If you have been paying any sort of attention to the media or pub talk over the past week or so, you could easily be forgiven for think that we have a free and independent press in this country, and that a shareholder wanting to have a seat on the board is one of the greatest threats to democracy this country has ever seen.
Though is it really?
First of all, it shouldn’t be too strange to see that most of this is coming from the media itself, mimicked by boffins in government who like the things the way that they are. After all it is only the media themselves who believe that they are the Fourth Estate, boasting that the media’s function is to act as a guardian of the public interest and as a watchdog on the activities of government.
Putting aside any personal opinion that you may have of Gina Rinehart and her desire to get a seat or seats on the Fairfax board, lets look at this objectively and from another angle.
With the exception of the taxpayer funded ABC and SBS, and privately owned 9 Network, the other media outlets in this country are publicly listed companies. 11 out of 12 of Australia’s capital city daily newspapers are owned by either News Limited or Fairfax.
Why should we treated these media companies any differently than those other companies that are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange?
With all the media excitement that is surrounding the recent additional sittings of the flood inquiry, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that the truth about the Queensland flood of 2011 will finally come to light.
This would be the case, if it weren’t for a few seemingly obvious points that Queensland’s media has been complicit in covering up and thereby allowing the current regime to further hoodwink the public.
First and foremost, this flood inquiry isn’t a Royal Commission. To say that it is a Commission of Inquiry with all the powers of a Royal Commission isn’t really the same as actually having a Royal Commission in the first place.
The terms of reference are far too narrow to be effective. Let’s take a moment and compare this to the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission.
The terms of reference for that Royal Commission were:
FOR THE PURPOSE of inquiring into and reporting on the following matters:
- The causes and circumstances of the bushfires which burned in various parts of Victoria in late January and February 2009 (“2009 Bushfires”).
- The preparation and planning by governments, emergency services, other entities, the community and households for bushfires in Victoria, including current laws, policies, practices, resources and strategies for the prevention, identification, evaluation, management, and communication of bushfire threats and risks.
- All aspects of the response to the 2009 Bushfires, particularly measures taken to control the spread of the fires and measures taken to protect life and private and public property, including but not limited to:
(a) immediate management, response and recovery;
(b) resourcing, overall coordination and deployment; and
(c) equipment and communication systems.
- Measures taken to prevent or minimise disruption to the supply of essential services such as power and water during the 2009 Bushfires.
- Any other matters that you deem appropriate in relation to the 2009 Bushfires.
Now compare this to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.
That is the headline of an opinion piece in today’s Courier-Mail.
The second paragraph of the piece says.
Newspapers have a clear task to ask questions, scrutinise and report on behalf of the people who each day pay to read its pages. Newspapers that fail to do this do not stay in business.
Now unless I am really mistaken here, a newspaper’s longevity is based on it’s ability to secure advertiser’s to ply their wares on the pages within. It has nothing to do with the quality, integrity, or informativeness of the articles contained within. With no other serious competition in this state, the Courier-Mail can pretty much publish what they want and people will still buy it.
This paper is justifying the publication of a piece over the weekend highlighting a conflict of interest that one of the deputy commissioners of the flood inquiry, as confirmation of their duty to keep readers informed.
The opinion piece goes on further to say The newspaper has an obligation to report the facts to its readers without fear or favour. That duty was exercised on Saturday.
The piece ended with the following:
Readers can rest assured that The Courier-Mail will continue to take seriously its role to question, scrutinise and report to its readers.
It is a duty that the newspaper has never taken for granted.
This is the biggest load of rhetoric and doublespeak that I have ever read in my life. As I have written previously, the media is complicit in the perversion of democracy and has failed in it’s above mentioned obligation.