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

defending the need for a media inquiry « Previous | |Next »
August 1, 2011

In More Regulation Won't Fix The Media at New Matilda Michael Davis argues against media regulation--- that is, regulation of journalistic ethics to ensure a greater right to privacy, or for tighter control of newspaper ownership-- to ensure greater diversity.

He joins a number of others, mostly journalists in Australia, who oppose a media inquiry, greater regulation and reducing the concentration of ownership in the media in the name of freedom of expression and the mass media effectively holding modern politicians to account.


Davis questions the standard argument which he attributes to Wendy Bacon; namely, that a robust democracy requires diversity of ownership to minimise the risk of biased news reporting — and if this diversity cannot be achieved through a free market it should be imposed through legislation. He does so from the perspective of the market and avoids the right to privacy arguments.

Davis' argument is two fold. First:

it is a time of change in the media — and also one of great promise. Those calling for media control should look forward to the digital future not to the moribund state of newspapers. The last thing we need right now is government overview of online media, the effect of which would be to reduce, rather than increase, market dynamism and diversity by imposing regulatory barriers to entry or worse, control of content production.

This is jumping the gun. What is being called for is a media inquiry not the imposition of regulatory barriers to entry or control of content production. Who is calling for that in Australia? I can only think of the Australian Christian Lobby's censorship campaign.

Davis' second argument addresses the assumption of a connection between ownership and editorial direction. This refers to the claim that Rupert Murdoch is a right-wing ideologue intent on destroying welfare states, cutting taxes for the rich and launching neocolonial wars. This assumption Davis says is by no means obvious because there is a diversity of opinion within the Murdoch press (plus reader demographics and editorial styles) and that News Corporation, like companies in other industries, is more likely to be driven by commerce than politics.

Even if the the editorial line of any given paper is a creative fiction aimed at building a saleable identity, there is the anti-Labor anti-Green campaign being openly conducted by News Ltd and it is premised on regime change. The political agenda gives rise to bad journalism that has more to do with mass deception than speaking truth to power. This erodes the idea of News Ltd's news outlets as agents of truthfulness or honest political analysis. So what is wrong with a media inquiry to find ways to making journalists accountable to the public for their lies, half truths and deception, given that deception is a customary practice in Australian UK journalism?

Davis does acknowledge that we should be less concerned with political ideology the more concerned with insidious problem of a too-cosy relationship between government and media resulting in an unwillingness to hold government to account. A core issue is the existence of a political class---the power nexus between media, politicians and police--that is being uncovered in the UK as a result of the News of the World phone hacking scandal; and how this power nexus warps and corrupts the institutions of liberal democracy.

Though Davis raises the power issue he does not link it to the call for a media inquiry. If News Ltd is is too powerful, then much of his power derives from the Faustian bargain struck by modern politicians with the modern media. It is less corruption and more political class---backscratching, the cover ups, the instinctive regard for one another’s interest amongst press, police and politicians--that is integral to a whole system of rule.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:18 AM | | Comments (4)


The commentators on Davis' article at NM gave it the 'thumbs down', though perhaps a little more gently and diplomatically than it deserved.
I did wonder who the writer was, a quick google search revealed too many of his name to pick the right [is that a descriptor?] one.
And the publishing of such an incoherent and false paradigm
based article does not reflect well on NM, as was obseved by one commenter.

Classic IPA ideological, sado economic neolib stuff.
Fancy having to see this sort of doggie-do at a reputable site like New Matilda.

Journalists in general oppose a media inquiry and regulation of the press, even though they know that many of them write polemical crap.

The standard media line is that more regulation of the media - especially the print media - is not a good idea. Even Jonathan Holmes from Media Watch toes the line.

The lack of critical insight into the power and distrust of the media by those working in it is amazing. They should step outside their bubble.

Jonathan Holmes is begining to have some doubts about his no regulation position. He says.

a few bits of information have come my way that have led me, not to a fundamental change of mind, at least to an appreciation of the frustration that the press's complacency and self-importance can engender in non-media folk.

He adds that whilst there's no evidence of phone-hacking in Australia, nevertheless, the evidence is that the trust of newspaper readers here too is eroding.

It's not much of a shift is it.