There’s a wave of “zoushuangai” spreading through the state-controlled media in China. As Margaret Simons recounts in Crikey today, zoushuangai means a return to what Australians might call “real news”: go to the grassroots; transform your work style and your journalistic prose.

Seeking to further liberalise and commercialise China’s media is no mean feat. Many big newspapers are still run by the state; authorities issue lists on subjects not to be reported on; Twitter and Facebook are blocked.

While the Chinese government is experimenting with freeing up (to an extent) the media, the Australian government is heading in the other direction — considering greater regulation. And that’s where the hysteria starts, this side of the equator.

News Limited CEO Kim Williams treated us to another episode of alarmism last week over the “creeping” regulators of the Finkelstein and Convergence reviews and the “Luddites” seeking greater regulation. He’s far from the only media figure preaching fire and brimstone over media reform.

What China shows us is how much we have to lose — the realities of a largely state-controlled media are confronting. But perhaps the Chinese example could also lend some proportion and perspective to the debate on media regulation here. For the Australian government to seek to introduce a public interest test for media ownership, or new privacy laws on media intrusion, or beef up regulators like the Press Council, are not the same thing as banning Twitter.

Yes, such proposed changes should be closely scrutinised and debated. But let’s all calm down.

And the alarmists could perhaps introduce a little more zoushuangai into their reporting. A bit more “real news”, and a bit less crusading, intrusion, exploitation and bias, might do more to neutralise the push for greater government regulation than a Kim Williams speech can do.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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