The Guardian and paywalls
Guardian Australia editor Kath Viner writes: Re. “Crikey says: new journalism needs old money” (yesterday). Thanks for your interesting editorial responding to my AN Smith lecture. On the anti-paywall fundamentalist point: I do think that the web is fundamentally better when it’s more open — and it’s better for journalists, because we can engage with others, find stories, talk to people. That’s the bit you quoted. But I’m not a fundamentalist on the economics. As I said in the lecture:
“It is still unclear whether paywalls bring in enough money to be worthwhile, and it may be that they work better for more specialised content. Economically, it’s too early to rule them out when we’re all trying to survive.”
Some readers seem to have missed that crucial hedge! Just because something is preferable journalistically doesn’t mean it will always make economic sense. That said, The Guardian‘s business model is more robust than you suggest. An interesting take on this in yesterday’s Columbia Journalism Review puts it into context: clearly there’s not one business model that suits all. If paywalls work for Crikey, then that’s brilliant news, because it’s a must-read, and long may you thrive.
Lay off Australian-made television
Julie Flynn, CEO of Free TV Australia writes: Re. “Good TV is the new black, so why are we so bad at it?” (yesterday). Byron Bache’s sweeping dismissal of Australian television drama makes for a great headline, but it doesn’t tell us anything about what is really happening on Australian television. Crikey readers could be forgiven for thinking that Australians do not watch Australian drama and that there is no good locally-produced drama on television!
In fact, viewers have a strong appetite for Australian television drama and there is a diverse and innovative local slate. To name just three recent series: Channel Ten’s Offspring, House Husbands on Channel Nine, and Channel Seven’s A Place To Call Home. Each attracts strong and loyal audiences with great scripts, ensemble casts, strong acting and high production values. And their popularity will see each return in 2014.
Amazingly for a country of just 23 million, Australia has five free-to-air networks with 15 channels and a thriving local production sector, which make a range of quality local drama. Our producers compete admirably with the best in the world: the fact that 49 of the 50 most-watched programs on Free TV so far this year are Australian is proof of that, and yes those shows include locally-produced dramas.
Stubborn US senators not a new phenomenon
Martin Gordon writes: Re. “The GOP and the US shutdown explained — with a bang” (Wednesday). The irony is that [US President] Barack Obama and his Vice-President Joe Biden as Senators used to vote against Republican Administration budget and debt increase measures all the time. As an example in 2005 the New York Times of December 20 helpfully reported about “Senate Democrats threatened on Monday to derail a $453 billion military spending bill over an Arctic oil drilling dispute”. The article went on to report: “Frustrated Democrats predicted they could round up the votes to stall the Pentagon measure even if it put them in the awkward position of blocking money for American military operations.”
What oil drilling and military spending have to do with each other, and why you would put troops in the field at risk by cutting off supplies potentially defies logic? But two of the Senators apparently willing to do so were a certain pair of Obama and Biden. The hypocrisy of Obama should not surprise. Similarly Democrat obstruction led by then senator Edward Kennedy blocked health care reform in 1969 proposed by Republican president Richard Nixon (which was similar to that of Australia or other European nations). Yes 1969!
On the ALP leadership ballot
Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Rundle: it has to be Albo” (yesterday). The article has missed a key point — it doesn’t have to be Albo or Bill but others. Both have too many skeletons in their closets to be the leader. Both disgraced themselves for not increasing the miserly Newstart allowance which is one of the lowest dole payments in the developed world, forcing sole parents onto Newstart when their child turns eight and ignoring the fact that most sole parents were already working part time but now suffer a cut of around $100 a week from their already combined low income. I can understand Bill’s disinterest in the battlers whom he purports to represent as he now comes from a wealthy background but Albo? Brought up by a mum on the pension! Albo, a very big, unforgivable mortal sin but then your pension pot will be in the many-millions so the working class can kiss your clacker. Clearly both have left Labor’s working class for Labor’s new class, which is a class of so called Laborites who only join the Labor movement to become millionaires-plus.
Communication breakdown on finances
Bronwyn Humphries writes: Re. “Hockey’s pendulum: Coalition tea party comes back to bite” (yesterday). It still astounds me and many others how Labor failed to educate the nation on how sound our national finances were and are. I am no economist but surely a simple analogy of “the average citizen has a mortgage to improve their asset base and long term future financial stability. The country also runs on a mortgage/budget deficit to manage its finances and every credible world financial body credits Australia’s financial management and position with the highest ranking”. I always remember credible media articles on Treasury feeling Costello was “lazy” in his role and how astounded they were with Swan and Labor’s diligence and endeavours. Now we have Hockey, blustering, harmless but not too bright and certainly not a numbers expert. But then the LNP seems to specialise in them with Joyce another — he is an accountant but can’t add up.