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MEAA issues wish list over proposed media reforms

The union which oversees its member journalists and others involved with media and creative arts in Australia has issued a list of concerns in conjunction with two major media reform-related actions, less than a fortnight away from the federal Parliament convening for the first time in 2021.

The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), in a pair of general statements speaking for the position of the entire organisation, has forwarded its submission for the Senate Media Diversity inquiry as well as a separate submission aimed at the News Media Bargaining Code Bill (2020).

The latter submission – put forth just on the Senate’s closing date of January 18 – has the MEAA playing its part to contend with the presence of digital giants such as Facebook and Google, and ensuring that the Silicon Valley giants pay Australian media providers fairly for running their content.

The flow of funds into directly producing domestic content, via bargaining agreements between any of the digital giants and any single domestic-based media provider, and the fear of negotiations breaking down or not possessing its intended results of renumeration exists as one of the MEAA’s collective fears over the bill.

“MEAA objects to the Code’s incorporation of a two-way value exchange principle will diminish the Code’s effective operation.  It is an unreasonable concession by the [Morrison] government,” the union said in its submission.

The MEAA would also like some form of explanation, in economic or mathematical formulas or otherwise, as to how individual media outlets will be compensated by Facebook or Google to run their content.

“MEAA is unaware of any reliable means of rationally calculating the ‘benefits’ of Google and Facebook referring traffic to news company websites. It is an overly-elastic concept that is barely articulated or defined in the bill,” the MEAA says.

“In MEAA’s opinion, this measure will frustrate bargaining and resolution of disputes about the value of news content carried by Google and Facebook. MEAA submits that this concession be dispensed with, or at the very least, critically evaluated during the mandatory review scheduled within one year of the Code’s commencement,” the union added.

In the former submission, the Senate media diversity inquiry to be chaired by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the MEAA provided a list of areas of recommendation that it would like to see covered when the inquiry commences.

  • Amend competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration
  • The Australian government must urgently progress the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code and extend the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program
  • The Australian government should review and adapt critical measures recommended in the United Kingdom and Canada such as: directly funding local news; offering taxation rebates and incentives; and part-funding editorial positions
  • Government assistance should be reset to ensure funding is available for new media organisations, as well as traditional media companies
  • Public broadcasters must be funded in a way that acknowledges the need to provide comprehensive, high-quality cross-platform media content in all parts of Australia
  • The future of the AAP should be sustained through regular, annual relief grants
  • And the regulation of media content should be strengthened and overseen by a single entity

“2020 [saw] the best and the worst of Australia’s media,” the MEAA has observed.

“Australians have relied on journalists and news outlets [in 2020] in a way that hasn’t been experienced in many years.

“It has shown public interest reporting at its finest,” the MEAA adds.

However, the MEAA, in its dot-points of desires for the Senate inquiry, it observes that a paradox exists where while news organisations are breaking new ground in public interest journalism and reporting, economic declines among news organisations remain a part of a stark reality in the journalism industry, as evidenced in a decade-long trend.

And just like with the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, the presence and impact of digital giants such as Facebook and Google looms large.

Previously, layoffs of editorial positions in the thousands have occurred in the last ten years, and 1000 of those job losses in 2020 alone, which the MEAA has tied into the influence of digital publishing as well as a lack of diversity in the mass media in Australia.

“The loss of these journalists, sub-editors, photographers and other positions – and in many cases the mastheads that once employed them – means fewer outlets are covering matters of public interest and significance. In our view this has led to a dangerous fall in media diversity,” the organisation added.

Moreover, the MEAA is also concerned with the lack of ethical conduct of media organisations, and in the mainstream in particular, and has tied this into the lack of diversity and competition therein.

“The power of the few is not always wielded in a responsible or ethical way. In some instances, it has led to a rise in news coverage where the veracity of content is often untested and where ‘balance’ in news reporting can equate to the publication of meritless or misleading arguments,” the MEAA stated.

The MEAA has also implored that integrity issues – particularly in the reputation around the tabloid culture represented in the mainstream media – need to be discussed in the Senate inquiry, or any debate on media reform.

“In a truly plural media environment, the capacity of one voice to steer public opinion in a particular way is limited.  In Australia, getting one powerful voice offside can have damaging consequences,” the MEAA stated.

“Where too few voices dominate the media landscape, journalists have reduced job options and might be forced to stay at an outlet because of a lack of opportunities.

“In order to keep their jobs, some inevitably feel pressured to abide by editorial preferences they might not be comfortable with, or which run contrary to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics,” the MEAA added.

The Senate inquiry, as well as debates on the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, could occur at any time after the federal Parliament reconvenes from its summer break as early as February 2, subject to a drafting of an agenda of items.

Nonetheless, these two legislative matters – and the MEAA’s potential to use its influence upon shaping them – illustrate that media reform areas will emerge as a hot-button topic throughout 2021.

 

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5 comments

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  1. Andrew J. Smith

    Interesting issues of our time and unique to not just Australia, lesser extent the US but growing in the UK*, plus Turkey, Hungary etc., is how large media groups and corporate entities can coopt and game (il)liberal democracies, in the case of media, to extend their reach in to the more monocultural (regional) above median age voter demographics, or those rusted onto legacy news media of print, tv and radio.

    The danger is that by supporting legacy media now (which previously separated ‘rivers of gold’), new media, especially digital based, may be precluded from having a presence, let alone influence with new ideas, through unfair subsidisation and/or state support for legacy media?

    Regarding:

    ‘- Amend competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration

    The Australian government must urgently progress the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code and extend the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program’

    These first two points are interrelated with dollops of moral hazard. If Australia had strong anti-trust and anti-competitive legislation like e.g. the EU, then actually applied (doubtful), these media groups would not be able to exist in their present form (plus several other monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies in various ‘competitive’ Australian sectors).

