Lectures from The Australian about bias are like
lessons in airline safety from Osama bin Laden – hypocritical and, as it
happens, counter-productive.

Suicide bombers are the ultimate triumph of
ideological fervour over self-interest. Rather like a newspaper that comes out
in favour of book “burning” and the banning of some voices from the public
domain, as The Australian does in today’s
editorial
.

Free flow of information? Freedom
of speech? The public’s right to know? The Australian supports the ABC board’s
decision to can Jonestown, the Alan Jones biography by Chris Masters, and also
complains that the ABC interviews Helen Caldicott and John Pilger. Who else is
on the paper’s unfit-for-public-consumption blacklist? Readers are entitled to
know.

The editorial misleads when it says Caldicott and Pilger are spoken
to “regularly”, and positively invites the throwing of some stones at
its own glass house.

For example, The Australian gives space on its
opinion page to disgraced neoconservative ideologue Amir Taheri (without
disclosing his politics to readers), hard-line Islamophobe Daniel Pipes and,
until recently, Doug Bandow, formerly of the libertarian Cato
Institute.

Bandow was given the flick from there after it was found that
he “had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for
writing op-ed articles favourable to the positions of some of Abramoff’s
clients”, to quote this
Business Week report
. So, perhaps Doug won’t pop up
again in The Oz for a while.

A public broadcaster charter-bound to serve
all sections of the community should interview Caldicott and Pilger. And Pipes
(as it does), although perhaps someone other than Taheri and Bandow might be
wise.

There has been a lot of this counter-productive media
self-mutilation about – the ABC not publishing books, The Australian endorsing
that, and of course the Nine Network attempting to out journalists’ sources and
stop the publication of a certain affidavit.

Curious. Apart from anything
else, traditional mainstream media outlets have picked a bad time to be trashing
their reputations as fearless and independent sources of information and
defenders of free speech.

Online outlets everywhere are wreaking havoc
with newspaper circulation figures and viewer ratings. They are in a battle for
survival and start with an advantage which they can take online – their brand
names, their reputations.

Which won’t be worth much at this
rate.

Peter Fray

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