Tristan Ewins, September 4, 2011
Reading Melbourne’s ‘Herald-Sun’ today this author was reminded of just how far the Murdoch media (and other media interests) have been willing to descend in order to destabilise the Federal Labor government in Australia.
The means to achieve this include monopolisation of the print media market in
Apparently, however, the flattening of tax scales, deregulation of the labour market, assaults on trade unions, and the dual phenomena of privatisation and user-pays – which see wealth redistributed from ‘battlers’ to the wealthy - ‘do not count as class war’ for the Herald-Sun, Daily Telegraph – and other vehicles of Murdoch propaganda.
One headline proclaimed “Flying into Rage grounds refugees”.
Much of the monopoly media in
The monetary costs of detention, and on one occasion the cost of flying refugees to the funerals of their family members (after the
And yet there has been precious little mention of the violence of incarceration which has driven so many detainees to the point of self-harm – and on many occasions now even to suicide. Rarely ever is the question put seriously: In a country of well over 20 million what ‘cultural threat’ are a few thousand refugees supposed to pose?
Whatever flaws there have been in Labor’s asylum-seeker policies (and there have been many): so much of the monopoly media have chosen to portray the High Court’s recent decision on offshore processing as ‘yet another’ confirmation of the government’s ‘incompetence’; its ‘loss of authority’; its ‘instability’ – and as further cause for an early election.
To begin, the authors emphasised the “dysfunctional state of the federal Labor Party”, reiterating the ‘official’ line intended to wear down confidence in Labor, and erode Labor’s core base -via ‘cultural attrition’ over the long term; and promote instability.
That said: again the Herald-Sun attempted to ‘cover its bases’. With some of the media having been willing to suggest the viability of a Rudd leadership-challenge to ‘revive’ Labor’s fortunes – but only so far as to create instability in the current context - again now the authors attempted also to prepare the ground to meet any such ‘new threat’. While such rumours are intended to destabilise, Rudd himself ‘would ultimately have to be dealt with’ were they ever to ‘come to fruition’.
Finally: a brief and isolated quote from Gillard was represented in an attempt to maintain the fiction of balance and inclusiveness:
So what should Labor conclude from all this?
To begin Labor needs itself to recognise the increasing tendency that liberal pluralism in this country is becoming nothing but a convenient legitimising fiction. As is the accompanying fiction that billionaire media proprietors ‘do not intervene’ in the editorial policies of their ‘assets’.
Just as when - for whatever reason - Channel Ten seemed to be ‘going against the trend’ - adopting a moderately and relatively leftist profile – multi-billionaires Murdoch, Reinhart and Packer intervened. Almost overnight the political profile of the network began to change. Right-populist writer Andrew Bolt was given his own program; and employed regularly in other contexts as a political and social commentator. While direct intervention has not been proven surely it seems a credible supposition.
The direct cultural power of big capital was also underscored by the earlier scuttling of the original ‘Rudd era’ ‘Resource Super-Profits Tax’ (RSPT); assaulted by a massive media propaganda campaign by the mining giants to destroy the policy and ‘send a clear message to Labor.’ Somehow the threat of an investment strike has been internalised alongside the fiction of liberal and democratic pluralism – despite the fact that the one is in contradiction with the other.
The original Resource Super-Profits Tax could have rectified this nation’s “two speed economy”; diverting some windfall mining profits (from the natural resources belonging to all Australians) to bolster superannuation, and support manufacturing, tourism and education. This at a time when a high Australian dollar is ‘supercharging’ mining industry profits; but undermining other exports. (that is, industries that between them employ many times more people than the mining industry)
Attempts to promote media-diversification would no-doubt be (ironically) depicted as ‘assaults on free speech’. But the tendency towards monopolisation in Australian media – and the abuse of that power - is itself an assault upon the inclusiveness of our public sphere. And such inclusiveness is itself a precondition for genuine democracy.
But in the process the government must be careful not to reproduce the same kind of abuses as those they would be seeking to challenge. Rules regarding “fit and proper” people to own media could set a dangerous precedent. Today the power of wealth contracts and shackles the public sphere: backed by state recognition and enforcement of the ‘rights’ that accompany wealth. But EXCESSIVE or inappropriate state regulation of media could also set a dangerous precedent which could ‘come back to haunt’ the Left; providing a pretext for ideological censorship.
Cross-ownership laws need to be tightened and effective monopolies broken up.
Certainly that would be a start.
We need at least two major players in every significant market: effectively representing a wide and inclusive spectrum of viewpoints. This includes more specialised markets: for instance whether we speak of tabloids or broadsheets.
But we need a more pro-active policy as well.
But to achieve the end of real and effective diversification – a real shift of cultural power – and in favour of diversity and inclusion - the scheme would need to apply in the billions - or at least hundreds of millions. A ‘token’ scheme would not achieve that. (Pls note again, though: I am providing only very rough estimates here as the author does not have access to such modelling as to accurately determine what would be necessary)