Big Brother might be dumb – but
Communications Minister Helen Coonan seems even dumber.

Last Sunday she called for charges to laid
over the alleged Big Brother incident. Then she had to admit she
hadn’t seen the tape of the incident.

Coonan used to be a lawyer. How on earth
did she form an opinion that charges should be laid? Surely the most senior
woman in the Cabinet doesn’t indulge in populist stunts?

Last night, Coonan also had to admit that
Ten didn’t breach the broadcast act.

As a certain character you can see on Ten might
say, d’oh! Channel Ten didn’t actually broadcast the incident. It was streamed

Asking for a report on whether they did
breach the code was just another stunt.

This is the perfect illustration of the
bind the Government is in with media regulation – and not just on the question
of what we can see or not.

All local internet content will now come
under Commonwealth supervision, Coonan says. The regulatory powers of the Australian
Communications and Media Authority will be widened to include video streaming
via the net and to hand-held devices.

Yet can governments make laws to deal with
constantly evolving technologies? Are they even desirable? Doesn’t regulation
end up frustrating availability of new mediums and media diversity?

Mark Day looks at the current state of
Coonan’s media ownership package in The Australian today.
He talks about the “hard ask” of seeking “a 2006 answer to a 2012 question”.

“Politically, the Coonan package of reform
proposals is in a state of flux,” Day says. That’s because the technology that
drives media is in a constant state of flux. What’s that old saying about
trying to catch mercury?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey