Former ABA head Professor David Flint writes:
The Morgan Poll of journalists’ views of cross-media laws is useful but hardly newsworthy – those
surveyed have reacted just like anyone else confronted with those winds of creative
destruction that can follow the freeing up of any industry to market forces.
What is the justification for treating the media differently? It is not as if entry to the media is closed
– except of course FTA TV. On that, Rupert Murdoch makes a good point. But politics
is the art of the possible.
The proprietors – those who are left – are near impotent as to
the detail of editorial content. Even if they acted together, they have lost whatever
ability they had to quarantine the nation from news in other countries, or from
sources other than the ones they control. Technology and new work practices have
released journalists from anonymity, and devolved down to them, especially
those on TV or radio, much of the control over content. As Lord Hutton found when he looked at the
BBC, self editing has probably gone too far.
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The poll itself is restricted to those who could reasonably
be expected to be most opposed to change, that is those who are unionised, which is but
one section of the nation’s working journalists. And even in the question on political control, 71% say they have NEVER
been instructed to comply with the proprietors’ politics, and 12% are not sure.
As to the claims of those who say they were so directed, remember they haven’t
And anyway, the proposed changes are hardly an open slather.
They could never be that – as with every other industry the competition laws
apply. Those about mergers were tightened after the cross media laws were
introduced. And even then, the proposals are a halfway house, mitigated by the
voices test and the quarantining of FTA TV.
The media industry generally expects the farmers and car workers to
expose themselves to the forces of globalisation – why should those who work in journalism be treated differently?