Back in March Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph splashed its “Pauline Hanson” nudes across its front and inside pages and sparked thumping sales across all News Limited tabloids, controversy, complaint and then litigation … in roughly that order. Crikey (public duty and all that) complained to the Press Council … the sole regulatory voice for print journalism. We thought that a national newspaper group publishing cheesy nudes purporting to be images of a public figure lacked any connection to the public interest and also raised privacy concerns … not to mention simple issues of morality and tact.
The Press Council eventually decided to do … nothing. According to the Council’s executive secretary Jack Herman, “there is not much more the Council can do for you”. Mr Herman cited the apologies made by the relevant editor and a settlement to the legal issues as a sufficient response to the issues raised. The Council’s chairman, “intends to address this matter in a statement in the Annual report”. We presume that the relevant editors and their proprietor will read it, be suitably chastened and resolve to change their ways.
As we have seen again this week in the troubled world of professional attention seeker Kyle Sandilands, media regulation in this country packs all the punch of a wilted shard of rocket. He’s off air again, but what, other than the whims of the people who hired him as a career controversialist in the first place, is to stop him being back bold as ever?
The argument is complex, we need and deserve a free press, and nothing government might impose to bridle the actions of an extreme, ill-disciplined few should do anything to impede the unfettered operations of the many, and yet, and yet…
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
The market will decide apparently. And yet it was the market that encouraged the likes of Kyle Sandilands. The market that looks at the quantity of audience figures and never minds the quality or decency of the broadcast.
Time and again the media betrays the trust the public invests in the fourth estate. In the end it’s in the hands of the audience. The regulators are toothless and timid, the market rewards the popularity of vulgarity. It’s up to all of us. We can, we should, just turn these people off.