Senator Ludlam says too much Gina and Rupert in our media

Senator Scott Ludlam (WA), Australian Greens, spoke in Parliament yesterday on the ‘Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2012

And while there are many on the Left who complain about the standards of media in this country, the Ginafication, the looming Murdocracy, the slide to the Right from ABC and all media in general, yet, I have seen very little interest amongst those on the Left in this issue.

Here is an extract from a speech before Senate from the WA senator about media ownership and convergence:

While we may have the infrastructure—and it is good that this government got this process underway and are seeing it through, because we all know that it had been stalled for years—we should at least contemplate for a moment the question of what comes over the airways. Although this, I acknowledge, is a bill relating to infrastructure, let us consider the role of television as a large part of the media that people consume for information, analysis and, obviously, for entertainment and face the fact that we are experiencing at the moment, this week in particular, a point of inflexion—a point of crisis, even—in terms of media ownership that greatly affects the quality of what comes over the infrastructure that is partly addressed in this bill.

We know that Ms Gina Rinehart has acquired up to 19.9 per cent of Fairfax and is receiving three seats on the board. Most of the focus of this week has been on the future of the big daily east coast masthead newspapers and the Australian Financial Review. In a converged environment, the boundaries between what is produced in a newspaper, content delivered online and content delivered on television is blurring. That indeed is the whole concept of convergence. It is not just about having adequate infrastructure in place, whether it be the National Broadband Network or adequate digital television reception, and the mode of delivery. It is about the material and the content that is being transmitted and distributed.

At the same time as that announcement was made, Fairfax announced a cut of 1,900 jobs, the establishment of a pay wall for its online material and the compacting of the size of its broadsheets. News Ltd also announced cuts and restructuring to online content, although obviously we are not certain at this stage what that will mean for the people working there.

Concentration of media ownership is linked to the independence of editors and journalists. In Australia, media concentration has now reached a point at which it represents a real threat to the health of our democracy. Although the comments from coalition spokespeople this week were in some sense ambiguous, there was—at least from Mr Turnbull, the opposition spokesperson for communications—a genuine and thought-through acknowledgement that there is a real problem here. Minister Conroy followed up in a similar vein. That is noted in the Convergence Review. It was noted in the inquiry by former Justice Finkelstein. It has become a matter of record.

Eleven of Australia’s 12 capital daily newspapers are owned either by Fairfax or News Ltd. The remaining one, which is in my home state, is effectively controlled by the owner of Channel 7. Ms Rinehart owns roughly 10 per cent of Channel 10 and with Fairfax now has interests in newspapers and radio. Just this week, News Ltd announced that it is tightening its grip on pay television and it has recently devoured the Eureka Report and the Business Spectator.

Some Convergence Review recommendations need to be advanced urgently, in particular those related to the establishment of a new regulator, a public interest test and stronger cross-media ownership laws. Until we address these issues, we can have the most robust infrastructure in the world, we can have the best digital TV platforms in the world and we can have the NBN—provided those on the other side of the chamber do not pull it apart—the viewing experience and our democratic right to impartial and accurate reporting about our country, politics, what is happening in our local communities and what is happening in the world around us will be greatly impaired. That is something that is worth taking away and contemplating.

As we consider this bill, which I now understand is being supported by all the parties in this chamber, we also need to keep in mind what exactly it is that is being broadcast and who is going to be producing it to make sure that we get the maximum diversity possible in the voices in the Australian media landscape. I congratulate the government on bringing forward this bill and I commend it to the chamber.

Source: here

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