Thursday, November 3, 2011

Certificates, Fines And Pen-Pushers

MELBOURNE’S Occupisants met in the City Square tonight and decided they can best hasten capitalism’s demise by sleeping in the Treasury Gardens. Things in Greece and the attitude of Victoria Police not withstanding, they may be in for a long stay, as an economic system still rich enough to indulge the Brown government’s media inquiry must be reckoned to have quite a bit of mad money yet to be run through.

The submissions are rolling in at a nice crack and can be found here, where fresh ideas for making the press behave itself are added daily. So far, two themes are running strong. The first is that publishers really could use a bit of benign supervision, authority being re-inforced with fines. The second puts the case for directing subsidies to “appropriate” organs. They fit rather nicely together, don’t you think? Behave yourselves – “stick to the narrative” would be more honest but just a tad too blunt – and let’s see what sums and subsidies we can rustle up. For example:
There is a strong case to be made, which this submission seeks to articulate, for both increasing, and extending, the public funding of the print media and for requiring appropriate accountability for the use of public funding
John Corker, a whiz at media law from the UNSW, puts it rather succinctly in the section of his submission dealing with the online extensions of ink-and-paper publications. He thinks they need to be “certified”, and that learned and worthy folk – people very much like himself, no doubt --  should formulate codes and guidelines. If a magazine is published once a week, should its website be obliged to get the stamp of official approval? Corker is inclined to think that frequency warrants supervision, but he is less sure on other matters of classification. “There may be other influential publications for which standards of conduct should apply such as The Monthly,” he writes, demonstrating a gift for understatement.

Not to worry, the committees and working groups to follow the inquiry itself can calibrate at their extended leisure publications’ degrees of importance, as no doubt they will.  Here is the pressing need, as seen from Prof Corker’s ivory tower:
I suggest that consideration be given to developing criteria to identify ‘influential online news and current affairs media outlets’. For these publishers certain standards of conduct should apply as they bear a responsibility to the public as conceded in the APC Statement of Principles. This would include all existing newspapers and magazines perhaps published at least once a week.
That once-a-week thing would get one entirely irresponsible publication off the hook. Australian Amateur Boatbuilder has had barely a story on anything but stitch-and-glue flat-bottom sharpies for the past two years -- clear discrimination against catboat fanciers and pocket-cruiser enthusiasts (see the Kari 3, what a beauty!). Whatever they end up calling the coming media regulator, it will be peppered immediately with so many of the Professor’s complaints that the staff will need to double at the very least. This should please the bureaucrats very much indeed.

While questions are being raised about inquiry co- prober Matthew Ricketson’s fitness to serve, the news on the submission front is not all bad. Douglas Drummond, for example, presents a spirited case for telling would-be regulators to shut up and slink away:
Government has the forum of Parliament and the cloak of absolute privilege to respond to media attacks. In controversial matters, its parliamentary response is assured of public exposure in media outlets, particularly those that are commercial rivals to the attacker.
Since the political advertising case in the High Court, governments can spend practically unlimited amounts of public monies defending their position and attacking opponents by political advertising in the print and electronic media.
Drummond also notes the likely high cost of being dragged before a government truth tribunal and the need for brigades of public servants to push papers and publishers around.

It is a first-rate submission and everyone should read it, but don’t count on it being paid the slightest heed.  


  1. This month's issue of Garden & Gun magazine is very light on the gardens & the guns, very heavy on the trendy foodie stuff. I can't tell you how offended I am. If I were in Australia, I'd demand that the government Do Something™ about this travesty.

    You don't know how lucky you are that your government Cares™ enough about each and every one of its citizens to Do Something™ about the Dishonesty and General Evilness of the Press.

  2. No doubt there'll be some bright spark who will also want to limit free speech on the Internet and will seek in future to track the IP addresses of who writes what on blogs such as this one and who reads them.

  3. "... will seek in future to track the IP addresses of who writes what on blogs such as this one and who reads them."

    Exactly as articulated by julius disneyland just the other day.

    What the hell has happened to this country?

    Oh, that's right - the long march through the institutions...

  4. If each newspaper renamed itself The Daily Miracle or suchlike that would be entirely reasonable.

    Consider what goes into the preparation of a daily newspaper: stories researched and written, photos taken, editorials prepared, letters checked for publication and advertising sorted and slotted. And this happens year in year out!

    Now look at the letters sent out by the Media Inquiry and try estimating how long they took to draft, redraft and get into final form before dispatch. For sure, not less than a week and probably more.

    Nevertheless, the inquisitors and their barrackers are looking at ways to clog up the news reporting process so that the news you get will be so out of date it will be worthless. It will however be "socially responsible" and probably diverse, sensitive, tolerant, offence free and enriching.

    One could be excused for crying.

    Occasionally, and leaving aside deliberate misreporting, errors creep in. Who would be surprised?

  5. You're are so right about the Kari 3. She is the most beautiful small double ender I have ever seen.

  6. Would it be too much to hope that Doug Drummond's submission might get some respect from, and traction with, Finkelstein considering the fact that they shared six years on the Federal Court bench - or am I just a wide-eyed optimist and a relic of a bygone era?

  7. What these ivory tower morons don't appreciate is the laws you put on the tablet can also be used by your opponents when they get their hands on Treasury. And in the dark future by people less friendly to Brown than he could ever dream.

  8. The press back home in communist Czechoslovakia knew how to be socially responsible.

    Disputing political announcements of the daily triumphs, criticizing glorious nation building projects with trivia like waste or lack of need, challenging government figures of ever growing productivity and nation's wealth, questioning of sending money overseas to bail out the USSR, or giving voice to those who were always negative about the government and wreckers of the socialist dream - these were all obviously prohibited for social stability and the good of society.

    Perhaps I can locate some of these guidelines if Labor is interested.

  9. Filthy little fascists. Fuck them and the Panzer tank they rode in on.

    They really do need to spend a year or so being muzzled, just so they understand what it is they're planning to inflict on everyone else. And more to the point, so that everyone else understands what these little brownshirts were planning to inflict on them.

  10. Agreed. The correct response to this dictatorial putsch is an unequivocal 'Fuck off, you jumped-up little pissant!' The days of listening to self-indulgent pricks who rely on a completely misplaced sense of importance should be put long behind us. Just fucking try and stop us.

  11. And today...

    OUTSPOKEN Labor Left senator Doug Cameron says he will attempt to persuade the government to broaden its independent media inquiry to include a ‘’forensic analysis’’ of the Murdoch press.

    Senator Cameron, furious over reports in News Limited tabloids about leadership ructions, declared The Daily Telegraph ‘’reprehensible’’, and the Murdoch media a ‘’threat to democracy’’.

    He said he would raise at the next Labor caucus meeting his desire ‘’that we should widen the inquiry into the press in this country and make sure that we put a forensic analysis on the behaviour of the Murdoch press and the threat to democracy they are’’.

    I'm speechless. (Which is probably just as well...)

  12. i want the good government of this country to investigate teachers.