Commercial grab of media assets begins

By Barry Tucker                  8 November, 2014

We have what seems to be the opening shot in the commercial news and entertainment media’s campaign for consolidation of outlets.

It came in a statement to the annual general meeting by Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett on Thursday, 6 November, 2014.

The Right wing “think tank” Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), in reality the policy-forming arm of the Liberal party, supports the move. See M Media, item 27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

Further media consolidation (buying up, merging, selling off excess assets, increasing market share, eliminating costs, competition and diversity) is the newspaper industry’s solution to a failing business model.

It has been failing mainly because advertising has moved from newspapers to the interwebs, to manufacturer’s and retailer’s websites and other forms of web advertising. Newspapers were too slow to follow the shift, although some set up sectional advertising (like job vacancies, used cars or real estate), with mixed success. Online versions of newspapers still struggle to get readers to buy subscriptions or pay to read.

The answer is to get the law changed so they can buy up what they can and flog the bits they don’t want. Existing laws prevent a newspaper having more than 75 percent of readers, or any company having a newspaper, TV and radio outlet in the same city.

If they get their way (and under the present regime and “opposition” in Canberra they will) the loss will be to jobs, variety and diversity.

Federal “Liberal” government ministers (Attorney-General George Brandis and communication minister Malcolm Turnbull) say further consolidation is justified because the interwebs have provided greater diversity.

This is a shallow lie because an internet edition of a newspaper is not more diverse than its parent and it is not a second newspaper. While potentially it may be available to millions around the world, its circulation is limited to those who use the interwebs to read their daily paper.

Radio and TV stations are also on the interwebs, and the same principles apply.

Where the internet has made things more diverse is in a product like Youtube (which did not exist before and has no commercial equivalent anywhere else) and the usually privately-owned, not very profitable and limited readership newspaper magazines and blogs of the Fifth Estate.

It’s ironic then (or perhaps it is just another lie) that News Corp joint chairman Rupert Murdoch’s main argument for more consolidation is that it will allow companies to be more diversified — to the public’s benefit.

At the same time he argues that the BBC in the UK and the ABC/SBS complex in Australia should be privatised because the taxpayer should not be supporting media and entertainment outlets. The reality is they compete with his business and you don’t have to be too bright to figure that out.

It will be a tragedy if the ABC/SBS complex is ever privatised because the commercial operators would not bother to provide the type and variety of program that these outlets provide. They also provide the main alternative point of view to the very obvious, biased, materialistic and opinion-forming and moulding of private enterprise. Honesty, I would go mad if I had to watch commercial TV and listen to rowdy commercial radio day and night. They might be to blame for the madness that seems to surround us today.

Those who think you are easily fooled continue to claim that the ABC, in particular, is a rat’s nest of Left wing loonies but — in a spectacular fail — they struggle to name one or two. They just go on repeating the lie in the hope that eventually it will be accepted as the truth. Honesty, if you had a stick you could wear yourself out poking it at all the Right wingers who infest ABC radio interview and talk shows, news presenters and interviewers and panel show hosts and their guests.

I could name a bunch of apparent Right-leaning ABC radio and TV journos and presenters but — frankly — they can surprise you at times. I’ll name one: the boss Mark Scott — a died in the wool, true blue Liberal — and, frankly, he sometimes surprises me too. See: Dangers for public debate in media war — Mark Scott.

The ABC producers are a more obscure bunch and their opinions and attitudes are not so easy to determine.

The new federal “Liberal” government has lost no time implementing its traditional fear, law and order, public control program — even finding itself a real shooting war to get involved in.

Rupert Murdoch’s co-chairman and son Lachlan has spoken out against the government’s new security legislation, which raises the possibility that whistleblowers and journalists could be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing details of “special security operations”. Attorney-General Brandis says it is not likely to happen and he would have to authorise it in any case (I am not reassured because Brandis is a dissembler in the Liberal mould).

It seems odd to me that Lachlan has criticised a program of the government that his father had a big hand in installing. Anyway, Lachlan has done a better job than any media outlet or even the Labor opposition, which merely waved the legislation through, followed by a belated “Hey, hang on a bit”.

Some may remember the howls of protest that greeted the former Labor government’s clumsy bid to change some aspects of news media regulation early in 2013. The government wanted to introduce a Public Interest Media Advocate (PIMA). This person (independent of government) would oversee the codes of conduct the newspapers had already agree to. The PIMA would also rule on the advisability of further media consolidation.

I was fascinated, but not fooled, by the newspaper barons’ screams of Freedom of the Press [barons]. “Censorship!” Accompanied by Photoshopped pictures of Labor government ministers as dictators or Nazis. There was no censorship or further control, in effect, than already existed.

There’s plenty more in this blog under Newspapers and Inside Journalism. See: Labor too gutless to fight media laws.

The real fear, which the newspaper proprietors and their cowering journalists failed to mention, was the PIMA’s oversight and ruling on media consolidation.

Now that those same newspaper proprietors have got the proposed legislation squashed and the Labor government defeated (who are the censors, who are the Nazis?) the consolidation can begin.

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