Crikey



Consumers and shareholders come last in media ownership reform

Beware of communications ministers prognosticating about the media. Here’s Malcolm Turnbull yesterday:

Why in an age when the internet has become the super platform …to which everyone has access … why do we need to have platform specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers and radio and television? One of the big differences between my approach to this and Stephen Conroy’s is that Conroy and the Labor Party saw the arrival of the internet as an opportunity for more regulation and less freedom in the media. My view is the arrival of the internet, and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.”

Turnbull’s remarks were nearly exactly 14 years since his predecessor as Coalition communications minister, Richard Alston, also declared the internet was a good reason to dump media ownership laws. Alston had a couple of goes at trying to remove media ownership laws. In 2002 he argued:

It is this new media reality that drove the recent AOL/Time Warner merger and is resulting in companies such as Bell Canada and CanWest expanding across traditional media markets. It is the primary rationale behind the proposed Foxtel/Optus pay TV arrangement, with the participants recognising the importance of offering consumers a wider array of content choices across various platforms. It has also led the ABC to pursue its One ABC strategy, which seeks to adapt and exploit content across mediums, including through the provision of digital multichannels on pay TV.”

History, alas, has not been kind to Alston’s arguments. AOL/Time Warner is now taught in economics and business administration classes as one of the worst mergers ever. CanWest, which used to own a controlling stake in Ten despite the old prohibition on foreign ownership, went bankrupt in 2009, not long after it flogged its shares. The Foxtel-Optus merger delivered a monopoly in metropolitan markets and paved the way for the Foxtel pay TV monopoly we now have. And the ABC wasn’t “led” to its One ABC strategy by any “new media reality” it came about in response to Alston and John Howard cutting its budget by 10%. By the time Alston was writing those words, then-ABC boss Jonathan Shier had already dumped much of the One ABC structure and moved on.

Turnbull’s remarks about welcoming the internet with less regulation and more freedom are just as silly. Let’s nail those for the garbage they are right now. At the moment, in Turnbull’s very portfolio, his parliamentary secretary, Paul Fletcher, is working to establish an internet censorship scheme that has infuriated large social media companies (smaller, more recent arrivals that middle-aged bureaucrats and politicians aren’t aware of, like Snapchat, aren’t included). And Attorney-General George Brandis has announced he is considering implementing the copyright cartel’s plan for three-strikes legislation or some other mechanism to force internet service providers to spy on and block users file sharing.

Moreover, the Coalition has form in internet regulation; it was the Howard government that banned online gambling, an absurd and meaningless effort at prohibition that even Turnbull’s department wants to dump, and it was the Howard government that banned online discussion of euthanasia. And if you think that’s a dead letter, ask Dr Philip Nitschke who was harassed and had information stolen by Customs while leaving the country in January.

So while Turnbull points to the internet and declares “let freedom reign”, he is part of a co-ordinated effort to impose more regulation on the internet, partly designed to stop consumers using it to thwart the will of the biggest old media companies, some of which are controlled by a certain “demented plutocrat”.

But for governments, consumers are just eyeballs to be shunted around between old media companies without any reference to what consumers might want. On the hierarchy of political interests, the benefits to consumers of, for example, additional competition has always come a distant — very distant — second to the interests of media proprietors.

The most likely outcome of a new round of mergers will be deals that pay much money for weak assets …”

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Companies, Federal, Markets, MEDIA

12 Responses

Comments page: 1 |
  1. Charlie’s brother? Murdoch’s got his very own “Malcolm McCarthy dummy”?

    by klewso on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm

  2. Since , if Turnbull has his way, we probably won’t have an effective internet I find it hard to take his ruminations seriously

    by The Pav on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

  3. LOL
    Turnbull’s certainly tying himself in knots.
    Between no NBN and “the Internet is the super platform”, he should probably arrange another appearance on qanda to explain himself.

