Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't Believe A Word He Says

AT THE AGE, where they publish any nonsense, Press Inquiry elf Rodney Tiffen has been handed a slice of the Opinion page to mislead, mostly by omission. A paper with editors, even a single editor, would have returned the submission marked with queries and requests for clarification. But not at the Age, where a self-serving summary of Finko & Rickety’s review is today presented without challenge.

TIFFEN: In Finkelstein's proposal, government's role would be limited to providing the funding and legislative framework. The composition of the News Media Council would be identical to the current Press Council's: half from the industry, half from the public. 

FINKO & RICKETY: 11.46 --  There should be an independent body to appoint the members of the News Media Council. Currently appointments to the APC are made by the council itself. That is not a particularly independent process. On the other hand, appointments made by an independent committee—that is, a committee that is independent from government—would be, and would be seen to be, independent. The committee could, for example, consist of three senior academics from tertiary institutions appointed by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee (now called Universities Australia) the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Solicitor-General for the Commonwealth. 

Well that settles who gets to pick the committee’s members. And what happens after that? Read on … 

FINKO & RICKETY:  11.47 -- The News Media Council should consist of a full-time independent chair and 20 part-time members. 

11.48 -- One half of the members appointed to the News Media Council should be selected from the public at large, being persons who have not had previous connection with the media. Public advertisements should call for candidates. The other half should be appointed from the media or from those who have worked in the media. The media representatives should exclude managers, directors and shareholders of media organisations. The candidates should be nominated by the media and MEAA.

That would be the same MEAA which has tapped Margo Kingston and Phillip Adams to serve as Walkley Award judges. But that is not Tiffen’s most striking representation, which comes in this nothing-to-see-here sentence: 

TIFFEN: The outcome -- if a complaint went to adjudication and was not settled by conciliation -- would be a statement published about the case. 

And if a publisher declined to print such a statement? 

FINKO & RICKETY: 11.77 -- ... if a regulated media outlet refuses to comply with a News Media Council determination the News Media Council or the complainant should have the right to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order compelling compliance. Any failure to comply with the court order should be a contempt of court and punishable in the usual way. This will be both a deterrent to breaching standards and, in the event of a complaint being made, will act as an incentive for media outlets to resolve the complaint through discussion.

If we did have a News Media Council along the lines envisioned, Tiffen's column would make him a very suitable case to be dragged before it -- where he would be judged by a panel selected by his academic mates.

UPDATE:  One more reason why Tiffen is not to be taken seriously:
"...the public broadcaster, the ABC, consistently ranks as the most trusted media organisation in the country."


  1. Why don't "THEY" just send offenders to one of GilLIARd browns soon to be set up GULAGS?

  2. There isn't much clarity in the recommendations as to how Council appointment (and for that matter termination) arrangements would actually work, although this is crucial to how independent the body might be. This may be simply muddled thinking (could a body like Universities Australia legally make appointments to Commonwealth public offices??) as opposed to deliberate obfuscation, but it's useful to note that the Australian Communications and Media Act 2005 (ACMA Act)gives significant powers to the Minister in regards to the appointment of some Authority members, the termination of members and giving directions to the Authority.

    Bob Brown was saying the other day on 'Meet the Press' that the recommendations of the report would simply provided the same regulatory framework for print and internet media as now applies to broadcasting under the ACMA Act, so presumably he is happy with the level of political control in that Act as a model for implementing the Finklestein recommendations.

    Consuela Potez

    1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 14, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      File the whole thing under 'Star Chamber - how to set up'.

      What a mockery of democracy. Let's hear it from the journalism students now please. Are you getting value for your money? Why not organise a protest? Are you just too brainwashed already? Or too intimidated by your markers to speak?

  3. The 21st century Brown Shirts are out in force at The Age in comments on Tiffen's piece, typically including the following:
    "In the interests of democracy, it is vital that the power of the press barons is broken, once and for all. If we value democracy and our basic rights, we MUST support the government in its efforts to bring the press barons to heel."

    " 'In government history, when there is potential for abuse, abuse has happened'."

    "In fact, the opposite is true. You see, governments ALWAYS enjoy a 'potential for abuse', but there are very few real examples of governments ACTUALLY abusing their powers - especially in Australia."
    "In standing up to the corporate bullies, our government is PROTECTING and ENHANCING our right to free speech, and it deserves the support of every Australian who values democracy."

    1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.March 15, 2012 at 12:26 AM

      How to get a journalism degree: here's some green wash; apply to your brain. Don't expect a job.

  4. Is 'trusted' synonymous with 'predictable'?