March 15, 2013
One implication of the Australian media's very hostile reaction to the Gillard Government's mild reform to beef up self-regulation is the notion that democracies must conform to markets.
This market democracy, which is contrasted with political democracy in which the economy is fundamentally subject to democratic authority, has become increasingly ingrained amongst right wing politicians and the media. The further implication is that capitalistic” institutions are the best way not only to respect political and economic liberties, but also to achieve a just society.
Such a conception of market democracy does not recognize the legitimacy of all four common justifications of market regulation: to protect workers from exploitation, to protect consumers, to protect third parties harmed by market transactions (through externalities), and to preserve the stability of the economy or society as a whole (e.g., through regulation of the financial or media sector).
It assumes that free economic activity is a fundamental expression of human freedom and it entails that corporations have a strong right to minimal regulation and that a minimally regulated capitalism leads to indefinite improvement in human well-being.
Media consumers, in being confronted by the deterioration of media services or the performance of media institutions leave or exit leaving because a better good or service is provided by another firm or organization. However they also seek a voice so as to perform the act of complaining, petitioning or protesting, with the intention of achieving a restoration of the quality that has been impaired. Voice and exit thus distinguish the world of politics from the world of the market. The politics of voice is what we call political reform.
The self-regulation by the mainstream press does not provide for a satisfactory process of complaint or protesting because the press corporations control the levers of power to ensure that their interests are protected not the public interest. Hence the need for reform.