A new day, a new pope, a new Northern Territory leader, the same distorted media regulation debate. When the white smoke clears, what will a public interest test really do? Which players could merge? And what of regional news? Plus Jane Caro on the media's salacious coverage of Jill Meagher.
That was certainly the message from News Limited group editorial director Campbell Reid on 7.30 last night, who in an awkward interview with Leigh Sales, defended The Daily Telegraph‘s hysterical coverage (complete with Stalin references) as just “provocative tabloid presentation”.
But it’s the provocation that’s the problem. Amid the threats of High Court action and laughable rhetoric around these proposals being a “turning point in Australia’s political life” — further alienating the country’s most influential media organisation from the process — News Limited CEO Kim Williams is right about some of what he says. As he writes to Crikey today, responding to our coverage yesterday, “the government is trying to ram into law without due process, scrutiny or public accountability in under a week”.
That is true, and that’s the only really outrageous thing about Stephen Conroy’s agenda. As Bernard Keane writes today, speed-reading some five bills along with the rest of Parliament House, there’s only “profoundly vague” detail around the public interest test and just how much power it would have over industry regulators and commercial deals. Conroy insists it must be passed into law next week.
News Limited’s editorial stance has never been constructive. It’s screamed for 12 months about any vague proposal from anyone to tighten regulation. Now it has the actual plans it’s ear-splitting. If Williams is serious about getting a good result here he’d get off his high horse and argue for what really matters: more detail and the time to get this right.
And if we get neither that will be as much as much News Limited’s fault as Conroy’s.