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Tag Archives: Journalism

Inquiry’s bumpy ride awaits, after tech giants’ “blackmail” tactics

As the Senate inquiry into the Digital Media Code began on Friday, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has expressed her displeasure over the lack of negotiating spirit Facebook and Google have brought to the halls of Parliament in Canberra.

In fact, after Day 1’s proceedings were completed, Hanson-Young, in her role of chairing the Senate inquiry, gave the Silicon Valley tech media giants an almighty serve in response to their testimonies.

Hanson-Young even went as far to express that their tactics of sticking to their own principles threaten an essential pillar of democracy in Australia, that of a free press.

And Hanson-Young, in return, has shown the Senate inquiry’s challengers that she is ready to wage a toe-to-toe battle, or even a bumpy ride, to fight for better journalism in Australia.

“We know that Australians value good quality journalism in this country. And in order to make good quality journalism in this country sustainable [to this point], we’ve needed to pay for it,” Hanson-Young said after the opening day’s formal presentations.

“The tech giants have been getting away with it for far too long, and with very little regulation, and one of the results is that journalism in this country is suffering,” she added.

Moreover, Google – through testimony and statements provided by Mel Silva, its managing director in Australia and New Zealand – has threatened to geo-block its services to Australian users should the Digital Media Code Bill come to fruition.

“The principle of unrestricted linking between websites is fundamental to search and coupled with the unmanageable financial and operational risk,” Silva said.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.

“This is our worst-case scenario, we do not want to be in this situation, we would love to get to an outcome where there is a workable outcome for all parties,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hanson-Young views Google’s position as a devious negotiating tactic equivalent to holding Australian users over a barrel.

“We are going through elements of the legislation, and there may be elements that need to be tweaked,” Hanson-Young admitted, in fairness.

“But I’ll tell you what – you don’t walk into the Australian Parliament, even if you’re among the biggest companies in the world, and especially if you’re not paying tax in this country, and blackmail the Australian Parliament and expect to get your way,” she added.

 

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, holding tech giants to account in chairing an inquiry into the Digital Media Code Bill (Photo from abc.net.au)

 

Silva said during the opening day’s testimonies that Google has a history of negotiating with other countries to cut deals and bring about compromises with media companies and news publishers where the latter groups get financially compensated but at rates that are suitable to them.

“There is, however, a workable solution for Google where we would pay publishers for value, they would create and curate content and panels that would exist across several Google services. These are deals that have been done all around the world, 450 so far,” said Silva.

Meanwhile, Facebook has adopted a similar stance to that of their Silicon Valley tech neighbours, also threatening to cease with publishing links and stories from Australian media providers upon passage of the Digital Media Code.

If this exists as a virtual case of Facebook unfriending Australian content consumers, Simon Milner, vice president of public policy at Facebook, sees it as his company’s unwavering corporate policy.

Milner told the inquiry that his company had three concerns about the proposed legislation and that a possibility of a series-circuit or daisy-chain effect could ensue, starting with the mandating of commercial arrangements with every Australian media publisher.

“The sheer volume of that we regard as unworkable,” Milner maintains, in defence of Facebook’s position.

Milner also says that his company has issues with the nature of negotiations between parties as being one of binding arbitration versus an open system of good faith negotiations, leading to a non-differentiation clause.

That clause essentially means that prevents one of the tech companies, such as Facebook, from offering commercial terms to certain publishers and changing how content is displayed regardless of whatever deals have been agreed to or not.

“It means if one publisher is out, [then] all Australian publishers are out,” Milner said.

Hanson-Young rejects the notions of the tech giants, seeing their positions as untenable towards the big picture of striking fair deals for Australia’s media companies.

“If you ever needed an example of what big corporate power looks like, this is it,” Hanson-Young said.

“This is a failure of the market – and it’s about time that we regulate big tech, and it’s about time that we ensure that big corporations do not continue to have such a stronghold over democracy,” she added.

At present, amounts of collective remunerations have been debated, although those in the mainstream press – such as Nine chairman Peter Costello and News Corp Austral-Asia CEO Michael Miller – have bandied about $600 million to $1 billion as being the appropriate figures.

With the inquiry is set to continue this week, Hanson-Young said that while negotiations between the government and the tech giants may be inevitable, the Digital Media Code is a much-needed element of overall media reform, and possesses a far-reaching impact.

“The way we ensure that is to ensure that all of this country’s outlets, no matter whether it’s The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, or any of the local country newspapers, the ABC, the public broadcasters, that their content created by those journalists and media agencies is actually paid for,” Hanson-Young said.

“These big tech giants have been taking this content, and using it as a part of its business model to make big profits from it for far too long.

“It has to change,” she added.

