At present, under section 60 of Australian Commonwealth legislation, a person must not control:
*a commercial television broadcasting licence and a commercial radio broadcasting licence having the same licence area;
*a commercial television broadcasting licence and a newspaper associated with that licence area;
* or a commercial radio broadcasting licence and newspaper associated with that licence area.
There’s a good reason for these restrictions. While Australia is regarded as having a free press, it has long been recognised that the owner of a broadcasting or publishing facility has final control over what materials are carried to the public. Public perception of what is news at any moment is strongly influenced by the preponderance of what issues are covered in one’s local news media.
If Kerdoch doesn’t think genocide in Darfur is newsworthy, the public will get very little information about Darfur. If John HoWARd is good mates with Kerdoch, HoWARd’s views will get emphasis on Kerdoch media. If the only news you have is Kerdoch’s, there’s a very high likelihood that you will have Kerdoch opinions. You really don’t know what you’re missing.
With media cross-ownership laws long ago decimated in the US and set for a similar fate here in Australia, about ten incredibly wealthy people will effectively have final editorial control in mainstream news media between both countries. If you politically agree with those ten rich people, I suppose it’s all well and good, but there’s no way that ten media moguls’ breadth of opinion could encompass the views of the roughly 300 million people who live in the service areas of these moguls’ facilities.
Blogging, or ‘citizen journalism,’ with no editorial contraints, is indeed the last truly free press. The magic is in the distribution system. Any blogger has as big a signal as Kerdoch. No need for a 1000 foot tower in the backyard to be heard just as well. There is no final editorial control on what a blogger may publish- and that is of paramount importance in a time when conservative governments collude with the super-rich to mould public opinion in the manner that they all see fit.
With the ability to communicate clearly and directly, between suburbs or between continents with equal speed and clarity comes particular rights and responsibilities that were previously only ascribed to journalists working in mainstream media. The US based Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) has a very useful handbook for bloggers to introduce them to being journalists. EFF’s cousin, Electronic Frontiers Australia, is working to protect the rights of bloggers and help craft sensible telecommunications legislation.
"Blogging is the future" has been said many, many times in the last several years. That future will be only what we make of it.
Bloggers are journalists… and it’s time we raised the bar and started acting like them.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment
Leave a comment