I suppose I’ll have to say something about Stephen Conroy’s proposed media legislation (and I apologise in advance, though the media does play a role the quality or otherwise of economic management). The regulation itself looks remarkably simple. Media standards governed by a media Tsar who also wields the power to prevent mergers that do not pass a public interest test.
Generally speaking I’m obviously not in favour of media regulation. I would rather the media operate as a highly competitive soup of frenzied investigation, analysis and truth-seeking that won over readers based upon some explicit measure of the successful provision of accountability. That is. after all, the product that media is supposed to sell.
But, if you can find any resemblance to today’s media in that description then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
The fact is our media is hopeless. Criminally useless might be a better phrase. I’ve worked around enough of the big firms to know that the cultures that drive them are utterly hostile to intellect, horribly addicted to partisan political support or the suasion of interests, strangled by a battler versus bludger point of view, insouciant about investigation, incapable of advancing talent owing to the bloated egos of senior writers, hyper-sensitive to criticism as well as prone to paralysing levels of group think, and driven by a level of self-importance that makes reflection upon any of the above completely impossible.
In short, the Australian media is chock-o-block with human and market failure. I suggest you take the outrage at the proposed legislation very much bearing this in mind. Most of it is completely phony.
I could pick on anyone but Alan Kohler did probably the best job of capturing the arguments against Conroy, such as they are:
1. That regulating for diversity now is pointless because there is already so much diversity;
2. That the proposed reform clearly represents an increase in regulation and therefore some kind of limitation on freedom of speech;
3. That the media’s biggest challenge is improving trust (from readers) and that handling complaints properly is an important part of doing that. Given its current difficulties, the media should be so good at dealing with complaints in order to regain that trust that anything required by the new legislation was also pointless and unnecessary. But as things stand that’s not the case.
On point 1, no, uniformly corrupt garbage does not represent diversity, even if it encapsulates opposing views.
On point 2, if increased regulation prevents media monopoly then it is clearly expanding freedom of speech.
On point 3, if it isn’t happening then why not make it?
And that’s the rub isn’t it? The police don’t want to be policed is what this brouhaha boils down to, in neither a commercial nor editorial sense do they want their sullied interests compromised.
Therefore, I have no issue with the creation of some agency of that holds up media standards. In fact, were it a fair dinkum effort, it would quickly become as large as the media itself, buried under the avalanche of thundering violations from our daily miracles.
Should it be beholden to government? Absolutely not. And if it is then it must be stopped. But do we need it? Oh yeh.