Indigenous disadvantage:

Jeff Ash writes: I’ve had growing dissatisfaction with the way Chris Graham writes his articles for Crikey re: We jail black men five times more than apartheid South Africa (yesterday, Item 2). No sane person would argue that the statistics are terrible reading. Where are your solutions Chris? What can the average Crikey reader do to change this scenario. Hell — what are you personally doing Chris? I believe so much of the plight of Aboriginal Australia is brought about by inaction. But when those on the frontline have no real idea what to actually do to change anything — how are the rest of us going to help?

Free TV:

Julie Flynn, Chief Executive Officer, Free TV Australia writes: re: Use it or lose it: why is free-to-air TV still hogging sports coverage? (yesterday, Item 9) Bernard Keane appears to have forgotten that the antisiphoning list was legislated by Parliament to ensure that Australian viewers are not forced to pay to watch major sporting events on television. His claim that the list was designed to pander to “a tiny but vociferous minority of television viewers who … are too lazy to get Foxtel” ignores the fact that over 70% of Australian viewers choose not to or cannot afford to get pay TV.

The current AFL contract was a sports rights record payment and the AFL is already talking up the prospects of a substantial increase in the next rights negotiation. The antisiphoning list has ensured that all AFL fans are able to watch the game, not just those who can afford to pay. Nine’s coverage of Wimbledon has been extensive. It has broadcast every day of the tournament.

Seven’s coverage of the Australian Open covers every single day of the tournament starting with the first ball and finishing when the last player leaves the court. Broadcasters would show more of these events, but are prevented by the rule lobbied for by pay TV which prevents free broadcasters from showing listed sports on anything but their main channel. The list is not stopping pay TV from purchasing rights to these events. Every game of the Australian Open is already available to be shown by Fox Sports. Although it has no limitations on the number of channels, Fox Sports coverage of the Australian Open is largely a duplication of the high profile games already shown on Seven.

Fox Sports claims it is interested in bringing more sport to Australians, but its actions show that what it really wants to do is to obtain exclusive rights to the most popular events, and force people to pay to watch the same sport they used to get for free.

The anti-siphoning list was reviewed in 2004 and a small number of events that had not been “consistently shown” were removed. Commercial free to air broadcasters show all the events that they acquire and everything else is available to pay TV. This was confirmed by the broadcasters’ twice yearly reporting to ACMA in recent years on their acquisition and use of rights. The anti-siphoning list is as relevant to viewers in a digital world as it was in the analogue environment. Free TV welcomes the forthcoming review of the list which we hope will continue to protect the rights of all Australians to have access to the important sporting events that are part of our shared experience as a community.

From a refugee from the Keating Government: In have an answer to Bernard Keane’s question “How many people seriously care about Australian golf tournaments unless obese American alcoholics are strangling photographers?” I was a lowly department liaison officer working for the responsible Parliamentary Secretary at the time that the anti syphoning laws were introduced in the mid 1990s. Getting the list for the first time, I innocently asked my boss “Why on earth is golf on there?”. The response: “Because my dad would kill me if it wasn’t.”

Denis Goodwin writes: Bernard Keane (Use it or lose it: why is free-to-air TV still hogging sports coverage? 2/7/09) states that the “vociferous minority of television viewers who’d rather watch sport than a thirty-year old Clint Eastwood movie but are too lazy to get Foxtel”. I wonder if Bernard ever considered that some people simply do not have the money to pay for Foxtel or that some people in units have tremendous difficulty getting Foxtel. The later in my case and many thanks to the owner and staff at The Deck on Dee Why beach for putting on A-League matches, Super 14 and NRL on Monday nights when I beg — okay I do not have to beg when Manly play on Monday nights. Call me a sports fanatic Bernard but not lazy please.

John McCombe writes: I don’t get it. I confess. Why does Crikey hammer away on behalf of pay TV getting even more sports coverage? Bernard Keane is just picking up where your other regulars left off. By all means take broadcast rights off channels that don’t use them (especially Seven when they delay Wallabies test matches by about 5 hours in Victoria), but give them to ABC, or SBS, or another commercial. I subscribed to Foxtel once but found very little from Rupert’s video collection worth watching. And when the customer help-desk turned out to be non-existant I stopped paying. Please don’t force me back. And if corporatised sports get a little less for their ‘media product’, then maybe they can tighten their belts and go back to running sporting competitions for sports fans rather than executive entertainment with salaries to match.

