Category Archives: Finkelstein

Mayne On Industry Culture

10 Mar 2012.


Mayne On Industry Culture.

730reportland: We return to Melbourne as, retired judge Ray Finkelstein `hosts` the Australian Media Inquiry, with his `lovely assistant`, journalism academic, Matthew Ricketson.

Their `guest` today is Crikey Founder and a media mover and shaker. Welcome back to the `show`, Stephen Mayne.

MR FINKELSTEIN: There are ways of dealing with personality-driven consequences that don`t necessarily have to bring about structural changes,

or at least doesn`t have to bring about significant structural changes. Is that fair?

MR MAYNE: If I look at the Murdoch culture,

Rupert has a culture of loving people who will shake up the establishment and will shake up the town,

and he likes to gloat about the fact that he`s one of the few owners who is happy to go to the country club and cop the grief from people who are giving him stick.

I think he`s rewarded several of those types of characters who have had no respect whatsoever for the various ethical codes that run within the newspapers and with the MEAA and within the Press Council.


MR FINKELSTEIN: What is wrong with a proprietor of a newspaper or online news outlet, I don`t care which, taking a particular stand on a whole range of issues?

If I owned a media outlet, let`s say I owned an internet site,
and I decided that I was going to be
anti government no matter what the government was
that was in power, what`s wrong with me doing that?

730reportland: This part of the question is loaded.

Limited News spins everything Labor, Green or Independant as negative. Everything Liberal as good, or if too bad does damage control.
Limited News is just `Anti Government`? __ Pigs Arse.

Better questions here would be,

How much lobbying should a so-called news company do before it is classified as a political advertiser?

Are the rules for political advertising being met?

And, Why should a political advertiser or mere lobbying firm be entitled to any `Press Shield Laws` or `Secret Sources` or `Access` or other `Press` benefits?

MR MAYNE: There is nothing wrong with doing that, but if it`s apparent that your operation`s been involved in fairly wide-scale phone hacking, you wouldn`t make the woman involved chief executive of the company.


MR FINKELSTEIN: That might be just a one-off.

730reportland: Just a one-off? Bullcrap.

Florida 2000, UK phones and MET, Flannery, Posetti, Manne and `white` Aboriginals. From tram drivers to public servants and cities across at least 3 countries. The way Limited News treats people and distorts information, this can only be `their` corporate culture.

MR MAYNE: I`ve worked for the tabloids.

I`ve seen some very colourful characters being continually rewarded and promoted and celebrated. When I look back at their records and their approaches and the court findings and the defamation losses and the embarrassments, I`d say, "What does it take to actually be booted out of that company?" That is what I find quite amazing about the culture.


MR FINKELSTEIN: But would you accept this as a proposition, that unless there is a degree of widespread improper activity,

you can`t really think that you are going to make significant cultural behavioural changes in the proposed way to deal with the odd colourful character.

MR MAYNE: When you say the "odd colourful character"_

MR FINKELSTEIN: "Colourful character" are your words.

MR MAYNE: I don`t want to turn this into a long shopping list of "this editor is a cowboy" or that.

If you look at, for instance, News Limited, we had the whole James Hardie scandal, and one of the key executives involved was appointed general manager of public relations and is now the principal arguer for the company`s position in Australia, with a pretty big black cloud over the previous record.

If I were that proprietor, I would say, "I want someone with a pristine ethical corporate record being my spokesperson in the Australian market."


MR FINKELSTEIN: What I`m looking at is the whole industry and what I`m looking at is to see whether or not the whole industry ought to be forced to change in some particular respects.

I don`t know that I would be helped in looking at what should happen in the media for the next 10, 15 or 20 years by making assumptions or drawing general conclusions from what might be one-off episodes.

I`m more interested in seeing whether the press either works or doesn`t work, with the way that the press regulates itself works or doesn`t work- identify some systemic and real problem that needs change, but part of my remit is to work out whether newspapers are dead because of the internet and whether the government should be able to do anything about it and, if so, what.

