Friday, June 22, 2012

Australian media: what a week

This week has been a momentous one in Australian news media. The two largest print media corporations (Murdoch's News Ltd and Fairfax) have both announced major restructuring leading to more than 3,000 job losses. Furthermore, the world's richest woman and Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart has announced her intention to take a controlling share of the beleaguered Fairfax. Rinehart has made it clear that her goal is not profit, nor public service but influence, and she intends to exert editorial control, refusing to sign the Fairfax Media Charter of editorial independence. The implications of these changes are wide ranging and yet the precise shape remains uncertain. Rinehart is a noted climate dissenter and fierce opponent of the government's superprofits mining tax. I am no particular fan of Fairfax media, but am not feeling very confident that it will improve under Rinehart. Indeed, if I look at the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) pieces I've linked to over the last few years, I wonder how many would have made the cut under Rinehart's hand. Perhaps we may have little difficulty anticipating more voices like Andrew Bolt and his serial disinformation. It will be interesting to see whether those like Elizabeth Farrelly or Ross Gittins remain.

The week's events have only made me feel more favourably towards The Conversation (which I introduced back here), a not for profit news media site set up by CSIRO and five universities (with a few other corporate partners) that runs ad-free, is editorially independent and with nearly all contributions by accredited experts in the subject who have to declare all potential conflicts of interest next to their article. And just today I've realised that they also publish all their material under a Creative Commons license, meaning it can be republished for free (under certain very non-onerous conditions).

Here are some perspectives on these developments that appeared this week at The Conversation:

Malcolm Fraser: Does it matter who owns our papers? Yes it does.
Malcolm Fraser was Australian Prime Minister between 1975 and 1983 for the more conservative of Australia's two main parties.

Stephan Lewandowsky: Rinehart’s tilt at power is bad news for public debate.

David McKnight: Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch: a study of power in the media.

Andrew Jaspar: Fairfax or Gina-fax? Let’s have the debate before it’s over and Media earthquake: panic, disinformation, and competing visions at Fairfax and News.
UPDATE: GetUp are running a simple survey on public attitudes towards Fairfax, which will take less than 60 seconds.


byron smith said...

I'm very happy to see more links here to other reporting covering these issues. The only reason all these links are to the Conversation is that I think their coverage has been superior to anything I've seen elsewhere, but I'm sure I've missed a lot.

byron smith said...

Alan Rusbridger (Guardian editor-in-chief): The overwhelming case for media plurality. A UK perspective, but highly relevant in Oz too.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: Effects of falling journalist numbers. Churnalism and the loss of quality.

byron smith said...

Greens introduce bill to ensure a public interest test based on recommendations of the Convergence Review and the ACCC.

byron smith said...

Rinehart on climate change in a recent statement through her company:

''[Ms Rinehart] remains concerned by the lack of understanding in the media on this issue [of climate change] [...] 'To lessen the fear the media have caused over these issues, Mrs Rinehart suggests that the media should also permit to be published that climate change has been occurring naturally since the earth began, not just the views of the climate extremists. It is a fact that there have been ice ages, then periods of global warming to end the ice ages, and these have occurred naturally, including due to the earth's orbit, and not due to mankind at all.' [...] 'Mrs Rinehart admires people like Ian Plimer who have independently chosen on their own accord to stand up against this tidal wave, which has caused fear, and despite substantial attacks by some of the media and extremists.''

byron smith said...

The solution? More money to Auntie. I'd support that, especially if it were focussed on delivering quality journalism. Why should the provision of such a critical public service be dependent upon the whims of the market?

byron smith said...

John Pilger: Australia may be a Murdochracy but Rupert is only part of the problem.