 

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An Open Letter to Fairfax Media Limited

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

To whom it may concern,

A great deal has been said about the media in Australia of late, especially with regard to political coverage. Most of it has been necessarily and appropriately critical. Many Australians feel that the media has failed them and continues to do so. Not even the people’s ABC has been spared, and rightly so. Its coverage of the current election campaign has been little more than a failed social experiment in journalistic sloth. Essentially reblogging stories from other news outlets regarding polls conducted by those news outlets is hardly journalism. Nor is posting Twitter feeds in the place of actual analysis. But you, Fairfax, are not innocent in this or removed from the public’s critical glare. Fairfax News unashamedly joined the Julia Gillard lynch mob and cheered at the gallows. The negativity that the Gillard Government faced from the MSM, right across the board, was unrelenting. Your anti-Labor leanings have noticeably softened with her departure, but there is still a great deal of work to be done if any kind of balance is to be restored to the presentation of political information and opinion in this country. I presume you care about that.

You would be studiously aware, no doubt, that the main focus of the public’s criticism has been News Corp. The reasons for that are as obvious as the glaring and daring headlines, transparent and tenacious as they’ve been in driving the Murdoch agenda to seat Tony Abbott in the Lodge. It’s surely incontrovertible that the Murdoch press has fully embraced the philosophy and modus operandi of the Tabloid Press. Australia has been confronted for too long with the jaundiced jabbering of pseudo-journalists of the Gemma Jones ilk, who would be far more appropriately assigned to writing gossip columns. Mind you, the difference between that and what is presently being offered as news is one measured in yoctometres. That the Murdoch Media Machine has made this choice, taking some of Australia’s most respected print media outlets with it, is plain enough. What may not be so obvious is the potential benefit that exists for Fairfax in this betrayal of all things intellectually and morally credible.

The gleeful abandon with which the Murdoch Press has thrown off the shredded rags of any vestigial sense of journalistic integrity has been most unedifying. Aren’t there laws about disrobing in public? But whilst the journalists of News Limited indulge in their collective streak across the playing field of Australia’s media landscape, a task goes unattended. A void has been created in the news market in this country, as well as in the hearts and minds of politically engaged and concerned Aussies. That void is simply one of reasoned, objective journalism that does not ignore the code of professional ethics governing it, but instead takes pride, both professional and personal, in adhering to it with consistent authenticity. It is that of a media that does not attempt to obfuscate the difference or blur the line between journalism and commentary or opinion; a media that does not set out to manipulate the perspective or emotions of its readers when reporting news; a media that seeks to report news rather than be the news.

I put it to Fairfax News that they have an opportunity to take that market share and fill that commercial and emotional void. Yes, news is resource heavy and doesn’t attract the profits enjoyed by other facets of the media, but no price can be put on the status and pathos afforded a respected and trusted news service. I assert in the strongest possible terms that in what is commonly known as the Mainstream Media, no such news service exists. You only have to look at the social standing of journalists to know this is true. People simply no longer trust you. And that is nothing less than a cultural tragedy – one that we ignore at our peril.

The demand for real, balanced, ethical journalism is alive and well. Australians all over this land are crying out for it – into their beers and into their keyboards, or in some cases both things simultaneously. The market for it is genuine and not just something artificially generated by the ephemeral passion and pandemonium of an election campaign. The significant rise of alternative on-line information sources is testament to this fact. Rest assured that if the Coalition should prevail on September 7 much of the public is excruciatingly aware – and some of it dangerously and naively unaware – that the Murdoch media empire will not provide the sort of scrutiny of Government that the people of this Nation require and deserve. Current circumstances make that patently clear. Neither the Murdoch press nor the Coalition are going to look that particular gift horse of reciprocity in the mouth. If they did, the stench of the halitosis might well render them as catatonic as Tony Abbott in an awkward interview.

This is a defining moment, I believe, not only in Australia’s political history, but also in its media history. Fairfax has the opportunity to capture not only a specific share of this media market, but also a place deep in the spirit of average Australians. It’s an opportunity for Fairfax to reverse, or at least mitigate the trend of cynicism directed at Australia’s media with respect to news and political coverage in particular. This is not hubris, nor is it excess maudlinism. It’s real. The need is real. The demand for that need to be met is real. Can Fairfax enter that reality?

Now, you may feel you already have a place there, and it’s true that to some extent you do, but you must surely also appreciate that the larger market share for real news and real journalism is not a mere abstraction but something tangible and there for the taking. This particular market, made available by Murdoch’s deliberate and seemingly joyous relinquishment of it, doesn’t require capital investment; it requires intellectual and moral investment. All it takes for that market to be in your hands is to heed the calls of the people and to meet their demands for better quality political journalism. I believe Murdoch has handed this opportunity to you on a gold plated, solid silver platter. Even Bargain Hunt couldn’t put an estimate on its value.

