I got quite excited yesterday when I read these words in a Sunday Age article about how Kim Beazley thinks he will win government:
Mr Beazley has also flagged legislating for a fourth commercial television licence to increase media diversity and vowed to make the ABC completely independent of government.
What! A courageous media policy at last, I thought. But the excitement ebbed away as I read further, and it became clear that Beazley was merely responding, in the vaguest of terms, to a question put by the reporter.
Asked if he would allow a fourth commercial television licence, Mr Beazley said: “Well, that’s always on the agenda, it’s always on the agenda. But we’re not going to do it piecemeal. We’re going to look at the diversity issue, put all those issues into the pot, look at how all this operates … and then arrive at a conclusion.”
In other words, he’ll think about it. There is nothing in the article to indicate anything other than that Labor plans to have a “diversity position”, whatever that means.
We have a saying in my household. It’s called “doing a Beazley”. It means that we haven’t yet decided what we are going to do, but we plan to have a good sit down and think about it.
If Beazley did announce that Labor would allow a fourth – or more – television network, it would alter the outcomes of the present government’s legislation substantially, not least because it would cut the value of the existing networks. Allowing multichannelling straight away would be even better.
A fourth television licence was one of Latham’s policies in 2004, but it was hardly radical. The Productivity Commission recommended it six years ago, and so has almost every other independent inquiry on the issue.
Beazley was a bit stronger on the ABC, promising to make it truly independent of government, which I assume means taking the common sense course of coming up with an arm’s length process for appointing board members. Though he doesn’t quite say that.
So come on Kim. But some meat on the bones, or rather some bones in the flesh. Bring on the “diversity position”.