On Unions:

Martin Gordon writes: Reports on the basis of union wages claims have really reinforced how delusional some of the union leadership actually are on wage claims. I had the pleasure of having economist Barry Hughes as a lecturer in the 1980’s when he worked as an adviser for Treasurer Paul Keating. He often referred to the excessive and unsupported wages rises and the devastating impact on employment particularly in manufacturing which wiped out some 300,000 jobs, which added to the global recession and job losses of the time. The logic of the so-called Accord was in part a response. The ACTU’s Sharan Burrow and union claimed demand stimulus from higher wages sounds so, well so, patriotic doesn’t it?

Julius Roe of the AMWU claimed to be interested in jobs and job security as the unions top priorities, then said “we are in an industry where its survival depends on investment, innovation and productivity”, then adding “The issue of maintaining workers real wages in no way impacts on these key fundamentals.” Well that is a surprise! If the ALP has given more power to such economically illiterate people through its workplace relations changes, we are facing a very gloomy period indeed.

Michael Jackson:

Pamela Papadopoulos writes: I wonder when Stephen Fielding will dispute Michael Jackson’s death?

Back pain:

Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, Director, Monash Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Cabrini Hospital; Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University writes: To be fair, Carolyn Breadon (Re your comment yesterday on: When it comes to back pain, the experts are best avoided), Melissa Sweet was accurately reporting the findings of our study that did in fact find that doctors with a self-reported special interest had significantly poorer knowledge about how best to treat acute low back pain compared to doctors without such an interest.

Overall , while the vast majority of doctors do understand that patients do not need to be prescribed complete bed rest or to be off work until the pain has disappeared, a significant number still believe that X-rays of the back are useful. Unfortunately these are the facts and these data are backed up by other studies that have continued to show that low back pain remains one of the commonest reasons for imaging requests in primary care. As a doctor, I find these results very concerning. There are many factors that contribute to this problem and rather than attributing blame, it would be more productive to have all stakeholders onside to address the problem. A coordinated national health policy approach that promotes best evidence-based care for back pain is sorely needed.

Rundle’s Russia:

John Taylor writes: Re: Rundle: News Ltd is the Soviet Union (yesterday Item 3). What’s the story? Guy Rundle, currently Crikey mainstay and the first item we read every night, having a crack at Christian Kerr, the illustrious Hillary Bray of days gone by, who also fell into the first read category. Don’t forget your past, Crikey.


Tom Thomas  writes: How’s this for a joke…except I’m not laughing. I hadn’t received my latest OPTUS bill (mobile and broadband) so rang their ‘help’ number to find out where it was, and to pay it ( it was now overdue). After passing some infuriating tests put to me by their ‘ femme-bot’ I eventually spoke to a human. After a trying time trying to confirm my address with this human operative, ( in the Phillipines) , she said she would post a copy to me. I told her account was already overdue, so could she please email me a copy of the bill. “Sorry, we do not have facility to email anything” was the astonishing reply….remember that this is an internet and phone communications company, and I am requesting a copy of my Broadband bill…. But they cannot do it… wtf!!!

Twitter and big media companies:

Emily Baxter from CBS Interactive writes: Saw your newsletter yesterday and the inclusion around in Australia and its use of twitter. In response, we just wanted to say that is not bound by Australian TV networks. Our audience is passionate about all things TV, whether Australian or elsewhere. A recent poll of over 500 users showed that 91% described their relationship with the latest TV shows and information as “true love” or “obsessive compulsive”.

With this in mind, while we do have a local editorial presence backed with global coverage from the network, 95% of the content on the site is user generated. That’s to say, TV fans populate with the information and trivia on their favourite actors and TV shows you see on the site as well as on forums. TV fans are running the show.

