One argument being put around following the passage of the new laws that will allowing fewer people to control even more of our mainstream media outlets is that ready availability to the Internet makes this further concentration of ownership and control of ‘old media’ like television and newspapers less of a problem. I’d be interested to know what you think.
Matt Price in The Australian (a Murdoch paper for anyone who doesn’t know) says that “like all journalists, he likes diversity”, but says he feels “eerily sanguine” (i.e. hopeful or positive) about the new laws. He states that newspaper circulation and free-to-air television are in decline and that “anyone with teenagers understands the future is online.” “Once broadband is bedded down, everyone everywhere will have instant access to everything.” (He also says that “few politicians understand the media” which really makes me want to respond by saying that “few journalists understand politics”, but I won’t.)
By contrast, the Chairman of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (which oversees corporate mergers), Mr Graeme Samuel, told the rushed Senate Inquiry into the new media laws that
“We think the internet is simply a distribution channel. It has not shown any significant signs at this point in time of providing a greater diversity of credible information and news and commentary. There is talk all the time …. of the establishment of web logs and the like, but in terms of credible news and information … you could probably conclude that at this point of time, at the early stages of the development of the internet, the primary sources of news, information and the like still are your mainstream sources”
It is also worth noting that the new media laws will probably also lead to greater concentration in ownership of the main news and opinion content sites on the internet and the technology for delivering other new media in Australia.
Obviously if you’re reading this blog, you’re already a user of the internet and probably at least a bit interested in politics, so you’re far from an average person. However, a key aspect of the media diversity debate is the ability of the mass media to influence public opinion. Access to information is part of that, but so is the fact that way more people get most of their news through commercial television or The Courier-Mail, and their ability to gather and collate the information they then shape far outweighs that of independent media or websites.
So, what do you the reader think? As Matt Price says, politicians don’t understand the media, so perhaps you people out there in the electorate could educate me? Is the growth of new media going to negate the impact of the further narrowing of owners of the traditional commercial media outlets when it comes to information available to Australians? Do the majority of the public not really care enough about politics for it to matter anyway?