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Tag Archives: Café Whispers

The growing irrelevance of the Murdoch media

For a number of decades the Murdoch media have enjoyed an unbridled run as the major source for news, information and opinion in this country. It is a position, many would suggest, that they’ve protected without ethics or morals. Especially when it comes to opinion. Theirs, and only theirs counts and they’ve recently become fanatical at protecting it.

For example, anyone wishing to have their own ideas and opinions published on their media sites have had to contend with the editorial policies that are generally based on the ideology of the editors (or Murdoch himself, perhaps) and of course, on what is sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is now collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.

We have witnessed the internet create an arena where everyone can be a publisher. All a person needs is an opinion. Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers. Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it. They no longer rely on the Murdoch media.

Hence the rise of the citizen journalists, better known as the ‘Fifth Estate’ who are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists. The Fifth Estate advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions. Aka Andrew Bolt, for example.

The Fifth Estate also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that have blatantly been avoided by the MM; lending rise to the growing opinion that the Murdoch media is working to a particular political agenda. Their lack of scrutiny to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, and his empty bag of policies, is typical of this.

Further, the Fifth Estate have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the Murdoch media. Denis Shanahan’s interpretation of the opinion polls are good example, which are clearly based on his opinions, and not the polls. After each of his articles, the Fifth Estate is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Another direction we’ve seen the Murdoch media lean towards are those stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist. And often untrue. But the Fifth Estate generally has the meaningful intention of changing the direction of the media and exposing the shallowness and inconsistencies so evident in today’s Murdoch media. The events of the last week have certainly highlighted this. Following Margo Kingston’s explosive story EXCLUSIVE: Abbott forced to repay $9,400 he charged taxpayers to promote his book the Fifth Estate (and social media) shifted into overdrive to find out more about what could turn out to be one of the defining moments of the 2013 election campaign. The mainstream media was eventually swept up with the story gaining currency with Fairfax, the Guardian and the national TV channels. But not so with the Murdoch media. While the rest of the country was falling over itself providing their readers/viewers with the latest developments, the main story on news.com was how a surfing advert was considered offensive. Clearly more important than what is now called battlerort, but I’d prefer to think that the Murdoch media is just making it obvious that they don’t want Tony Abbott tarnished in any way.

The Fifth Estate, subsequently, has exploded in numbers and influence in Australia, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices but because the Murdoch media has created an arena for them to enter. If the Murdoch media was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be a Fifth Estate, or for that matter, the dozens of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the Murdoch empire. It is also fair to say that the Murdoch brand has been tarnished globally over the last 18 months thanks to the despicable phone-hacking scandal. Arguably, Rupert Murdoch is one of the most despised individuals in the developed world. He could also be considered the least trustworthy. So how can we trust his media outlets? It is becoming increasingly evident that his only interest in Australia is how much it can add to his bottom line and his newspapers are filled with stories each shaped to ensure that the profits head upwards. For example, could his loving support for Tony Abbott be motivated by Abbott’s promise to dismantle to Government’s NBN program? A move, as pointed out in Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN, that would keep his bottom line healthy.

There is no doubt that in a few short years the Fifth Estate has not only reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities. The blog sites of the Murdoch media usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide some impact, the avenues through the Murdoch media have been providing none.

Then what are the impacts of the Fifth Estate?

This remains the unanswered question, or if you will, a work in progress. The Fifth Estate still has nowhere near the influence of the Murdoch media, such as being able to manipulate election outcomes or influence public discourse, but, the events of the last week show that the sway of the Fifth Estate is gaining traction. Independent Australia (IA) and the aforementioned Margo Kingston are now providers of news, but not only news, but on the stories that would be filtered out of the Murdoch media, and both IA and Margo are attracting massive audiences which one would expect is to the detriment of the Murdoch media. They lead a number of long-established independent sites such as Andrew Elder, The Failed Estate, The Pub, Café Whispers, The Political Sword, Grog’s Gamut and more recently here at The AIMN where alternate opinions are awarded some voice.

In a democracy we need these alternate voices. Margo Kingston sums up why:

“Journalists used to be a bridge between the people and the powerful. Journalists used to be outside the circle but now they’re inside the circle. They’ve joined the powerful and this very dangerous for a democracy”.

“It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write.

Very true. Hence we need to make the Murdoch media irrelevant. And that’s not beyond us.

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Up The Opinion Polls

If we are to take the latest Fairfax Poll at face value and try to analyse the sudden voter turnaround it conjures up a number of possibilities. Those on the right might argue that’s its all the bad news that has confronted Labor since Christmas. One writer lists the following.

Craig Thomson finally got arrested. Other union identities (Williamson, etc) going through their own court proceedings, legal issues, etc. In NSW, two senior former ALP ministers, Eddie Obeid and Ian McFarlane, are in ICAC accused of defrauding NSW of $75 million. Nova Perris “captains pick” looked tokenistic. Long-standing Senator Trish Crossin dumped in the trash through no fault of her own. Makes Gillard look ruthless. PM announces longest election-campaign in the nation’s history. If nothing else, it seemed “weird”. Two senior ministers resign days later. This terrible timing is a strong indicator that they had no idea Gillard was about to announce election-date. Suggestive of secretive and dysfunctional cabinet. Treasurer Swan finally admits that the surplus he promised 200 times won’t be delivered.

