Australia is likely to soon embark on a brave, new world of media “reform.” The reality, of course, is that media diversity will decrease and the big players will increase their influence. Democracy will inevitably suffer. Crikey outlined the issues at play in yesterday’s editorial:
We should be cracking open the champagne here at Crikey today after federal cabinet’s decision yesterday to press the button on its plans to transform the Australian media landscape and abolish the cross-media rules. This should be manna from heaven for a small independent media outfit like ours. After all, as one of the few alternative media voices in Australia, we should be a chief beneficiary of public resentment against the increased concentration of big media ownership which will result from the government’s proposed changes – concentration which will almost inevitably shrink the number of major media owners in the big markets of Sydney and Melbourne from ten to as few as five. Instead of being restricted to owning just one medium in a market – TV, radio or newspaper – companies will be able to own all three.
We should celebrating, but we’re not. We’re appalled. The abolition of the cross-media rules would result in the greatest accumulation of media power in the hands of powerful moguls ever seen in a modern democracy. Under the preposterous premise that “old media” like newspapers and TV are now marginalised by “new” media like the internet and mobile phones – even though the old media still wield staggering influence on society and even though most of the new media content is actually controlled by the old media owners – the government is set to hand the most powerful unelected group in society even more power to influence Australian politics, business and society.
If parliament supports the abolition of the cross-media limits, it will be handing unbridled power and influence to a tiny cabal of media owners whose existing track record in abusing their power – to direct the information traffic, to use their media to conduct personal vendettas, to “bone” their enemies and to dictate public policy – is already a disgrace.
In this area alone, Australia is already a banana republic.