    by paddy on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm

  4. Paddy; When he was cornered about local content disappearing in an interview this morning the minister for misinformation and disconnection nearly told the truth, caught himself, and bullshat and moved on.
    Destroy the NBN`s effective selling point, (sped), then sell the NBN as a vehicle for change. Its the magic pudding NBN now.
    He then spent more time explaining that Murdoch wasn’t the demented plutocrat that he described last week, He was actually talking about ANOTHER demented plutocrat. The smell emanating from the radio car was of the large bovine type and there was plenty of it.

    by drmick on Mar 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm

  5. Part of the IPA and Murdoch agenda for this government?
    Makes no sense but neither does most of the rest of their thought bubbles or decisions. Just gravy for mates.

    by Daly on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm

  6. Reading through the Coalition’s endless piles of bullsh*t is starting to leave a very bad taste in my mouth.

    by Jimmyhaz on Mar 10, 2014 at 2:40 pm

  7. That’s rich, Malcolm Turnbull spouting off about the internet ‘super platform’
    considering he’s determined to reduce the NBN to the speed of a startled slug (it being, currently, merely that of a slug).

    Nor do I buy Turnbull’s explanation of demented plutocrats who run papers at a loss. He actually meant Hearst? Hearst ran newspapers at a profit after initially buying flagging titles cheaply & then boosting circulation. Sure, it was his hobby & not the principal source of his wealth, but his papers still made money. Unlike ‘The Australian’.

    by zut alors on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  8. It makes complete sense:- knowledge is power.
    Control intelligence, manage information, edit it to the message you’re selling (which party is “most fit to govern”) and you can manage enough (“5(?)”% - the majority of the swinging vote) of the electorate’s perception to deliver government that suits you and your interests.
    It doesn’t always work, but how many Labor governments have we had in the last twenty one years? Two and a half (even Murdoch couldn’t help Hewson, try as he did)?

    Little Joey Goebbels did it.
    Pravda did it.
    Kim Jong might be ill, but do it.
    Let’s do it,
    Let’s fall in line.

    by klewso on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm

  9. Bullturd has clearly had a bollocking from the boss about describing him so accurately. How many elections has Hearst stolen in the last 20 years?
    It was truly hilarious listening to him with Fran this morning - one could “see” the smiles of both their faces as he went traipsing through the daisies, or perhaps asphodel?

    by AR on Mar 10, 2014 at 5:21 pm

  10. Interviewing this scum must be horrific for honest journalists. They both know someone stinks like they have stacked their daks; they both know who it is; but no one confesses and no one owns up; and we are expected to swallow it. We keep looking for information with the least amount of ka ka to swallow and the nicest smell.

    by drmick on Mar 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

  11. The Libs know how important the media is. They have been provided with a highly funded, very powerful and influential propaganda machine here in Australia. The media cartel practically ran their election campaign and with this information filtering tool now use it for the misinformation or non-information schedule they are now implementing to the public.

    And the only pinnacle of hope - the ABC has now been successfully stamped as non-Australian and bias toward anything other than the coalition protocol.

    To quote an old comedy title - “Australia, you are standing in it”

    by Observation on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm

  12. I’m visiting Tassie at present and I had a look at the TV schedule
    For WIN ( effectively Ch9) their schedule for the night is
    1900 ACA ( Current affairs only if diet cures are your bag)
    1930 The Block ( wow that’s a cultural highlight)
    2040 Big Bang (Probably a repeat)
    2110 Ditto
    2140 2 Broke Girls Repeat?
    2210 Ditto
    23120 2 & 1/2 men Repeat

    Of course if you don’t like this you can go to their other channels and watch repeats of Friends or a couple of shopping channels.

    The other channels are just as bad and its the same on the mainland.

    Quite frankly the commercial channels DO NOT DESERVE THE RIGHT OF BEING ABLE TO BROADCAST AND THE MINISTER SHOULD MAKE IT SO

    They are wasting a public assett. There is no diversity and no social value in 99% of the rubbish they telecast. A competent minister would challenge them. Why did the networks get the digital channels..just for home shopping? They should taken away and anybody who will telecast some reasonable content can have the frequency. Put some true competition into the system

    by The Pav on Mar 11, 2014 at 3:24 pm

« | »