It is probably a bit narrow, isn`t it, to approach it on the basis of what a particular editor did last year when I`m working out whether there is a problem that needs remedying?

MR MAYNE: This was started by phone hacking, which was company wide- it wasn`t just one particular editor.

I don`t want to get into a shopping list about it, but I think over a long period there`s been a lot of material that`s come out which has said sometimes there is a bit of a cultural issue there with abuse of power and poor practices and you do see a lot of bullying and people being done over, and you don`t see a lot of rights of reply and people getting their time to make a considered response.

You do get the treatment that Robert Manne received. You see a whole range of those practices- basically bullying behaviour against people who take a contrary view.

I`ve certainly experienced that directly for a number of years and I know many, many other people as well have, and I think that has been a bit of a problem for our democracy in terms of the independent umpire that`s meant to be informing the community in a democracy becoming the dominant power player in the community.


MR FINKELSTEIN: But you don`t expect a media outlet to play the role of an independent umpire, do you?

MR MAYNE: I think there is an element of that, particularly if you are a one-paper town. You need to strive to be quite neutral, given you have that extra responsibility of monopoly on newspaper sales.

I think absolutely in the press- all the codes of conduct talked about rights of reply and other people`s opinion. That`s very much embedded in many of the codes.

So whilst I have absolutely no problems with very strong partisan campaigns being run, it needs those checks and balances of alternative views and rights of reply and they are not just gratuitous campaigns being run.

In my view the Greens have suffered an incredible campaign, and you will have seen that submission from Bob Brown.


MR FINKELSTEIN: I have. What you seem to be raising, if I can put it this way, is you don`t mind partisan journalists or partisan ownership or partisan press, as long as there is some opportunity for the other side or the other view to be presented.

MR MAYNE: I am probably one of the most aggressive journalists around,

and I have a philosophy of taking on all comers. I just wish that the mainstream media outlets had the same approach, that they didn`t protect a particular interest or take a particular side; that they vigorously took on all comers and hold them to the basic principles of accountability, transparency, giving accurate information,

"if you stuff up, you`re out"- the role of the press to be fearless, to shake everybody up and take them all on, but that needs to be applied across the board and not just on particular targeted segments which is what seems to happen over time.

730reportland: I couldn`t agree more with Mayne and his philosophy. If this philosophy had been the standard practice, the current decaying news environment may not exist as it does today and, the distrusted status of Journalists and Media Companies may not have plummeted to the depths they have.

MR MAYNE: In the case of Fox News, it`s been a brilliant business decision. As a shareholder activist, I don`t criticise Fox News for a moment. It`s been an inspired business decision,

but don`t try and call it "fair and balanced". Just say it`s great propaganda and make a lot of money.


MR FINKELSTEIN: What`s the matter with having an outlet which is there as a propaganda piece_

MR MAYNE: That`s fine with me, as Fox News is, but it`s not 70 percent of the market. It`s not one voice; it`s a myriad of voices. In the US, there are dozens of newspaper proprietors, there are hundreds of channels, no issues with Fox News in my mind at all, except for the claim of
fair and balanced. I think it`s a blatant lie.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Is that to say that what you think is necessary by one method or another is that there is somewhere to be found the alternative view?



MR FINKELSTEIN: So that people like me who don`t produce the news but consume it are at least exposed to the proposition that this particular news outlet has a particular bias, but it is a view, not the view, and I go to another news outlet and get the other view.

MR MAYNE: Yes. It does go a bit too far when most of the Republican presidential nominees are current or former employees of News Corp. It gets too far to the extreme when that happens. Strictly speaking, Fox should get Democrats on.

730reportland: Mayne is incorrect here. Democrats refuse to go on Fox. They treat Fox for what it is. A lobbying outfit. Obama has even made wisecracks along the lines of_ If Obama said the sky is blue, the folks at Fox would find ways to argue Obama is wrong.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Why should they?

MR MAYNE: They say they will. They say they are fair and balanced. Say you are the official propaganda vehicle of the Republican Party. Just say that and be honest about it. Be honest, tell the truth, be upfront about what you are doing,

but to do that would then question the social licence around many of the other journalistic operations around the world which are presented as being more neutral, fair and balanced- and many of them are.

