Another day, another incompetency…must be Australia post 2007.
Ray Finkelstein is apparently a fine commercial lawyer, at least according to Wikipedia. That is the best that can be said about his chairmanship of the Independent Media Inquiry and its report.
Its report is absolute drivel, and one has to question the competency of his assistant Professor Matthew Ricketson, who is a professor in journalism, to be training future journalists.
The key recommendation is that $2,000,000 p.a. should be spent on a regulatory authority that would “create accountability”.
There is no clear definition of what that “accountability” should be, but as there will be no right to appeal the decisions of the authority, we may never really know anyway.
However one thing we can be sure of: $2M will be insufficient to its needs because the scope for complaints to it is so large that it will be adjudicating on every web page on every politician’s website.
The new body, to be called “The News Media Council”, will have the right to regulate not just traditional media, but online media as well. That will include opinion and analysis, which of course includes On Line Opinion.
But not just On Line Opinion, but every blog in our blog network, and each of the politician’s websites that we publish for various Liberal, Labor and Greens politicians.
The News Media Council will be required to adjudicate on complaints against news websites. Can you imagine how these will escalate during an election campaign?
The council will have the right to require sites to publish retractions and to give people a right of reply. Can you imagine Andrew Bartlett publishing a piece by a climate sceptic, or Julie Bishop a piece by Bob Carr because they have been found to have been unbalanced in what they have published?
Finkelstein has a fundamental problem understanding democracy and the role that free expression plays in it. While it is fair enough that the ABC is required to play an even-handed game because it is publicly funded it is nonsense to require any other media source to do the same thing.
Media are an essential part of democracy, but that doesn’t mean they should be regulated by the government any more than any other actor should be. They can’t be forced to conform to external norms of fairness without losing their inherent democratic character.
If I cast my ballot a particular way because that is what my father or my mother or my wife or my child or a government agency would have wanted, it ceases to be my ballot.
Same thing if I publish views that I don’t agree with because I am forced to.
Indeed, the report recognises that regulation has made little difference to the “problems” identified in its report.
Put more directly, the problems identified in this report have not occurred because the media have been unregulated—to the contrary, both the press and broadcast media have been and are regulated in Australia.
But having acknowledged that regulation doesn’t work it then jumps to the conclusion that more regulation is required.
That the problems persist provides clear evidence that the current regulatory arrangements need strengthening to improve their effectiveness.
Wrong. It either proves that these aren’t problems, or that they inhere in the human condition.
But humanity is not of the essence of Finkelstein’s monster.