As part of its Gruen Nation show, an ad was produced which Clive Palmer wanted to use in his campaign. Well it was public money that produced it, so why shouldn’t he be able to use it? Now in fact there may be complications. Gruen Nation is bought in by the ABC, but no doubt it calls most of the shots on licensing. The video is, as you can see, up on YouTube. But the ABC’s reaction was that he couldn’t use the video. Why couldn’t he use this publicly funded digital asset?
As Marketing Mag reports:
“Yesterday we got a call from the Palmer United party team, asking if they could use last week’s pro-Clive Pitch ad, by 303Lowe for their real campaign,” wrote The Gruen Planetwebsite. “The answer, of course, was no. The ABC can’t provide support to a political party.”
I can’t find that on the relevant website, but I hope it’s provided by some ill-informed flunky because it’s absurd. The video happens to be useful to someone. It’s publicly funded, and they should be able to use it. Does it imply that the ABC supports Clive Palmer? No. Saying it does reminds me of a favourite pastime of small minds which is to notice that something unusual is being asked for and then to make up some lame reason why it can’t be done.
In fact this has all happened before. When Kaggle was not that much more than a glint in Anthony Goldbloom’s eye I persuaded Catalyst to do a segment on it, which it did with its usual aplomb. We wanted to use the video they’d made as it was the best visual explanation of what Kaggle was all about. The ABC said ‘no’. Meanwhile the 7 pm Project did a segment on another venture I’m involved in – Family by Family from the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. And did they object to our posting it on our website? No.
Investigative journalism and the secret state are natural enemies. Even with an enlightened government and relatively untroubled times, their relationship will be uneasy at best.
Today, they’re in a state of undeclared war. Surveillance states and most of their fellow travellers are in too deep to pull back voluntarily. Some will be uneasy about how far things have gone but changing one’s mind is never a comfortable business, particularly if it has to be done in public.
Those opposed to overly intrusive and secret surveillance need to figure out the best ways to increase that uneasiness and offer palatable means for players to defect. The playing field needs to once again be tilted towards openness as the primary operating principle. To do that, unearthing secrets, valuable though it may be, is not enough.
It’s exactly these issues that Jay Rosen takes up in this recent piece at Pressthink.
A conspiracy to commit journalism has to operate in the open. Its methods go beyond investigation, careful editing, truth and accuracy, telling a good story that brings complex issues home. There is inescapably a political element. Release-the-information coalitions can only form around broadly shared goals. People who disagree on other things are likely to agree on the need for sunlight. Continue reading
Troppo readers who have followed my meanderings about asylum seeker policy over the years will realise that I have some fairly basic differences with the Greens on that issue 11. KP: although not on the fundamental fact that many if not most of them need our compassion and support – it’s a matter of how best to deliver it and that’s where I think the Greens are both naive and self-indulgent. [↩].
However, I am utterly repulsed by Tory media pundits like Andrew Bolt and Ben Fordham who advance the proposition that Labor and the Greens should be blamed for the one thousand or more asylum seekers who have drowned at sea over the last few years trying to reach Australia. An interview by Fordham yesterday with Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is a particularly odious example of the genre:
Tension mounted after Mr Fordham asked if Ms Hanson-Young took responsibility for the deaths that have occurred at sea since the Rudd Government dismantled John Howard’s immigration policies. …
“You supported a policy which has led to 50,000 people arriving here ever since and 1000 plus people drowning to the bottom of the ocean and dying,” Mr Fordham said. “They’re not on the earth anymore.”
In reality, asylum seekers have full agency in their own decisions. They are making difficult choices in situations that are sometimes close to impossible. If Australian laws are effectively changed in the ways that Rudd and Abbott are promising, all that will happen is that most asylum seekers will turn their attentions to other first world country targets that now look like a better bet. Moreover, irregular entry to many of those countries is also dangerous. Lots of asylum seekers drown while trying to get from North Africa to Italy or Spain, even more while trying to get from Cuba or South America to the United States, and some even suffocate while being smuggled overland into Europe in shipping containers.
Government authorities are not responsible per se for asylum seeker deaths any more than police are responsible for the actions of murderers and rapists just because they don’t stop all of them.
Interlude: Ruminations on ‘the costs of speech’, monkeys and Dexter
In The 2013 PEN Free Voices lecture, reproduced on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics web site, Waleed Aly makes the following observations on Freedom of Speech:
… let us grind this out, beginning with a trite observation: that, in some sense, we are always free to speak. Even if our speech will land us in prison or before an executioner, there is nothing anyone can really do to stop us saying whatever it is we want to say. The only question is whether or not we are prepared to bear the costs of our statements. We can never escape those costs. Even an imaginary society with no legal restrictions on speech at all will still have mechanisms for making certain speech costly in one way or another. Only when speech is entirely meaningless to the audience can it have no cost, benefit or consequence (which is why swearing in a foreign language is nowhere near as crude as swearing in the dominant one).
