Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Media Diversity

Unsurprisingly The Australian did not publish my letter to the editor below defending Malcolm Turnbull.

Your editorial ‘Malcolm’s excellent adventure’ (The Australian 6 June) contained the most extraordinary claims about the Minister for Communications, namely that he has been something other than a team player as Minister.

A fact used as evidence for the claim is the disloyalty to conservatives displayed in launching Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper. This is the Minister who is proposing to weaken cross media ownership laws in a move widely perceived to favour the interests of News Corp.

The Minister on launching the paper sought to make the case that the current laws are not required to ensure diversity. This is the case he needs to make if reform is to occur.

The Australian has long made the case that it is entitled to be a conservative newspaper. So too are Schwartz’s stable of publications entitled to be ‘left-wing’. The Australian has feasted on a series of NBN stories largely provided by Mr Turnbull’s office

Mr Turnbull might add to his list. Why with friends like The Australian do the Liberals need enemies.

The simple fact is that Mr Turnbull at least recognises the importance of diversity in news coverage, a diversity that is important to the operation of democracy. This piece in On Line Opinion captures the essential elements of that argument. However its conclusion is wrong - the media doesn't need to be "impartial" (which is not the same as accurate or even objective) so long as it is sufficiently diverse in the range of partiality represented.

I have also previously commented that the actual influence of the Murdoch press is probably over-rated. The difficulty is that it is Mr Murdoch himself that wants us all to believe how influential he is.

So on this day as Mr Abbott has dined with the person I think the PM has called Australia's greatest businessman (who has chosen to live in what Mr Abbott calls the world's greatest country) let us hop that the conversation might have been two way. Let us hope that Mr Abbott explained that any change to cross media ownership laws has to be based on preservation of diversity rather than Mr Abbott just turned up to take orders.

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