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It’s time to fix our media laws

By Dr Stewart Hase

You have to admire, at some level, the brass of Paul Fletcher and Josh Frydenberg claiming that the new media code will contribute to more fact-based, rigorous news content. In the background Scomo is nodding his head like one of those little plastic dogs in the back window of a Kingswood. While the ‘code’ is probably the right step forward, let’s not let it gloss over the role of media in shaping public opinion.

The Murdoch empire has over many years provided trillions of dollars of free advertising to the Liberal Party, massaging the editorial stance of every paper Murdoch takes over. It’s impossible not to laugh hysterically at the adverts for Sky News, in which they say that it offers the only truly balanced view, reporting ‘all sides’ as Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray et al stride onto the screen. You wouldn’t buy a used car from any of them.

Mind you, in the interests of balance in this blog, you know what you are going to get when you read the Guardian, the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald and the New Daily, for example. Any student of cognitive bias, in which reality is distorted to remain consistent with one’s attitudes, values and beliefs, will tell you that true independence would be a small miracle. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ Not sure many of us do that and is a skill that needs to be taught in school.

The issue of media bias would probably be fine, since it mirrors the predilection of the human brain, were it not for scope. Kevin 07, like a candle in a gale force wind, argued to a Senate inquiry last week that News Ltd has a monopoly in Australia (Murdoch owns 70% of media in Australia and in Queensland, nearly 100%). In exhibit 1, a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph, Kev showed how five pages of text was no more than an opinion piece, rather than news. His view was nicely and ironically reinforced by the Telegraph, which has run a campaign of vilification about Kev not seen since their attacks on Julie Gillard-nothing to do with news and everything to do with suppressing a voice.

And Facebook, as Kev notes, is another demonstration of what can happen when a monolith with too much power can hijack information. One can only marvel at the prescience of George Orwell in ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’-a world in which information is manufactured, controlled and meted out at the whim of ‘Big Brother’.

The debate over the code, and Facebook’s demonstration of power, has brought into stark relief the issue of media ownership in this country. We need our Federal government to fix what is a threat to democracy and ensure we have the opportunity to have real news, not just opinion, real facts not manufactured reality, and journalists that can report what is really happening, to speak truth to power when necessary: nay, when essential. Most of us are cynical about politics and the news that surrounds it. So, now is the time to act and put pressure on government to fix this travesty, even as Murdoch signs a deal with Google to transmit even more of his bile.


Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power. Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    A false dream of Merde-dog’s menagerie of malicious misfits would envisage imagery of our local dog park left unclean, loaded with reeking turds in various states of decomposition, putrefaction, repulsive to see. Old Rootperve has always been a malicious misfit, born to distort, overcome the well earned hated reputation of his father, a sullen schemer and one oblivious to learned behaviour in matters of ethics, morals, decency, honesty truth and loyalty. But getting your effing way and being the only huge penis in the herd is how to dream of stuffing, loading, filling, controlling, all to one’s black heart’s content. Why is this old anus still alive? Is it because the crooked, evil, depraved, domineering, wilful all want to use the old stinker’s methods and ways to share in this shitty outlook and doomed future, all for intensely self fixated, core of the ID reasons. It might have made Freud vomit, despite needs for professional assessment. Beware of these conquerors and huns, who ride the wave of Merde-ockery for gain, and our pain.

  2. Bronte D G ALLAN

    It seems to me that we have no real Media Laws or Code here in Australia, this fucking so-celled “liberal” mob is nothing but a right wing, flat earth, climate change denying, happy clapping, lying, obscenely over paid, supporter of everything Mudrake & his rags says, also they are big business, mining magnate, pastoralist, etc supporters as well! The only thing they care about is how much publicity Mudrake gives them on a daily basis & just how little “fair” mention the Labor lot gets! As for Facebook & its crap, the less said about Sukerbit & his FB concern, the better! Agree with your sentiments Dr Hase! My only concern with Australian media/press is just how little concern Slo Mo & his mob give to the Age & Sydney Morning Herald publications, compare with ALL of Mudrakes rags! And we must not forget just how “wonderful” (NOT!!) is the “excrement” bloody Sky new mob!

