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

on Crikey « Previous | |Next »
October 11, 2010

I subscribe to Crikey in order to support independent publishing in Australia that is willing to foster quality political debate. I do so because this is difficult to do on a financial basis in a small market such as Australia.

However, I do find Crikey a little too precious these days. In spite of its proclaimed independence it is a part of the Canberra Press Gallery bubble, shows little interest in adding to the public conversation by referring to other independent voices, its commentary is often thin, and it gives the impression that only Crikey really knows what is actually going on beneath the surface appearances of political life.

Crikey publisher Eric Beecher has recently commented on independent publishing to The Australian's Media section. What he said was surprising:

As a huge supporter of the ABC, I have been somewhat shocked at (the ABC's) decision to create a website (The Drum) that sits so blatantly in the territory of sites like Crikey and The Punch... Operating in the commercial space, we expect vigorous competition from other commercial publishers. But to see the ABC tanks roll up on our lawn was bewildering..The Drum seriously and dangerously compromises the ABC's editorial integrity. It is full of personal opinions, mainly from the Left and often wacky, which is something that sits uncomfortably with the notion of a rigorously independent publicly funded national broadcaster. In doing this, it unnecessarily but almost provocatively reinforces the fairly widespread perceptions of where the ABC and its journalists sit in the political spectrum.

Beecher finishes by saying that the can now fully understand why the BBC has limited its online activities, especially in the commentary arena.

Give me a break. "Tanks on the lawn" is how James Murdoch attacks the BBC. Crikey ought to be welcoming the emerging diversity of commentary and its quality in the public sphere instead of using phrases like 'whacky'. What Beecher is doing, by saying that the ABC shouldn’t be running an online opinion site, because it encroaches on commercial media’s turf (keep your tanks of our lawn), is just repeating the Murdoch's.

I can understand that Beecher is peeved because the ABC is pinching his writers for The Drum and paying them a better fee for an op-ed than Crikey can afford. But tanks on the lawn? Where is his own independent analysis? Isn't that independence where Crikey makes its stand?

I notice that Beecher says nothing about the lack of good policy analysis and commentary in the public sphere. Or provide an argument why this is the case; or whether or not this is significant. He says nothing about the alliance between corporate Australia and the mainstream press that shapes and dominates public debate on important issues (eg., the mining tax debate).

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:00 AM | | Comments (8)


Have to agree with Kim over at LP. I expected more from the Drum than a substantial contribution to the already overflowing volumes of opinion and speculation in media. I see Crikey as an optional extra, but expected better from the ABC. They really pigeon holed themselves when they started publishing climate change denialists in the interests of balance, but Milne?

I noticed that "Online Opinion" are announcing some sort of cutback in their outputs, in a year of apathy with some of the blog operating models under pressure in changing times.
Beecher's Crikey is one of those groups operating under the umbrella of a wider formation, also including "Online Opinion".
Now that the election "heat" has passed and with Xmass now on the way, Beecher's comments may be a reflection of frustrations and anxieties surfacing, during the lull.

I don't have any particular brief for Crikey, but I endorse Beecher's point (without adopting the over-heated rhetoric). There is no shortage of opinion online and the ABC has no business publishing more of it at public expense. People like Tim Dunlop have already built up substantial reputations and readerships online without taxpayer subsidies and there is no public interest in giving them yet another forum funded by the ABC. On the contrary, sites like 'The Drum' serve to sustain the MSM publishing model that only a select number of people have opinions worth reading and it is an editor's function to decide who they are and what they write about.

If the ABC is determined to publish 'The Drum' let it be self-funding, via advertising and/or subscriptions.

The Drum does publish junk

I agree with you that the ABC's Drum operates within the mainstream press and Canberra Press Gallery model. An example. There is little public policy analysis to help inform us citizens.

so we have a media lineup of public broadcasters versus those who want to persuade us to pay for content, which includes Crikey, Foxtel, Fairfax and News Limited. It is the not for profit public space + citizens versus the profit makers in the market + consumers.

Thaks for alerting me to "The Drum" blog. It seems pretty good to me, though the posts are a bit wordy.

I don't understand the ABC-bashing that people here seem to go in for. Ken Lovell's comment that "there is no shortage of opinion online" seems wrong to me - there really aren't that many Australian blogs, and many of the better-known ones like Crooked Timber and Club Troppo are just mutual admiration societies for a few academics.

Or maybe Ken Lovell just doesn't like Tim Dunlop. Anyhow, The Drum is fine by me. Go the ABC!

The Drum is just another opinion/commentary site competing with The Punch and Crikey and pretty much doing what they do. The Drum does not provide quality analysis of major issues by knowledgeable people who would not otherwise be heard.

When The Drum was launched, Green, the editor, and others argued that what The Drum would be about was analysis and not opinion. So it is not living up to its own standards and criteria.