The management of media management might be a bit of a more difficult task than the Rudd Government first thought.

As the new administration attempts to sort out just who can sort of what, ministerial staff are telling departmental media sections that any comment on any matter of potential controversy must come from the ministerial media advisers.

This could prove to be a little awkward. Most of the new pressies are inexperienced. The massive flow of people from the gallery to ministerial offices that accompanied the coming of the Hawke government has not occurred this time round. Indeed, there are dark mutterings that the Rudd Government prefers the apparatchik to the media professional.

This should come as no surprise. We saw the discipline Rudd exercised in opposition. That becomes an iron grip in power.

The Rudd Government is shaping up to be the ultimate controlling government – and that control will be exercised by the Prime Minister himself.

Crikey understands that the Prime Minister’s Office – through the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet – has asked every federal government department and major agency for a “hot list” every fortnight containing warnings about anything that could potentially become a controversial media issue.

Past governments have tried to exercise control of media issues early in their terms, but this is extreme. It is already attracting considerable comment in the bureaucracy.

The policy may well become more relaxed as ministers and their advisors gain greater fluency in their portfolios and grow in confidence.

Before that happens, though, there could well be some spectacular stumbles.

Rudd has set himself a heavy workload as PM. His media management policy gives government media minders an even more complex, demanding and time consuming task as well.

The jugglers may simply be unable to keep all the balls in the air.

Peter Fray

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