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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

criticizing the media « Previous | |Next »
October 24, 2005

In his recently delivered Henry Parkes Lecture, Senator John Faulkner made these critical comments about the culture of the corporate media in Australia:

Today's media is far more immediate. Rapid turnover leads to the constant search for the latest scoop, however flimsy the connection to the public interest. News comes packaged, enhanced with manipulative sound and image. Stories that don't suit simplistic illustrations are dropped. Stories about scandals boost circulation and take priority over complex discussions on policy.

That doesn't get to the heart of it does it? Tim Dunlop over at Road to Surfdom has described the media culture of the Canberra Press Gallery in terms of it being 'insider, smug, self-satisfied and lazy political commentary.'

Nicholson1.jpg
Nicholson

Isn't the heart the matter the collusion between politician and journalist? This has led to effective news management and a wall of secrecy constructed around cabinet, the ministry and the bureaucracy. Max Suich describes this media governance in terms of a:

"... strategy of manipulating the structure of the media --- the drip to favoured reporters, the tightly constrained photo opportunity for the TV cameras, the one-on-one and often soft interviews with radio presenters and the constant use of the transcripts of these interviews and similar TV interviews to set a limited, rigid and effective agenda, and run a handful of propaganda lines."

What Faulkner does not say is that we have a largely deferential press. The Canberra press gallery have used the passivity of the ALP---their tacit alliance with Howard on many issues--- to justify their own passivity. This passivity works to keep the Howard regime afloat and, by refusing to ask tough questions with even tougher follow-ups, they help the Howard Government to retain its extensive political leverage.

The flip side of the media just passively running government spin is partisanship. They are partisan and they help to construct the spin. The conservative media are the attack dogs, shock troops, or publicists who are quite willing to use rumors, fictions and lies. And the editors encourage this style in the service of far-right agendas.

It used to be the case that the job of the journalist was to "monitor and interrogate the centres of power" by acting as the watchdogs for democracy demanding truth. It is now clear that the media are also a "centre of power" and they often abuse that power by speaking untruths and fictions.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:28 AM | | Comments (1)
Comments

Comments

Cameron,
dam it. I've lost your comments about the drip feed.

Things are not working right around here. Maybe I'm just tired.

Can you recall them?

Some more quotes on the media from Senator John Faulkner's 2005 Henry Parkes Oration, delivered at the Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts, Tenterfield, New South Wales on 22 October 2005:

For 30 years, no government of any political persuasion has done enough to ensure diversity, although media diversity is the greatest protection of the media's vital role in scrutinising and informing our democracy. Neither the Press Council in its present form nor industry watchdogs like the ABC's MediaWatch can force our media outlets to be honest and accurate, or discourage huge corporations from putting their own interests ahead of the public interest..

He adds:
The media's freedom to publish was once a safeguard for our democracy. Today, as trash tabloids and opinion-for-hire commentators destroy any semblance of a debate of ideas, the principle of informed decision-making at the heart of democracy drowns beneath racy headlines and print-now-retract-later coverage. Radio shock-jocks and shallow television infotainment do the same.

Tis a fairly accurate account of the current state of affairs, isn't it?

And it looks even worse with the continual decline of Fairfax into a dysfunctional company caught in the headlights of disruptive digital technology; a company that doesn't have much idea how to deal with the challenge posed by the internet to broadsheet print media.

As Crikey observes:

The continual decline of Fairfax is another blow to the quality and depth of Australian journalism in a country which depends on the strength of its fourth estate to keep the other estates (politicians, bureaucrats and judges) accountable.