When I am in doubt over how to express my growing frustration and anger over what's happening with the media in Australia, I turn to the ever insightful Barista. Unable to formulate any clearer beyond 'Aaaargghhh!' my concerns about how the Howard government's newly passed media ownership laws will affect the media landscape, I've turned to Barista again. He has a great post disecting the latest moves by PBL, the media empire built by Kerry Packer and now run by his heir James. Barista notes:
Various pundits have been saying for months that James, being a bear with a limited range of interests, can’t keep media and gambling in his noggin at the same time, and will give up Nine, Foxtel and ACP. At the moment, the opposite is going on, and PBL is loose in the media supermarket created by Howard. As Stephen Mayne pointed out today in Crikey, PBL has been a loyal supporter of the Libs since 1995, when Kerry did what he could to put Johnny into government.To make matters worse – or murkier – Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd has also launched what has been described as a take-over bid for Fairfax.
PBL’s obvious target is Fairfax…
Poor Fairfax – for so long now seen as the obvious target for take-over and more in the wake of Howard's media shake-up. Fairfax owns The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the Australian Financial Review – it bugs me that my favourite weekend papers – The Age and Sunday Age – in fact the only ones I'll read, are in the firing line of a bunch of faceless grey suits who wish to make more money and settle old scores with various identities at Fairfax…
No matter what shape the final shenanigans of financial manouvering, shell companies, sell-offs, acquisitions, mergers and take-overs leaves our media in Australia, I'm sure of one thing – Howard's media laws will narrow the diversity of opinion in this country, and I do believe that threatens our capacity for a full and lively democracry.
Just recently, there was the story that an internal inquiry into the New South Wales police operational response to the Cronulla riots found – amongst concerns that police were inadequately prepared – that the riots were fueled by the media. According to the ABC:
The report also found the media played a significant role in fuelling the violence. The internal police review says much of the media reporting of the events leading up to last December's riots was inaccurate and a distortion of the facts. It says comments aired in the media, especially on talk-back radio, were at times racist, exaggerated and advocated vigilante behaviour.This is not new. The Monthly's Issue 12 had a lengthy essay by David Salter disecting Alan Jones as a media player, which looked at his role in fanning the Cronulla riots through his radio broadcasts and talk-back last summer. What is new this time is the report is by a former NSW police commissioner, and I feel this aspect of its findings has been burried in the news. What is also significant is that so far I've only noticed the ABC carrying this aspect of the story. (Don't get me started the threat to public broadcasting and on the new 'anti-bias' regulations for ABC content! I'll come back to that another day, though Barista also has an excellent piece on that.)
What is clear is that the mainstream media is loathe to cover stories that criticise other key players in the media or their owners – unless they're opposition. The problem is exacerbated when we have fewer media outlets controlled by fewer owners. This story does illustrate the problems with the narrowness of Australia's media currently, and fuels the argument that the new media laws threaten diversity of opinion. This leaves us the poorer for it, and the media moghuls billionaires – again.
[Image by Ben McLeod]