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.