If we accept these as legitimate reasons (and they are) then we also need to look at what the electorate is prepared to reject in order to strike a balance. So if this poll is correct it also means (given the margins involved) that the electorate has overwhelming rejected every government policy. Let’s go through them at the same time remembering that the Coalition has none. Well other than a maternity leave policy that economists say is unaffordable. Considering this point is important if we are to understand voting intentions. Otherwise the voter is being asked to make a decision based on incomplete information. If this is so, how seriously do we take this poll? Is it actually saying that the electorate fundamentally rejects all of the following policies in favour of Mr Abbott’s unknown ones? That none has any merit and that they don’t care what his policies are. They will accept them anyway. I think not.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a price on carbon. This in spite of the fact that it is bedded down and working well. They are prepared for the opposition to rip it up in favour of a plan that economists and environmentalists say will not work. And they are even prepared to go to a double dissolution.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a broadband network of the standard the government is building and would be happy with a Mickey Mouse network that the experts say is inferior.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for a better and more equal education system for their children and think that the Gonski report is not worthy of implementation despite it receiving loud applause from academics and the public. Remember the Coalition had said they are happy with the current system.

They overwhelmingly reject the need for an NDIS and are happy with the status quo. Again this policy has received widespread community support. The Coalition while supporting it say it is not in their immediate plans.

They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that gay folk would ever achieve marriage equality.

They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that Australia might ever become a republic with its own head of state. Not even a plebiscite.

They overwhelmingly think it’s fine for families to lose their school hand outs that help to pay for school fees etc.

They overwhelmingly accept that a large portion of the population (3.6 million and mainly women) will have their taxes increased.

They overwhelmingly say that they are not interested in a 3% increase in their superannuation.

They overwhelming think its fine for the Opposition to rip up the Murray Darling agreement.

They overwhelmingly reject the Government’s handling of the economy which most observers believe to be amongst the best in the world. If not the best.

They overwhelmingly want to get rid of the mining tax despite it having the potential, repeat, potential to spread the wealth of the nation.

They overwhelmingly could not care less that between 13,000 and 20,000 public servants will lose their jobs.

So they have decided overwhelmingly to reject all this even without an Opposition card on the table.

Now I could probably go on and some might also add some other policy areas but these suffice to make my point.

And of course we have a judge finding that members of a political party (The LNP) conspired with James Ashby to use the courts to bring a false claim against the speaker of the house with the eventual intent of bringing down the government. Do I take it that this means nothing to the electorate?

Or do I argue that the average punter has not yet had enough information to make a considered judgement and the ramifications of what a vote for the coalition might mean in real terms? Is the poll seriously suggesting that the electorate has already overwhelmingly rejected all of these policies? That none are worth a pinch? Could it mean that they don’t care and they simply dislike a women in The Lodge and are prepared to forgo any policy at all? It could also mean that the bias of the press and the media in general has been extremely persuasive. And how does one explain the turn a round in the popularity of Tony Abbott from one the most disliked opposition leaders ever, to being more popular than the Prime Minister? You simply cannot.

So all this is strange. There was a Morgan Poll after Christmas that showed the government one percentage point behind the opposition. Was it so far out as to be worthless? On the Café Whisper’s blog in the piece There’s something odd about the Nielson Poll the writer lists in chronological order the political events since Christmas and suggests that there is nothing out of the ordinary that might be a reason for Labor’s demise in the polls. I agree, except that the manner in which the media reported them demonstrated a bias that colours the public’s perception of both the Prime Minister and her Government. The resignation of two ministers was but one example. The media response to this was a complete and utter disgrace and the ABC were at the forefront. And of course there is the ever present Rudd challenge that has developed into some sort of media fetish. Every article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but there is little of it and they are full of unsupported statements. It has reached the point in this country where the media believes its own unsubstantiated bullshit. It has gone from reporting news to making it and in the process prostituted itself.

Could it be that opinion polls are about a perception in time and not a reality of it? Going by this one, hundreds of thousands of people came back from their Christmas holidays after giving much of their time to deep thoughts on the political process and decided that Tony was a good bloke after all. If I were a swinging voter how could I reasonably be expected to say who I might vote for? I would inclined to say: “More info please”.

Opinion polls are now the news. Bring on the next one. WHOOPS, sorry I said that.

And an afterthought. Why not simply ask this question: “How to you think the Coalition’s policies stack up against the governments?” That might confuse the punters.

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Welcome to The Australian Independent Media Network

The idea of The Australian Independent Media Network sprung up overnight in response partly to this quote from the Under the radar article on the Café Whispers blog:

Isn’t it a great pity that excellent articles are being written in the Fifth Estate that slip under the radar into oblivion? Isn’t it also a great pity that this will continue to happen? Isn’t it also a greater pity that such hard-hitting, truth-telling articles will forever be drowned out by our hysterical, manipulative, dishonest, sensationalist, gutless, unfair and unbalanced media in this country?

Has there ever been a greater need for the Fifth Estate to join forces? If we don’t, a lot of what we write will continue to slip under the radar.

And capped off with this comment under the blog topic:

One fears that it will not be an evidence-based election, but there is plenty of evidence that it will be a fear-based one. Our strategies for getting the message across needs lots of thought and discussion like this post provides.

The idea of a representative body for Australian bloggers has been tossed around for a couple of years but it had never really taken hold. Tim Dunlop’s article in The Drum last October titled Media pass: citizen journalists need an industry body emphasised the need for something to be done. The introduction to the article reads:

Australian bloggers have a lot to offer in public debate, but an independent body is needed to establish the credibility and increase the exposure of our citizen journalists.

We are now at that point.

Over the coming days and weeks you’ll see this site take shape and the network develop, followed by what we endeavour to be quality, unbiased, balanced, independent journalism. Goodness knows this country needs some.

The Australian Independent Media Network: Build it and they will come.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

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