In another comment on the federal government’s proposed changes to media law, David Lovejoy, editor of the Byron Shire Echo,
I run the Byron Shire Echo, a small,
independent weekly on the far north coast of NSW. This is a long
physical and conceptual distance from Sydney and Melbourne, but even
from here abandoning cross-media ownership restrictions looks like an
unnecessary concession to a couple of unpleasant dynasties.
If we want to see what will happen when
media power is even more concentrated, we only have to look at how it
operates now and extrapolate a little.
Under the current, very largely duopolistic
system, the issues we have been debating in the national media are the
sale of Telstra, the publication of a politician’s diaries and changes
to the method of voting. Now, I think the sale of Telstra is a rort for
the rich, that Latham needs both TLC and LSD, and non-compulsory voting
is a Liberal wet dream – but none of these things affects the ordinary
Australian very deeply.
On the other hand, there are issues
receiving much less attention which will cause long-term and
fundamental changes to our society: the government’s industrial
relations laws, the wholesale abandonment of civil rights in the
pursuit of terrorists and this very question of media ownership and
diversity of opinion. Even more fundamental questions like global
warming will be ignored or distorted if Murdoch acquires more media
power to push his support of the Texan oil plutocracy.
I hate sounding so cynical but there are
only three people in Australia interested in changing the cross-media
laws. These people are Packer, Murdoch and Howard, and their motives
are, respectively, money, power and the protection of power.
All three can mobilise numerous troops in
the media and parliament to support their position, but giving more
wealth and power to already wealthy and powerful people doesn’t really
resonate with the rest of us.
Incidentally, it appears the commercial
management of Fairfax is going along with the proposed changes, as
deluded in this as in the rest of their Neronically fiddling
activities. At least the Fairfax journalists are not. We readers should
enjoy a limited range of critical opinion while we can. We may soon be
down to Crikey and The Echo.
Disclosure: Crikey’s owners have a small interest in the Byron Shire Echo.