Tuesday, 19 March 2013

There was a fiery exchange

between Senator Doug Cameron and several media moguls yesterday. The media moguls had arrived in Canberra to front up to the Senate committee looking at the media legislation.
Let it be said here that I like Senator Cameron's accent but I do not think I would like the man if I met him. He's a powerful man. He was a union man - and still is at heart. His sympathies lie with the union movement rather than the rest of the population. He is not one to see the wider picture if he can get away with supporting old mates.
I have not had dealings with Senator Cameron but I have had dealings with other Senators - of all shades from all sides of politics. I have some idea of how they work. I know something of the constraints they work under and I can sympathise - sometimes.
I also have my doubts about the media moguls. They are also powerful people. They no doubt make good friends and powerful enemies. I have never had dealings with them although I have had frequent dealings with their underlings - the journalists who supply news for public consumption.
Please note I said "news for public consumption". There is sometimes a vast difference between what is going on and what journalists are able to tell the public - or wish them to know. Journalists do work under constraints. It may not seem like that but they do.
The behaviour of the phone hacking journalists is not something I will ever be able to condone. I cannot condone their invasion of privacy into the lives of ordinary people - or the rich and famous. I am simply not interested in stories about drug taking, wild partying, the son of the MP for Wherever getting a speeding fine or the fact that the partner of the MP for Whatever runs a business from home. None of that is my business. If the law is being broken that is the business of the law. It is not my affair. Kidnapping, rape and murder become my business only if the police believe they need public assistance.
What the government does however is my business. I have a vote. I use it. My attendance at the ballot box is required by law. Once I am there I choose to use my vote. I want to know what politicians are doing. I want to know where taxpayer dollars are going. I want to know why they are doing what they are doing.
I am not, like some people, a political junkie but I do try to take an intelligent interest.
That is where the problem with the government's proposed "Public Interest Media Advocate" lies. It is an attempt to curb still further the flow of information to journalists. It is an attempt to prevent them from doing their job and reporting on the news as they see it.
Yes, there is bias in the media. It is denied but it is plainly there. Our Australian Broadcasting Commission is accused of being "left". So is our Special Broadcasting Service. The Murdoch group is accused of being "right" and the Fairfax group "left". The reality is much more complex of course. There are journalists with left and right sympathies in all. There is editorial policy that dictates a certain line will be taken.
Despite all the claims however there is a very diverse range of views and opinions to be found in the media - and that diversity is increasing all the time. If you want to go news hunting, want the other side of the story then you can go looking for it - and sometimes it will be there staring you in the face like yesterday's fiery exchange.
We are in danger of losing that sort of thing. Journalists would simply be constrained. The news would be there but it would be bland. There would be no probing. Those in positions of power would not be held to account. Sites where people can express their opinions would be reduced to pale ghosts of their former selves and the Letters to the Editor pages would be reduced to comments about the first cuckoo.
I don't think the legislation will pass. It may not even be put before the House now. We all need to know though how close we came to losing the right to make ourselves heard.

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