HBO’s Hung has been very popular with the Australian audience in terms of the number of visitors to the show-space this year, hence the reason we’ve covered it locally and through channels such as Twitter. Today’s most popular shows from the US are most likely to be the popular shows in Australia when they become available and we are a good barometer of what will get picked up by the networks.

Dog and Christianity:

Shaun Cronin writes: (yesterday, comments.) 1. If Christian readers are upset about people making fun of Christianity then they should ensure that Christians should not say stupid things in public. They would do us all a favour if they could also prevent them from being elected to public office. 2. I’m still at a loss how First Dog could make the cartoon any better by inserting something like “Muslims are poopy-heads” into it as some readers seem to suggest.

Dave Liberts writes: The latest First Dog On the Moon vs Christianity controversy continues to roll along, and continues to provide Christians with the opportunity to engage in their favourite sport – bashing Islam for no better reason than because they can. Let’s look at the facts. The FDOTM cartoon in question suggested that Steve Fielding’s number one fantasy would be a hand-job from Jesus. While I could understand Senator Fielding being offended by that, I can’t see why anyone else is. The cartoon did not suggest anything specifically about Jesus or other Christians in any way. The cartoon certainly did not suggest that Jesus actually gave hand-jobs to Senator Fielding or anyone else. Further, the cartoon did not mention Islam. So why, other than basic intolerance, do so many so-called Christians need to respond with “Oh, you wouldn’t say that about Islam”? Because they’re intolerant, and they’re disgusting. Michael Byrne’s refusal to be associated with this malarky is to be congratulated, but I’d still suggest he have another crack at explaining why the cartoon offended him because I, and many others, just can’t see it. Just because “Jesus” and “hand-job” appear in the same sentence doesn’t mean offence can reasonably be taken, but Christians (particularly the loud ones) don’t let reasonableness get in their way.

Rob Pickering writes: I write regarding today’s comments about the First Dog Cartoon, specifically that by Marcus Vernon. I think Crikey is fairly balanced in regards to who it takes ‘pot shots’ at. If you do something stupid, like deny the overwhelming science of climate change, then Crikey or First Dog will take a ‘pot shot’ at you.

My opinion on this is simple, Senator Fielding is a disgrace and to have the majority of Australians who do not agree with any of his policies or thoughts (Religion, Climate Change or otherwise) having to pander to him because he controls some power (a la the other religious crackpot Brian Harradine) is a terrible indictment on Australian politics. Also, in regards to Marcus’s comments about dropping the Dr etc, I believe that if you’ve worked long enough and hard enough to earn a Doctorate in anything, you probably should be able to refer to that in your actual name.

Jim Ivins writes: Richard Dawkins almighty! No Climate Change Cage Match in the Thursday issue but instead we get a lesson in obfuscation from Greg Williams and Marcus Vernon, with a dose of ad hominem thrown in for good measure. Logic? No thanks, we’re believers. Clear-headed reason? But we’re a soft target, and in any case our brains might melt. (You see how easy it is?)

I chose Galileo’s case because it’s a classic example of religion getting in the way of an important scientific debate. Yes, Greg, Galileo won in the end, but that doesn’t excuse the church, or the society which tolerated it. Yes, the Galileo case is several hundred years old. So what? The religious beliefs which undoubtedly influence Fielding’s views on important topics such as AGW are a lot older.

Wasn’t this the central theme of First Dog’s cartoon? Ancient religion versus modern science, brought to you by Jasper The Cat. Now, if I really did ‘verbal’ anyone then, as a scientist and member of the ‘atheistic academic Left’, I sincerely apologise. Furthermore, I’d like to invite First Dog to give us wacky atheists and our ridiculous belief system his best shot. (Seriously dude, you f*cking go for it, just so long as it’s funny. I promise not to bleat on about ‘soft targets’ provided you send me a signed copy to hang in the Ivory Tower.)

As for whether or not titles should be used in Crikey, I couldn’t give a hand job either way. But if not, shouldn’t the prohibition be applied more generally? At least then Senator Fielding would be just plain Steve whenever he wished to comment on topics outside his own field of expertise. I will now make the production editor’s job slightly less tedious by removing my title from my e-mail signature, just in case anyone should take offence or something.