Monday, 18 July 2011

The role of the print news media

is under scrutiny at present, indeed the role of the media is under scrutiny. There have been some high profile casualities and there may well be more yet. Most of the problems have so far been in the United Kingdom where "The News of the World" is no more and Murdoch is endeavouring to save the rest of his media empire. There may yet be more problems for him in North America.
So far Australia has seen little of this. The leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, has called for an inquiry into the media here. It would suit the Greens. They sometimes (but by no means always) get a little rough press. On the whole however they have been well served by the media. Brown is the leader of a minority party but he and his team get plenty of media coverage while getting little media scrutiny. Most Australians see the Greens as "harmless" and out there to "save the environment". The Greens actually have a range of policies that would not bear close scrutiny. As they now hold the balance of power in the Senate they will be anxious to deflect scrutiny in any way they can. They may well succeed.
Australian politics is not, on the whole, well served by the media. The Press Gallery in Canberra has long been left-leaning. Labor governments, while not immune from criticism, tend to fare better than Coalition governments. A very senior member of the Press Gallery once explained all this to me very carefully. He explained how any neutral or right leaning journalist was liable to be frozen out of the information flow which is the life-blood of all journalists. He seemed to believe that this was generally a good thing because the role of the journalist was "not to report the news but to interpret it". I had the idea it was the other way around but he advised me that I was wrong. "The media's role is to inform the public but that has to be done in certain ways."
Certainly our Australian Broadcasting Company, which is government funded, makes no secret of a leftist agenda. The former presenter of "The 7:30 Report" Kerry O'Brien got away with it for years and little has changed since.
Recently there was a brief report on one television news service of a new study into the role of forests as carbon dioxide sinks. It is obviously a very important study conducted in North America and Australia. The findings (by the CSIRO), that approximately 25% of CO2 emissions are soaked up by our remaining forests, surely have to be of some importance. Despite that I have not seen the report mentioned anywhere in the print media. It has not been debated anywhere. There have been no calls to increase the rate of afforestation. Indeed there are suggestions that afforestation is not the answer - because that would call into question the entire climate debate - and the issue must therefore be ignored.
In a country which also requires compulsory attendance at the ballot box the influence of the media on public opinion is something which really does need to come under scrutiny. We are not being informed.


Anonymous said...

Brown is not Green!

JO said...

All of which shows how important the BBC is in the UK. They don't always get it right - nobody does - but they ethic of fair play underpins everything - and there are complaints procedures for anyone feeling they have not presented an argument fairly.

Can you get BBC World on your TV? (I can't remember if I even tried to find it when I was in Oz). Or the BBC World Service on the radio? It feels criminal that there are thoughts of cutting these services when no few countries have any media that even pretend to be impartial.

catdownunder said...

Nothing on the free to air channels as far as I know although the ABC and SBS use some of their material occasionally. We do still get some of the documentaries from the BBC - although not as much as we used to. I do not know what the pay-tv services have to offer. I think the BBC is more balanced than the ABC.