The Great Debate.

Jimmy :Carter and Gerald Ford in a debate, September 23, 1976.

Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in a debate, September 23, 1976.

What you’ll find below is athe closing argument that I wrote for a debate held in my media Law and Ethics class from my TAFE Media and Communications Diploma.  My team and I were given the unenviable position of arguing against the Convergance Report on Media Ownership.  It wasn’t a particularly appetising argument, but we did pretty well I thought. Anyway, hope you enjoy a little bit of vitirol with your morning coffee!

 More to follow, out.

Ladies and gentleman, over the last several hours you’ve heard my esteemed teammates and the heathen devils of the opposition go back and forth in a debate over the relative merits of the Convergence Report into Australian Media Regulation and whether the reports findings are something that deserves to be put into law.

You’ve heard the side arguing for, and you’ve heard the side arguing against and hopefully you’re smart enough to put two and two together and come to the only logical conclusion.  That the Convergence report is an unnecessary and unwanted piece of government meddling in an industry that has managed to take care of itself for a number of years and that doesn’t require the heavy handed intervention of a flailing and limp wristed Labor Government intent on neutering the media and reducing any legitimate criticism that comes from one of Democracies greatest components, a free and healthy press.

I’d love to know how any additional pieces of ownership law being placed on an already regulated process could somehow magically mean less regulation.  ACMA ownership rules alongside the ACCC’s strict pro-competition powers mean that the public interest is already being well served.  It’s not like either of these two institutions are toothless in any way.  To quote the Media CEO’s letter to the Government; “No one has ever suggested that the ACCC is anything other than independent or influenced inappropriately by any respondent to its inquiries, reviews and approvals. It is a ferociously independent in its operation and quite fearless as demonstrated over a long operational and decision making history.”

Sounds pretty independent to me.  Also sounds pretty effective.

It would also be nice to know who it is that is considering what is or isn’t in the publics best interest?  Would it perhaps be a Labor Government that is struggling in the polls, a death rattle slowly escaping from its throat?  And if a Liberal Government is to succeed the current Government then what failsafes are in place so that the public interest test doesn’t instead become a litmus test for what kind of heavy handed approach each Government is likely to take in regards to media ownership.  What constitutes the public interest?  The Convergence Report is predictably low on detail.

What’s to say that this independent tribunal is going to be independent?  Who makes the appointments to this board?  What Government of the day is going to resist with meddling, claiming that they are making their decisions “for the good of the country and its people”. More like for the good of the Ministers or individuals making these critical decisions.

Did you know that the UK has introduced a Public Interest Test for media purchases?  When Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp made a bid via it’s BSkyB holdings to purchase ITV stock the British Government regulator approved the sale, while in the same breath claiming that it would increase News Corps control of British media to an uncomfortable degree.  With typical bureaucratic efficiency it would be 3 years and countless hours and pounds spent on court proceedings before the regulator would decide if the purchase of a small amount of shares, and in fact ordered the sale of half.  Ladies and gentlemen, your public interest test at work!

Frankly the fact that our Government has decided that Australians are either too stupid or too lazy to decide what media they do or don’t consume is the most appalling take away of the Convergence report.  The last time I checked we lived in a democracy.  When did it becomes a Governmental concern as to who purchases a media outlet?  If there intention is to stop one person having too much of an impact or reach via media holdings perhaps they should look at themselves first?  Because by deciding who is or isn’t fit enough to own a media outlet aren’t they in effect doing exactly the thing that they intend for the Convergence Report to fight, to stop one person or group having too much power?

In closing, it’s plain to see that the Convergance review has been nothing more than Government meddling in an otherwise upstanding and well run and regulated industry.  After months of reports of internal strife and backbiting the Gillard Government has decided to take it’s frustrations out on the only thing it felt it could bully into submission, the Media industry. 

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