You have before you the opportunity to be the news service that Australians trust uppermost. You have the opportunity to return the craft of journalism to a place of respect in our communities. Please don’t underestimate or dismiss the significance of the absence of that trust and respect in Australian society. It has been socially cancerous. Cynicism is cancerous. Who can the people trust? It seems not the politicians. Nor is it anymore those whose brief it is to cut through the jungle of Machiavellian Madness and give us some clear, unbiased and informed vision into that which effects our everyday lives. There was a time when journalists appeared to feel the moral weight of meaningfully and objectively informing the community. There is a certain sentimental yearning running through the Australian psyche right now with regard to that time. You can either tap into that sentiment and become culturally relevant, or you can strip off and let it all hang out with the cavorting clowns of the Murdoch Circus.

As far as I can tell, only one of those options comes at any real cost.

The mainstream media has gone stark raving mad

It’s official. The mainstream media has gone stark raving mad.

This article was published in the Age today:

For the sake of the nation, Ms Gillard should stand aside

Let me preface this post by saying that I take great pride in writing a blog using my own name. I am Victoria Rollison and these are my opinions. For some people, writing under a pseudonym is their only option. I understand that. But what I don’t understand is why this piece of junk article has no byline on it. It implies it has been written by a newspaper. But we all know newspapers are just mechanisms for delivering words. They are where news articles are published. Newspapers can’t actually write, because newspapers don’t have a brain. Someone, or some people wrote this article and I don’t understand why they are not proud enough of their words to put their name to them. Perhaps they think it gives the piece more gravitas to sound like it’s been written by some higher force, some all knowing being which has more power than just some journalist, editor or media executive hack. I’m calling this out for the bullshit it is. There is no higher power and why the f*ck should there be in a democracy? This piece has nothing to do with the interests of Australia. It has everything to do with the interests of Fairfax media and their unrelenting campaign to bring down Julia Gillard, our first female Prime Minister. Emphasis on the word FEMALE. Also emphasis on the Prime Minister’s title which is, more often than not, left off Julia Gillard’s name in pieces throughout the mainstream media, including this one.

I would have thought this an obvious point to make, but it seems I have to make it anyway for the benefit of those people who decided to take it upon themselves to write this article: it’s not Fairfax’s role to decide who our Prime Minister is. Fairfax should be telling us the news. Not trying to make it. And since they’ve failed at telling us the news for many years now, who the f*ck do they think they are calling on the Prime Minister to resign as if it’s up to them decide? It reminds me of John Howard’s arrogant statement about asylum seekers:

‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.’

Fairfax are saying exactly the same thing to readers about our Prime Minister. They think it’s their job to decide. This failed media outlet with a failed business model think they are going to play king maker with Kevin Rudd. So it’s beholden to bloggers like me to remind Fairfax of one major flaw in their reasoning as to why they think the Prime Minister should stand down. After saying some complimentary things about Prime Minister Gillard’s performance over the past three years, they announce that her message just isn’t getting through and this is why they’ve decide it’s time for her to go. Excuse me if I just lie down for a moment because I’m overcome with the irony and ridiculousness of this concept.

Why is Gillard’s message not getting through Fairfax? Might it be because you’ve been on a campaign to cause a leadership spill for the past three years, which has completely obliterated any focus on Gillard’s policy successes and the amazing work she has done in reforming this country, and therefore you are saying that because you, and your mainstream media colleagues have ignored policy in favour or rumour and innuendo that undermines the Prime Minister, you have caused a situation where Gillard’s message isn’t getting through? If you don’t see how you’ve created this circular reference, the Mobius strip of leadership tension, then you don’t have the intellectual capacity to be commenting on this situation.

To make this article even more ridiculous, your campaign to undermine the Prime Minister is just making you look desperate. Not Julia Gillard. We know you have a week left to try to get Kevin Rudd back into the Lodge. There’s no news in the fact Kevin Rudd wants to get back into the Lodge. Despite this, and despite the one failed challenge where it was revealed Rudd didn’t even come close to having the support of his Labor Party colleagues and the second aborted attempt where Rudd didn’t even challenge because he already knew he didn’t have the support of his Labor Party colleagues, you still keep flogging this dead horse like a desperate dumped boyfriend who doesn’t get his calls returned.

Maybe if you provided a quality product – full of interesting facts, analysis and real journalism – your business model wouldn’t be in such a dire position. Perhaps if you had made some correct choices in your editorial narrative over the past three years, you wouldn’t need to now be disrespecting your audience to the point where you think you decide who leads this country, all in a quest to sell more papers.