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

the media: goodbye self-regulation? « Previous | |Next »
November 16, 2011

In delivering the AN Smith Lecture in Journalism at the University of Melbourne last night Greg Haywood, Fairfax Media's chief executive, said:

The best defence we have to a free and rigorous press is not some government-funded regulatory regime that has the potential to be pushed and prodded and bullied into curtailing what we do … which is asking the questions people in power do not want to be asked. Our best defence is to have our publications edited and led by the sort of people who lead them now - experienced professionals who have spent a lifetime balancing out a cacophony of competing interests and defining a fair-minded news coverage and multifaceted commentary.

This is a similar argument to that in Fairfaqes submission to the Finkelstein Media Inquiry.

Since when have the Fairfax journalists been asking the questions people in power do not want to be asked? What is usually written are recycled press releases, publicity, horse race politics that has zilch to do with public policy, and speculation masquerading as analysis.

Remember all that guff about the ALP guillotining Gillard, Rudd making the big comeback, and it would all happen before Xmas? The media flows were full of it. After the carbon price legislation was passed, little has been said. It was junk journalism Junk, or crap, is what passes for political journalism these days.

It is an example that illustrates the continual spiral of decline, with content becoming less and less valued and less and less demanded. Consumers are being offered a slim-line product written by half trained reporters, and there is little investment in journalists and journalism happening by the corporate owners.

The media seem to think that press freedom is under threat from the Finklestein inquiry, and in expressing their fears (paranoia) about the shift away from self-regulation, they ignore the crisis in confidence in the commercial media. There is a reluctance and refusal to investigate why self-regulation has been such a disaster; why the media needs checking; or even why many citizens feel that the media is out of control.

Reform of the press is expected by the public. The media continue to dismiss the need for press reform, even when they know they regularly produce not just infotainment, but trash, in order to boost sales. They see the whole inquiry as a political stunt, a response to the hacking scandal in the UK.

Any suggestion that the media should be compelled - by law, by sanctions, by institutional pressure - to abide by its own ethical rules would be a gross assault on the freedom of the press. The press should not be held to account for its conduct, no matter how obnoxious, and the media barons, publishers and editors-in-chief are not going to cough up extra money to enable the Press Council to do a better job by having the power to insist on a ruling or a correction appearing on page 1.

A good example of trash with a nasty undertone is this post on Peter Roebuck on Andrew Bolt's blog at the Herald Sun. In it Bolt insinuates that Roebuck was a pedophile (he advances no evidence for the insinuation), and bashes the (lefty) ABC and Fairfax media for covering this up with their silence, and positions himself as speaking truth to power.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:04 AM | | Comments (8)


I might, that's a 'might' only, nothing more than a slight possibility, not even approaching a low probability, buy a newspaper during the footy season.
If I'm stuck somewhere with nothing to do for a few hours, like wait for the car to be fixed after having done the shopping.
It does happen, that I buy a newspaper, I mean.
Maybe once or twice a year.
Never a Murdochian edition. Absolutely never ever.

But ...if the newspapers of Oz became what they claim to be, if Mr. Haywood was actually telling something vaguely approximating truth and reality and not unknowingly provoking mirth and disbelief, then I would buy a newspaper more frequently.
But they don't, so I don't.

I've stopped reading The Australian online now that it has gone behind a paywall; even though there is three months free registration.

I wonder what % of its readership has dropped because of the paywall.

I understand from Alan Kohler that it is around 25%. Kohler says

News is in the process of putting The Australian behind a paywall, and so far the three-month trial has seen its page impressions decline by 25 per cent - far less than might have been expected, actually, and certainly less than its traffic will decline once it starts charging.

Another 25% fall when it starts charging?

Hywood has said that Fairfax might not put up a paywall and you can read Laura Tingle for free now.

Interesting article.

it is just a might not re Fairfax paywall. It is a good move to provide open access to Laura Tingle. She is one of the better political journalists.

That Canberra Observed article--Labor reads a lot into news about News is a good state of play one about media politics.

Fairfax sounds a bit better off since they got rid of the wretched John Fairfax -McCarthy regime there?

The Australian cannot even see the point of a media inquiry. Apparently News Limited papers are not "waging a campaign of bias" against the government and the Australian Press Council is not a toothless tiger. They are puzzled as to why it was called in the first place.They continue to declare that News Ltd is the inquiry's predetermined target--let's get Murdoch's hate media.

However, at the Finkelstein inquiry they (John Hartigan, chief executive and chairman of News Ltd, and Campbell Reid, News Ltd's editorial director) conceded under questioning from Finkelstein that there should be a tougher Press Council, with much better funding, and considerably greater powers.

Steve Coogan in The Guardian highlights the ethos of News International in the UK:

Its behaviour is not unlike a protection racket: be nice to us – that is, let us conduct our business unencumbered by scrutiny or indeed regulation – and we will return the favour by publicly supporting your political campaign. Be nasty to us – ie subject us to too many checks and balances, or curtail our plans to expand our empire – and you will feel our wrath. Of course senior management don't get their hands dirty. No one gets beaten up; they just drag your name through the mud. It's a word in an ear and a life is ruined.

That's the ethos of News Ltd in Australia as well