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

News Ltd: paranoia? « Previous | |Next »
November 13, 2011

I suspect that the recent changes at News Ltd--John Hartigan being replaced by Kim Williams from Foxtel--- has to do Murdoch's need to find ways of monetising the digital platforms. This is the biggest challenge facing the print media in Australia, and elsewhere.

The changes have little to do with News Ltd's softening the hostility of its rolling anti-Labor campaign, or its unease and anxiety about the current Finkelstein media inquiry.


You can see the anxiety surfacing in Nicolas Rothwell's The media inquiry masks government's hidden agenda. Rothwell's language is emotionally charged and extreme, given Margaret Simon's interpretation of the first few days of the media inquiry.

Rothwell's language includes: 'the federal government's "independent" media inquiry; a kangaroo court; pre-ordain the result; state power must, in tactful fashion, conceal its grip; the new mood of moral correctness abroad in our age; an inquisition.' Rothwell says:

For an Australian government to countenance regulation of the media or intervention in its markets is to assault the fabric of the nation: doubly. It is plain that Western secular democracies have developed in tandem with a free press, and the removal of press freedom tends to result in the swift erosion of personal freedoms...Swirling about the margins of the present inquiry one can make out a set of half-veiled reform projects - for subsidising portions of the independent media, for limiting ownership, even for licensing media outlets, and all these schemes are justified on the grounds that they would improve the probity and health of the resultant information flow.

The paranoia about the state trampling all over press freedom obscures the excellent points that Rothwell makes about the transformation of the mediascape, namely that the modern media culture, sceptical, bullying and inquisitorial, is in great part a culture developed in response to the conduct of the state, and intertwined with it.
Much about today's media, especially the political coverage, is the result of a generation-long transformation in the nature of government and its propaganda. Roughly from the time of the Vietnam War and Watergate, all Western governments and their associated bureaucracies have armed themselves with the weapons of advertising and the techniques of persuasion, in a bid to cope with the inquisitorial pressures of the media realm.
This is one of the defining shifts in public life over the past four decades. The media no longer merely reports, and the government no longer informs. The media, rather, probes, and the government quietly throws them off the scent and seeks to entrench its own preferred lines.... For all today's governmental communication is in essence publicly funded propaganda, a panoply of sweetly scented, prepackaged spin, designed to sway the media, and wholly parasitic on the media's existence.

Rothwell says that today it is often hard to make out the policy for the chaff and rhetoric: the prevailing landscape is one of artifice and secrecy. He points every finger at the state for restricting the free flow of official information. The media are merely reacting to the state's communication regime of artifice and secrecy.

Rothwell goes so far as to say that:

At a further remove from governments, but under its influence, and dependent on state largesse, are the think tanks, expert groups and academic departments that generate reports for the bureaucracy, and lend a veneer of independent authority to new policy initiatives. The lines here, between research and advocacy, between public and private, are very hard to draw.

Only the commercial print media stand against resolutely the state's publicly funded propaganda, a panoply of sweetly scented, prepackaged spin.

It's paranoia surfacing here.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:22 PM | | Comments (7)


In her Beware consequences of draconian media regulation in The Age Katherine Murphy criticizes the bad journalism--the pompous blowhards who vilify, declaim and unleash whatever half-baked merry hell they feel like, with no regard to the consequences.

But the press doesn't need to be, and shouldn't regulated.

The bad journalists are a minority--the majority are still motivated to tell the truth, to try to use the privilege of a mass audience and our daily insight into powerful people to shine a light in dark places.

The latter, says Murphy, need protection for free speech and a free press not regulation.

Kathleen Murphy has things a bit mixed up---the bad journalists are a majority, not a minority.

Those who speak truth the power to enable democracy are definitely a minority.

Murphy says that it is poor public policy that has led to excessive concentration of ownership, robbing the readers of diversity.

That's one side. Why the poor public policy? Because the power of the media is used to get what it wants. Murdoch is the classic example, as the hacking scandal in the UK indicate. Murphy forgets to mention this--- we got here, in part, because one media group (News Ltd) became too powerful. Some of its newspapers are out of control.

Murdoch used to portray himself as outsider battling against "the establishment" --especially the UK. Now News Ltd is casting itself as the victim under attack by those with rival commercial agendas and personal scores to settle. It has a victim complex that views the outside world as hostile, even though it acts as the big bully.

Rothwell is a strange creature.
On the one hand he writes marvelous articles on "aboriginal" art.

On the other he is both directly and indirectly an apologist for the the neo-psychotic barbarian world-view that the Oz promotes.

They operate in a world they fondly imagine hasn't "caught on" to what the News of the World scandal implies about the medias own objectivity and sense of self interest.
I don't quite "get" Nan's "no regulation" position.
I disagree with political "censorship", but had adequate "regulation" been kept instead of being watered down, the standard of current media might not have deteriorated as badly as it has since the new regime began with the outrageous "Cash for Comments", and Jones, Laws and Flint.
Btw, Rothwell is quarantined- that's how important they feel it is for the public to read the thing, rofl.

its more than bad journalists--Murdoch's media legacy is a hyper-aggressive tabloid culture, an access to power unchecked by any democratic process and an unbounded hypocrisy.