  3. Geoff Andrews

    Dr Hase,

    I infer from your opinion: “And Facebook, as Kev notes, is another demonstration of what can happen when a monolith with too much power can hijack information. One can only marvel at the prescience of George Orwell in ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Four’-a world in which information is manufactured, controlled and meted out at the whim of ‘Big Brother’”.

    that you agree with Kevin Rudd’s assessment of Facebook as a “monolith with too much power”?
    Would your opinion be based on Facebook’s recent decision to “hijack” the various Australian news sources, who voluntarily jump on for the free ride?
    Your cartoon suggests that the content of said freeloaders is misinformation. The government believes that publishing this misinformation is so important that, not only is it compelling Facebook to promulgate it but forcing Facebook to PAY to host the parasites.
    Now THAT’S “1984” -a world, as you say, in which information is manufactured, controlled and meted out at the whim of “Big Brother”.
    I’ve probably missed something – I’m often wrong but never in doubt or without an opinion – but it seems to me that the proposal has a whiff of “1984” AND “Catch 22″ about it.
    Gee, I hope that they don’t make a law that says I’m compelled to pick up hitchhikers and then pay for their company.

  4. DrakeN

    Mr. Rudd seems to be attempting too make amends for his own failure to rein in the media while in office after the “Kevin 07” victory – running fearful of the Murdoch machine like almost every other politician, then and now.
    Had he done so at the time, much of the lies and propaganda which infests our society might have been restricted in its ubiquity.
    To have been legally required to publish only “The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth” would have scuppered his filthy empire and saved us the embarrassment of the communal indoctrination which has continued unabated.
    We might also have been saved the legislative and administrative stagnation of the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison years.

  5. Nick C

    Did you actually read the Media Bill Stewart?
    It is nothing like a step in the right direction.
    It is state legislated extortion.
    I hate Facebook and Google and ALL corporate media. But this Media Bill does not fix the issues of big tech or the media monopoly in this country.

  6. Andrew J. Smith

    I would not hold my breath waiting for any substantive change in the interests of the public, target audiences and recipients of media content, when legacy media as one support this troubling approach to policy development and legislation that allegedly supports quality journalism; both here and Crikey are exceptions with fact based scepticism.

    However, not only locally, when reported elsewhere it seems to be the ‘media’ line taken, that ignores the malignant influence of Murdoch/NewsCorp, 9Fairfax and 7West over public narratives, the LNP and legislation; while ‘BigTech’ bad.

    The new UK based ByLine Times, which is usually excellent, but their take on this follows the media line here, written by an Australian freelancer:

    ‘Without protection from the predatory practices of Big Tech, Australian news media organisations will eventually be bled dry – leaving the public further exposed to disinformation, online conspiracy theories and partisan propaganda….’ continues on without any contrary voice or fact….. without mentioning that the creators and purveyors of disinformation are generally the media, MPs or related…… contradiction, what?

    Australia’s War on Big Tech is a Fight for Good Journalism

  7. wam

    The sky ads and hysterical headshaking laughter at the concept of ‘balance’ by people wow spot on. In the midst of a pair of labor undies around a pollie’s ankles with a ‘snow’ text. A clp scribe aligned me and the AlpBC as the only labor supporters left. The golf boys (one an ex-clp chief minister)were quick to laugh at me and the situation with politicians and staffers. I had a giggle as I was berating the politicians and staffers to their shocked looks till one awoke and said no!no!no! you are talking federal(they avoid federal rorts) we are talking local. The local reporting between the ABC and rupert is as usual no different except on the ABC you may see a labor pollie answering a question as well as rupert’s two or three clp ravings about the activities of comrades losing trust in the government. No comfort on the ABC for labor here or federally since kevin o’lemon went gutless and didn’t challenge booby’s loonies in 2009 but ABC left wing is believed by the millions who don’t watch it and repeated by the lnp, constantly reinforced by selective snippets by the rightwing media. The reality was the ABC was never left wing and is now no longer even centre.

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