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2010 in the media: leaks, iPads and the NBN

This year was the year of the iPad. It’s hard to believe that Steven Jobs revealed it to the world just 11 months ago and that 7 million have been sold.  There was all the patented hype you’d expect for the launch of the latest Apple product — or the relaunch of the latest version of the same Apple product (iPhone 4).

When it hit Australia there was all the predictable intrigue about which shops would be stocking it and how long the queues would be. The networks raced each other to find the geekiest gadget freak to profile on the day of the release. Then there was the speculation about whether it would replace the laptop and whether it will render newsprint redundant. No one knows, we’re all just guessing. The iPad apps started flowing. Some were just modified from the iPhone. They were the ones that looked grainy on the bigger screen. Wired magazine produced its version quickly, presenting a splendid vision of the future. The Australian trialled its new app to thunderous self acclaim. The public treated it much like the printed version and ignored it.

The year started with a mining media merger when Kerry Stokes swallowed the Seven Network in his mining equipment business, WesTrac. The year has ended with Gina Rinehart, scion of mining magnate Lang Hancock, buying into Fairfax and Ten — and taking a seat on the Ten board, alongside its other new shareholders, James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch.

Rinehart is Australia’s richest woman. She heads Hancock Prospecting and spent much of 2010 agitating against the government’s hapless mining profits tax. Stokes doesn’t appear to be interested in using his media assets to push a pro-mining agenda. The same may not be true for Rinehart.

It’s also been the year of leaks. Laurie Oakes won the gold Walkley for attending the Press Club and reading out a couple of leaks he’d received and making life unpleasant for a new Australian prime minister on the campaign trail. Surely Julian Assange must win next year’s gold Walkley for releasing hundreds of thousands of them and making merry hell for hordes of world leaders. Will he be like Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, denied the chance to collect it from his prison cell, in England or Sweden or the US? This is bad news for Four Corners’ Sarah Ferguson. Her inside story on the independents after the 2010 election was quite simply magnificent. In any other year she’d be the front runner.

Sportspeople and social media were a toxic combination this year. But the media did OK out of it. The tabloids couldn’t lose really. They revelled in all the circulation-boosting scandals (today’s Herald Sun, for example) while filling yet more pages with righteous condemnation about the scandals from which they were benefitting. Brendan Fevola gave us the shower scene with Lara Bingle, Stephanie Rice gave us “faggot-gate”, the NRL’s Joel Monaghan gave us another definition for doggie style, Shane Warne graduated to twitter, while Facebook revealed more of the St Kilda football club than its players would like.

There was the fantastic coverage by ABC TV of the spill that ended Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership. There was also the lousy coverage of the same events by ABC Radio. The ABC’s new 24-hour news channel was launched providing around-the-clock technical stuff-ups and repeats of the other states’ 7.30 Reports, in between some fairly decent coverage of local and world affairs.

The federal election coverage was mostly dire. You could have predicted most of it from the outset.

Guess what? We’ll be having a debate about the debate.”

No really.

There’ll be some ‘gotcha’ moments too, when one candidate or another looks silly because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Get out of here!

And, some of the journalists will be whinging about being managed because they’re on the campaign press bus, forced to report incessantly on the various stunts of the leaders.”

Who’d have thought?

There won’t be much coverage of the policies, issues, local candidates, the senate, the future, the past, the present, the economy or the things that matter.”

I’m shocked …

But there’ll be footage of Tony Abbott pushing kids around in a billycart.”

Phew … will he be wearing budgie smugglers?

The electorate went in to the 2010 election unable to explain in great depth almost any of the major issues, thanks to the paucity of detail about the major parties’ policies, or lack of them.  The media can take a good deal of the blame for that. There were, of course, some notable exceptions.

It was also the year that a piece of media infrastructure won an election. The National Broadband Network was the clincher for Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. But what do we know about this behemoth?  We know from the media it will cost either $42 billion, or $26 billion or $36 billion or $28 billion or perhaps less or perhaps more. According to who’s commenting, it will be nearly as great, or as great, or perhaps even greater, than the Snowy Mountains scheme — which has to be one of the great clichĂ©s of journalism. Windsor and Oakeshott looked like they knew enough about it when they sided with Labor. Thank God for that. I’d hate to think they were grasping on to it just to avoid supporting their avowed enemies in the National Party.

It was also the year when The Australian looked more and more silly. Consider these efforts. First there was the belated, rehashed and just slightly nutty campaign against Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland. No vendetta there. Absolutely not. Then came the outing of a blogger in “Grog Gate”, strictly in the public interest of course. This was followed by the “Twitdef” defamation action against an academic for tweeting the frustrations of an ex-Australian journalist at an academic conference.  The paper marked the arrival of WikiLeaks with an orgy of “we told you all this first” self promotion.  Are they in a bubble in News Limited’s Holt Street headquarters? Don’t they realise people are laughing at them?  The paper did have some success in 2010 by assisting in the noble cause of knifing a certain prime minister. It also paradoxically delivered some fine journalism too.

Packer’s and Murdoch’s moves on Ten looks like an endorsement of free view, the burgeoning network of digital free-to-air channels owned by the existing networks. It is the networks’ answer to pay TV and their way of preparing for the expansion of digital TV. In fact 2010 was the year that analog TV signals started turning off as part of the national rollout of digital TV. Mildura went first in June, followed by locations in South Australia and New South Wales last week. Next year it’s more locations in regional Queensland and Victoria.

The ethical lowlight was the dissembling justifications of Seven reporter Adam Walters after outing NSW minister David Campbell for attending a gay nightclub. It was the year Nine hired and then disowned a new reporter by the name of Mark Latham. It was the year ex-Age and SMH editor Greg Hywood returned to Fairfax as acting-CEO. It was the year a staff-elected director returned, at least theoretically, to the board of the ABC, thanks to legislation that took too long to wend its way through the parliament. It was the year we debated the internet filter some more and decided the best course was to keep debating it next year.

It was the year we discovered the digital drop box and the cloud, we started retweeting in earnest and forgot our passwords too often. It was another year in the media.

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  • 1
    Sausage Maker
    Posted Monday, 3 January 2011 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    Year of the ipad? You mean that pseudo-technological device that IT illiterate people buy because they think Steve Jobs is Santa Claus and Apple a wholesome charity?

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