    However, it is clear our major parties are initimidated by media and/or corporate power and defer to the second easier option, developed by those with power….. creating much scepticism offshore as to how helpful the media bargaining with Facebook/Google can be for payment by media that uses the same as ‘carriage services’ to promote political PR andf conspiracy theories?

    The other points make much sense and in fact Google/Facebook could be the opportunity and central catalysts to encourage smaller, digital, independent and regional media outlets while the major players have simply walked away from responsibilities under the guise of Covid crisis….. question would be, why should Google/Facebook even carry let alone pay for Australian MSM news which is hollowed out and full of right wing agit prop that informs no one?

    The UK will have two new right wing news channels, one will be Fox direct (after Sky UK, post NewsCorp, stopped transmitting Fox) and the other replicating Fox, GB News via Liberty Global (US collaborator of Murdoch, i.e. controlled by Malone); in addition to NewsCorp’s The Times doing radio.

  2. Bronte ALLAN

    I am an avid newspaper reader, having worked in the 79’s & 80’s at the old Adelaide News & also the Advertiser. I have never been a “fan” of Mudrake, or how he operates in the newspaper world. His influence & power here in Australia, especially, is beyond the pale. His rags such as the Courier Mail, the Daily Telegraph & the Herald Sun are purely organised as mouthpieces for the SloMo mob & very much anti Labor & the Union movements. He has no compassion, fairness or sense of right from wrong about any thing “decent”, “normal” or productive towards any one who disagrees with what he & his rags print & do! Unfortunately here in Australia, but also in the UK & the USA he controls far too much of the Press to be even reasonable or fair minded in what they print & say! He is a blot on our so-called free press & will continue to be even when he is gone as most of his family think & act as he does! He is nothing but a right wing, lying, dictator when it comes to the newspaper game! Good article William!

  3. Kathryn

    The FIRST thing we must do in this country is to bring back the strict MEDIA OWNERSHIP LAWS that John Howard tore asunder which meant that more than 85% of our media is now owned, operated and manipulated by MURDOCH and his undemocratic, biased alliance with the LNP and IPA!

    Murdoch is no longer an Australian citizen yet has SO MUCH power, SO MUCH influence with his unspeakably depraved right-wing bias towards the LNP which is, undoubtedly, the worst, most corrupt, inept and dangerously undemocratic government in living memory! The Z-rated Murdoch rags such as the horrendous “Daily Terrorgraph” et al, go on and on character-assassinating anyone and everyone who have the concern and courage to stand up against the LNP’s increasing level of arrogance, corruption, waste and rorting of taxpayer funds! The Murdoch rags are ALSO as guilty of what they do NOT reveal as the lies they publish. You NEVER hear a negative word (in the Murdoch-controlled media) against the rising malevolence and ineptitude of Morrison’s callously inhumane and incompetent regime; not a word about Morrison’s self-promoting greed in awarding himself two huge pay rises making him the FIFTH HIGHEST paid political leader in the world whilst he stagnates the wages of ordinary Australian workers; no mention of so many appalling, undemocratic policies that the LNP are attempting to surreptitiously push through in the background whilst our attention is taken away by other issues such as Covid-19!

    The LNP/Murdoch/IPA is a Cartel of right-wing-extremists, Hillsong cultists, bible-thumping hypocrites, self-confessed misogynists and self-obsessed neoliberal capitalists hell bent on pushing through their OWN Agenda at the expense of ordinary Australians. Ever since Howard tore down the strict MEDIA OWNERSHIP LAWS that prevented ONE entity from controlling more than 48% of our media, in order that Murdoch – the LNP Propaganda Minister – could push through the appalling Agenda of the LNP, this country’s media has now become the most biased and monopolised form of media in the world! Now, thanks to the war criminal, John Howard, we have the LNP/Murdoch/IPA’s tentacles in every pie having an intolerable influence in EVERY free-to-air channel as well as parachuting right-wing supporters into influential seats on OUR taxpayer-funded ABC Board and onto ABC talk-show panels as well as the LNP DELIBERATELY defunding countless MILLIONS of OUR taxpayer funds out of the ABC in order to defund it into oblivion and shut it down!

    Since 2014 the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Cartel have defunded more than $783 MILLION from the ABC in order to financially cripple OUR taxpayer-funded national TV Station that the overwhelming majority of Australians love and believe is the most reliable source of news in our nation!

    WHY? BECAUSE THE LNP/Murdoch/IPA CARTEL ONLY WANT AUSTRALIANS TO HEAR AND SEE WHAT THEY WANT US TO HEAR AND SEE !!!

  4. Henry Rodrigues

    And to pile shit on the issue, there’s that wimp Costello controlling the once ‘Independent Always’ Sydney Morning Herald. He couldn’t stand up to the lying rodent when he was aspiring to be PM, so to compensate, he excercises malignant influence by being the chairman of the board of Ch 9. At least the rodent can’t veto him now. Even the gap toothed wannabe treasurer, seeks his ‘advice’ on how to fuck up the economy. By the way, the rise in job numbers, is a natural rebound from a very low base, nothing to do with Josh’s magic touch.

  5. DrakeN

    Bronte ALLAN: “His rags such as the Courier Mail, the Daily Telegraph & the Herald Sun are purely organised as mouthpieces for the SloMo mob & very much anti Labor & the Union movements.”
    Not so.
    They are the propaganda arm of the likes of the IPA of which “…SloMo mob…” are the political arm.
    The commercial media and the LNP are owned and operated by the oligachs who have the money to buy them, which they do at significantly discounted rates.

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