More diversity, indeed

The front page story in today’s Australian, New TV outlets in media reforms, outlines the Howard government’s plans to introduce more pay TV channels and the “reasonable prospect” of changing the existing cross media laws. The result? Less diversity, fewer owners and the same message pumped out across a variety of mediums. For the Murdoch press – long-time supporters to change the laws, once suggesting that the “liberalising” of the laws would improve diversity – it seems pragmatism and the truth has got in the way. Reporter Steve Lewis writes:

“This could allow major proprietors such as Kerry Packer’s PBL or News Limited, publisher of The Australian, to broaden their domestic interests. It would also permit new foreign players to take significant stakes in existing media assets, or establish start-up operations.”

No kidding. This morning Radio National discussed some of these issues, including the release of a new Robert Manne edited collection, “Do Not Disturb: Is the Media Failing Australia?” (out through Black Inc Books this week.) I’ve started reading the book and although many of the contributors articulate the failings of the media here – including “entertainment” as news, too few owners and Howard government intervention – I’m astounded that two writers are still convinced that institutions such as the New York Times and Washington Post are the benchmark. They’re not. Much of the US mainstream media is experiencing a crisis of confidence and credibility and rightly so.

Have these writers forgotten the Iraq war and the media’s complicity with government claims of WMD? The NY Times’ Judith Miller is perhaps the most well-known culprit, but the buck certainly stops much higher. A fascinating book, “The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy“, outlines the continual failure of the paper and its deference to US power. The NY Times is as much of the problem as Fox News, and far too many so-called “progressives” fail to understand the similarity.

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