Foxtel’s Corporate Affairs Manager Rebecca Melkman writes: Re. “Why you won’t see Al-Jazeera on Foxtel” (yesterday, item 4). In Marcus Westbury’s story yesterday, Al-Jazeera claims there is no access regime for the third party channels wishing to access pay TV platforms in Australia. The fact is that Foxtel has an open access regime that was accepted by the ACCC. The access regime works well and has resulted in the racing channel TVN successfully operating on the Foxtel platform as an access user. Al-Jazeera can also seek access to the Foxtel platform via this open access regime but it has chosen not to. Westbury then upholds the UK as a haven for more than 120 free to air channels available through BSkyB set top boxes, but he neglects to mention that every one of those channels has agreed to pay BSkyB for access, which is precisely what Al-Jazeera could do in Australia. In the spirit of media diversity Foxtel carries more than 140 channels on its platform, owned by more than 50 different companies. Al-Jazeera can access the Foxtel platform using the open access regime if it chooses.

Michael Keizer writes: Re “Why you won’t see Al-Jazeera on Foxtel “. For those who want to watch Al-Jazeera in the teeth of Foxtel’s boycott: a free (low-quality) feed can be found here (15 minutes at a stretch, low bandwidth). For those with broadband connections and a little money to spend: for US$ 5.95/month (less than AU$ 8/month) you can get a high-quality, unlimited feed here.

Bill Bowen writes: I’ve noticed recently that, almost without exception, the term used by journalists – whether a person is charged or not – that such a person is “innocent until proven guilty”. Even your QC Peter Faris used this term recently (whether this was a “subbing error” or Faris’s error I don’t know although I suspect it would not be a term that an eminent barrister like Peter Faris QC would incorrectly use!) The above term used is patently incorrect; it implies quite clearly that if the accused is pursued long enough a guilty verdict will result – instead of the correct “term” which is “innocent unless proven guilty”, whereby a guilty verdict is only reached based upon the evidence presented in the courts, NOT “if the courts try long enough” it will achieve a guilty verdict, regardless of the evidence.

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DIMA spokesperson Sandi Logan writes: Re: “a swank north shore Sydney restaurant has kitchen staff on 457 visas whose pay rate is $4.00 per hour” (yesterday, item 6). I thank your anonymous contributor for providing Crikey with this piece of information. However, can I ask them to do something more useful and contact the Immigration Dob-in Line on 1800 009 623 and provide the name of the restaurant to our officers so the claim can be tested and the allegation investigated?

Bob Brown’s media adviser, Ebony Bennett, writes: What exactly is odd about the Wilderness Society, an organisation dedicated solely to protecting and restoring the environment, campaigning for people to “vote 1 Environment” with a green background next to a tree? Would you prefer they run a campaign on the government’s economic credentials, Christian? Or is it OK to campaign for the environment as long as the logo and colour-scheme are irrelevant to the message? The Exclusive Brethren, a secretive, fundamentalist Christian sect which forbids its members from voting because it believes government is chosen by God, has also used a green background and trees in brochures, except in their case it was to mislead the electorate about Greens policies. I can’t believe I have to point this out, but… a green colour scheme (including trees) does not necessarily indicate a campaign to get the Greens elected. And as for the three ticks for the Greens policies to protect old-growth forests and water catchments – I can’t see a problem. The Greens clearly have the best policies when it comes to the environment. When Labor, the Liberals and the Nationals have policies to end the logging of old-growth forests and to end logging in water catchment areas – I’m sure the Wilderness Society will give them a big tick too. Let’s compare apples with apples.

Christian Kerr writes: Shock horror. Spin doctor does what they’re paid from public money to do. I’m not seriously supposed to respond, am I?

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “The real threat of the FTA’s anti-circumvention measures” (yesterday, item 14). Brendan Scott raises serious issues we should all be concerned about. Imagine if plumbers worked the way that Microsoft and many other software houses want to work – and in some cases do work. Instead of “pay per view”, it would be “pay per flush”. Your toilet cistern would be linked to your credit card, and every time you pressed the button there would be a small (or large depending on which button you pressed on your dual flush system) deduction from your bank account. Instead of money for jam, it would be money for…

Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager at Melbourne Uni, writes: Re. “Bunfight at black tie dinner over Melbourne-Sydney rivalry” (yesterday, item 3). Crikey’s “carefully selected” quote from University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis in today’s Herald Sun was not related to the award of a US Studies Centre to Sydney, as a scan of the full article would clearly show. The only comment made by the University on the outcome of the selection of a US Studies Centre has been to wish the University of Sydney well in achieving the important aims of this significant national institution. The aim of the article was simply to remind Melburnians of the need to make sure their voices are heard in national debate. The final sentence in the article says it all. “We do not want to talk only with ourselves; a great city of ideas such as Melbourne should be part of a continuous discussion, a lively and informed voice addressing a national audience.”

Tony McAdam, executive director, Australian-American Association of Victoria, writes: I would just like to add a few comments and clarifications regarding Misha Ketchel’s piece titled “Bunfight at black tie dinner over Melbourne-Sydney rivalry”. While I am correctly quoted there are general attributions which I don’t agree with and I would like to clarify the record. I do feel, as do many people in Melbourne who have been involved in the bid for some months, that Melbourne was given short shrift and I was rather dumbfounded when Melbourne hardly rated a mention on the evening in question, especially as it was the only substantial bid other than Sydney’s. That said, I and my organisation feel that it is a great project and the Centre, wherever it is, will be very good for our national appreciation of the United States and its culture. I and my colleagues in Melbourne wish the University of Sydney well and very much hope that it sees the Centre as a national institution and not just a Sydney one.

Tim Ashton writes: Re. David Hicks. Five years of detention and torture without a charge being laid while an American soldier is given eighteen months for murder? Sure, it was only an Iraqi, and he was disabled. So these are the values our government is promoting. Not on my behalf.

Robert Kennedy writes: Re. Joe James’s attack on Guy Rundle “that Catholics suffer from some form of institutionalised misogyny” (yesterday, comments). Hey Joe, how many Catholic priests are female? Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Adam Paull writes: Re. “Execs stunned as CBS dumps Nine after a 40-year marriage” (yesterday, item 18). The Nine Network’s loss of CBS content could actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s no secret that the Australian television industry is facing enormous challenges with growing competition from not just other entertainment formats such as DVD and home cinema, game consoles, iPods, etc, but increasingly from the availability of television content from anywhere in the world via broadband internet. Very soon, all Australian networks will lose access to most of the decent foreign content – dramas, comedies, movies and sport – as content producers sell their wares directly to consumers via an internet connection that plugs straight into tellies in lounge rooms across the globe. Local television networks will have to adapt if they are to stay viable (I suspect at least one won’t) by focusing on the one thing that local audiences still want but foreign producers can’t provide – Australian programs. While it all looks hopeless at first glace, the reality is that it’s a two way street – local networks will be able to provide interesting content to massive foreign audiences who will regard Australian culture, voices and ideas as novel. We’ve successfully exported the best in Australian filmmakers to the world (alas however, not Australian cinema – but that’s another story…) and we will soon have the chance to sell Australian documentaries, dramas, comedy and sport to them easily as well. Budgets will be tight, but hopefully the Nine Network will learn from their mistakes in recent years and realise that throwing money at a dud idea never works and that some creative thinking is needed to fill the gap. Channel Nine discarded their balls at the beginning of the year – they’re going to have to get them back if they still want to be The One in the years to come.

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Peter Fray
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