Federal cabinet, we are reliably informed, is about to approve and present to Parliament “a tough public interest test for media ownership” which, apparently, will be applied to future media mergers and acquisitions.

Presumably this is intended to quash questionable characters who want to impose their unsavoury views on media they own, or want to own. Or on recalcitrant would-be media barons who won’t sign a charter of editorial independence crafted by well-meaning journalists who take editorial responsibility for what they write, but no responsibility for the commercial outcome of what they produce. Or media investors who have the temerity to discuss editorial matters in the company boardroom (like — dare we admit it — we do here at Crikey).

The mindless paranoia hovering over the current federal government about the state of the media is not just hollow and thoughtless, it also attacks the responsibility governments have for protecting democracy.

There are countries where governments regulate the “public interest” of media ownership. They are called Russia and China.

Peter Fray

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