Journalism experts fear the Gillard government’s media inquiry, which is expected not to examine bias or media ownership, is shaping up to be a missed opportunity and waste of time.
The inquiry’s terms of reference are expected to be released this afternoon, but it is widely reported today that the inquiry will focus on the issue of privacy and whether media regulators have sufficient oversight powers.
The Greens have been pushing for a more extensive inquiry that examines the dominance of News Limited – which Bob Brown has dubbed the “hate media” – in the Australian newspaper market.
“I don’t see the point of an inquiry at this time,” says Michael Gawenda, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advanced Journalism
“The only issue is the ownership of the media and I think that horse has bolted. Not much can be done about that now. If News Limited is forced to divest newspapers who is going to buy them?”
He says that, although some media outlets are undoubtedly biased, “no inquiry by politicians into the issue of bias in the media makes any sense at all”.
“What are they going to find and what are they going to do about it? What is the definition of bias?”
Wendy Bacon, professor of journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney, supports a media inquiry but wants it to be broader than indicated by the government today.
“Any inquiry that looks only into privacy is not worth having,” she told The Power Index. “The inquiry should be looking into media power and how it is exercised.”
“Bias itself is not the concern – it’s the issue of media power and whether it’s being abused. The concentration of media ownership is a threat to democracy…If you want to talk about protecting freedom of expression, you have to talk about corporate power as well as government power.”