Put simply, there is simply no such thing as free speech (original emphasis). There are only different costs. When we say we support free speech, we’re actually saying something very imprecise. What we really mean is that the costs of speech should not be imposed by the State, and where possible, social pressure should decide. (emphasis added)
A Peculiarly Australian Cause Celebre
In one of the less nebulous sections of the Liberals’ curiously fisk-resistant manifestoi, you’ll find this special promise for Andrew Bolt and his fans and supporters:
Protecting freedom of speech – supporting an open media
We will protect the media from over-regulation; support an open and accountable media; and protect the freedom of speech to strengthen our vibrant democracy…
- We will support freedom of speech, particularly in relation to anti-discrimination legislation. Prohibitions on inciting racial hatred or intimidation of particular groups should be focused on offences of incitement and causing fear but not a prohibition on causing offence.
At the April 4 IPA shindig where Rupert Murdoch preached his sermon on the morality of the market, Abbott made the promise quite explicit; Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (S18C) would be repealed and once more Andy will be free to write whatever he likes, about whomever he likes, regardless of race, creed, colour or a conspicuous and unseemly lack thereof.
The graphic below comes from the University of Michigan’s Professor Mark Perry, who runs a libertarian and market-oriented blog called Carpe Diem.
It shows, essentially, the collapse of the advertising revenue stream in US newspapers. Adjusted for inflation, US newspapers will earn as much from advertising this year as they did in 1950. Note that advertising has historically made up more than half of US newspaper revenues and more than two-thirds of Australian newspaper revenues.
The Australian newspaper industry is not in the same state as the US industry yet, but you wouldn’t want to bet the eventual outcome will be all that diffferent.
I’ve noted this before, but the contraction of the newspaper industry is a huge problem for supporters of the Finkelstein Review’s recommendations for new Australian media regulation. In order to justify its claim that the marketplace of ideas was irrelevant to the Australian media landscape, Finkelstein argued that the press would be a dominant media form for many years to come. From page 101 of the Review:
“The Australian press is in no immediate danger of collapsing. The main media companies appear to be reasonably capable of dealing with the pressures facing them at least over the medium term.”
The Review is not yet a year old, but its intellectual underpinnings are crumbling. Let’s hope the government has noticed.
In the torrent of words over the job cuts at Fairfax and News Ltd, not many people seem to have noticed that these events also further undermine the already teetering argument of the Finkelstein Review for a new system of media regulation.
Recall that the Finkelstein Review is founded on a downplaying of print media’s central economic problem. This problem is simply that print circulation and ad revenues are collapsing – and use of print media’s online versions is not close to making up the difference. As information economist Hal Varian noted of the US news industry in 2010: ”The average amount of time looking at online news is about 70 seconds a day, while the average amount of time spent reading the physical newspaper is about 25 minutes a day.”
The Finkelstein Review repeatedly declares this is not a problem:
This week’s dramatic events in the Australian media have underscored the Schumpeterian “creative destruction” being wrought before our eyes by the Internet and associated technologies and cultures:
- Fairfax’s announcement of the sacking of 1900 staff, closure of print facilities, adopting some sort of paywall approach for accessing content, and moving the print versions of its “quality” broadsheets to a tabloid format;
- Murdoch’s sacking of a lesser but uncertain number of staff, launching a takeover bid for the balance of Fox Sports and taking its ownership of Foxtel to 50% (in uneasy partnership with Telstra);
- Murdoch’s takeover of Kohler et al’s Business Spectator group; and
- Gina Rinehart taking her shareholding in Fairfax very close to the 20% mark where she would be forced to launch a full takeover offer.
As Ken Parish’s post below shows, there is now a widespread view that Gina Rinehart will win control of Fairfax, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and then seek to move their editorial stances well to the right. From people who believe that, you hear both wails and cheers, depending on their point of view.
Many of these people still seem to believe that rather than customers choosing a newspaper, newspapers shape the minds of their readers*. That’s a little bit true, but mostly wrong, and getting wronger every year the Internet is with us. If a newspaper doesn’t reflect the readers’ world-view and interests, then the readers leave.
Gina Rinehart’s billions might well help shape opinion on a single issue like the mining tax, where they’re employing emotive 30-second TV spots to tap existing beliefs that the mining industry keeps the nation from penury. Those same billions can’t make people keep buying a newspaper they don’t like, though.
There isn’t enough money in the world for that.
If Rinehart does move the Fairfax general newspapers’ political and cultural outlook substantially, she will learn a sharp business lesson.