March 04, 2012 | Graham

Finkelstein’s monster

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?

No, neither can I, but both and would be caught by this report and both of the authors could face contempt of court if they didn’t comply.

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.

Posted by Graham at 11:23 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Another nail in the coffin of this incompetent Gov. Let me say it so a monkey can understand it “The internet has made any form of censorship a nonscence, redundant, a dinosaur… the word ‘censorship’ should be stricken from the dictionary. Electronic media is light years aheasd of brainless morons in Gov. If the internet was available in WW2, Hitler would have lost the war in 6 days not 6 years.
    Are we all clear ?. This is just a nonsenece attempt at orwellian methodologies and another way to throwing money into a black hole. For god sake, get these people out of Gov before we go the way of Greece.

    Comment by john neeting — March 5, 2012 @ 10:59 am

  2. This is exactly why this site; has just formed.Log on and sign the petition against this growing fascism.

    Bob Carr is a great supporter of the original US Constitution but both Bush and Obama have trashed it with presidential signing orders.Bob Carr is the one intellectual we should all put pressure on.Let’s see if he has the courage of his convictions.

    Comment by Ross — March 5, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  3. john neeting, censoring the internet is perfectly possible. indeed,Paypal [ebay] and credit card companies are in the process of doing that by refusing to process payments to internet booksellers whose catalogues contain works of fiction that include rape, incest, bestiality and anything else of which they disapprove. This would, of course be the death knell for independent authors of all works, in all fictional genres, not only those of which the finance houses disapprove, because without the independent publishers of e-books, they’re stuffed.

    Comment by Saki — March 6, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  4. This kind of thing really drives home how little some public figures ‘get’ the whole ‘internet revolution’ thing all the kids are talking about.

    Of course rather than educate our children to think critically about information, teach them to identify bias and to be mindful of the appeal to authority fallacy re: even ‘official’ media outlets, we should instead regulate from the top down to ensure they’ll never need these skills.

    Comment by Graham Thomas — March 15, 2012 @ 9:54 am

  5. The 474-page monster report is full of academic and bureaucratic drivel, totally irrelevant to its main recommendation of government regulation in enforcing standards through a council. Who decides the standards and decides when they have been breached? Stooges no doubt. Apparently anyone can lodge a complaint and initiate regulatory action. The government enforcement process is sufficiently bureaucratic to suppress or delay the release of any useful information to the public.

    If the government really wants to counter mis-information in public media. why not finance an organisation dedicated to “media watch”, which could damage the credibility of any organisation which systematically mis-inform the public. The public has all the facts and can make up its own mind.

    Comment by Lyonwiss — March 16, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  6. Interesting idea Lyonwiss, but what about the ABC’s Media Watch? It shows what happens when you try to damage the credibility of organisations. You end up being completely opaque and arbitrary. My post on Jennifer Marohasy’s post gives you clear evidence of that

    Comment by Graham — March 16, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

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