation press proves how the public interest is rejected in favour of the status quo."

The opposition to The Public Interest Test proves the need for the test. There is every reason to believe that News Corporation wants to kill off the concept of the public interest. Maybe their extreme opposition arises from the knowledge that in their heart of hearts they know they are manifestly wrong, that they do not serve the public and as such fail to meet some of the standards that journalism seeks to uphold.

The Australian newspaper and the CEO of News Corporation (Australia) Kim Williams have proved themselves to be unregulated libertarian protagonists. They are seeking to maximise neo-classical economic essentialism: the market resolves everything, seems to be their mantra. They refuse to be held accountable. They should think about where this libertarianism got the News of the World, not to mention the unregulated mavens in the UK who are now facing criminal charges for hacking cell phones, allegedly paying off the police and pretending that they could behave without reference to professional standards of journalism,  Oh and News International closed down the newspaper!

What happened to  principles like accountability, public trust and responsibility in media ownership? Jettisoned by a self-serving over reaching colonial media pack, who operate in an uncompetitive marketplace, where there are entire Australian cities with only News Corporation newspapers (Brisbane for example) or in cities dominated by News Corporation (Adelaide).

The argument has been made by News Corporation and conservative politicians that there is a lot of media diversity due to the Internet where the public is served. So why have a Public Interest Test? This is a nice yet flawed legal manoeuvre. Because of its size and influence News Corporation sets the agenda for a considerable amount of discourse in Australia.

Then there is the former columnist Robert Mann's accusations that The Australian newspaper has a : "malign influence" and practices "intellectual dishonesty."  Mann vs The Australian - nice summation  

"First of all I would like to say how sorry I am...it's a matter of great regret to everyone these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to everywhere around the world and it is our determination to both put things right, make sure these things don't happen again... and to be the company that I know we've always aspired to be... I have no knowledge... " James Murdoch. "The most humble day of my life." Rupert Murdoch. Both appearing before the Levenson Inquiry in the UK. Murdoch's answers

Watching the Murdoch evidence it becomes clear that he was not aware of what happens in some of his papers. It seems clear he believes his media organs are well run and ethically run...

The fight by News Corporation against the proposed Public Interest Test is undignified, More importantly it may indicate that the News Corporation neophytes in Australia are overcompensating for their anxiety about pleasing the boss. They are so totally opposed to the Public Interest test that I am embarrassed for them.

I have seen this before by high level media executives in Australia. It happened during the  Prices Surveillance Authority (PSA)  inquiry into the prices of sound recordings in 1990-1991. I saw and heard executives in public meetings screaming, hurling tirades of abuse at the chairperson the the PSA Inquiry, Professor Alan Fells, all part of a performance that reflected what their far-away superiors wanted them to say.Talk about extreme - some of these guys give new meaning to the phrase "corporate shill."

(A full exploration of the PSA Inquiry is available in my book: Rock Dogs: Politics and the Australian Music IndustryRock Dogs).

The conservative political establishment in Australia is also railing against the Public Interest Test. News and conservative politician seem to be egging each other on. Who wants\the public interest when  you can have the free market?