Sky News in the UK is a magnificent quality, neutral, professional service. It`s been a tremendous addition to the British democracy. It is amazing that the same company produces it, but they are the facts of the situation.

730reportland: The corrosive corporate culture of the global monster is raised here by Mayne. The carnivorous capitalism peddled by Fox is regurgitated in text by the-Australian. The irony that the-Australian is a welfare case within its own profit making group seems to show that `their` corrosive culture meddles with `their` sound business decisions.

The fully FOXified the-Australian actually has a choice within the Limited News empire from where to source some of `their` off-shore content. Their own corrosive corporate culture may be why the Fox donkey data is regularly regurgitated and Sky stuff is not.

This also applies to_

MR FINKELSTEIN: But provided there is diversity so that different available views are aired, isn`t that sufficient for our democratic society_

MR MAYNE: It is, but where is the diversity in Adelaide?

MR FINKELSTEIN: I said "provided". I am not saying_

MR MAYNE: But it`s not the case.

MR FINKELSTEIN: No, but if there were that.

MR MAYNE: Hypothetically, it would be fantastic, but we`re the most concentrated market in the world.


MR FINKELSTEIN: So what you see as the underlying problem is lack of diversity of views.

MR MAYNE: I think there are two problems. One is the concentration of power. The other is the culture and the ethical record within that particular company. When you put those two things together, you get quite a toxic mix, which I think is quite damaging to a democracy like Australia.

730reportland: Mayne has really nicely identified the `toxic-mix` here. I hope this sinks in with our `host`. This toxic mix is not only damaging to democracy but to quite a range of people and other topics as well. The toxic culture shows itself in so-called reporting of `environmental` issues relayed by the Green Party or Tim Flannery.

MR MAYNE: The company has done a lot of great things. The Manningham Leader in Manningham has been a really good local paper and owned by News Ltd, and there are absolutely no issues with that. So this is not a company-wide thing, but I just say that at the moment, looking at the way it operates, I`m very concerned that there is a proposal for News Limited to go to majority control of a monopoly pay TV operation in Australia. They are trying to buy it. AUSTAR is seeking FIRB approval and ACCC approval.

This inquiry, when it hears from as many different parties as possible, should make representations to the ACCC and to FIRB about whether it is appropriate for the 70 percent newspaper company to move to management control of pay TV monopoly in Australia- unprecedented anywhere in the world, and a very important issue for our democracy.

As a small, small anecdote of that, when Sky News operated out of Channel Nine in Melbourne, I used to go on once a month. When Sky News moved into the Herald Sun building, I`m banned, because I`m a voice not allowed to be heard out of the Herald Sun building. So for me to fulfil my contract with Sky, I have to fly to Sydney to appear, and that is an abuse of power by the dominant 70 percent newspaper company, which in my mind is indefensible.

730reportland: Oh dear. Their own corporate slogan of `Fair-and-Balanced` has not made it to this side of the Pacific, even though the donkey data has. Their corrosive culture has produced an unfair abuse of power toward Mayne here. It has also shredded their own corporate slogan.

MR FINKELSTEIN: When you started up Crikey, and for the period of time that you owned Crikey, I assume you expressed rather strong views on a variety of issues.

MR MAYNE: I certainly did, and I have a plan or a goal of "the bigger they are, the harder you go ". So whether it is Kerry Packer, Alan Jones, the Prime Minister, the Premier, I had an approach, which basically is a club busting approach, which is a take-on-power approach.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Did you leave out Federal Court judges?

MR MAYNE: Yes. I`m married to a barrister, so I learned that one very early.

730reportland: I smell chicken.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Thank goodness.

MR MAYNE: The relationship with News Limited is quite interesting to track in relation to that. I left on good terms, despite what The Australian editorial today says about me being a disgruntled former employee_

730reportland: Outstanding! The Limited News fact free corrosive culture can`t even be set aside today. They don`t even have the brains to not try and intimidate a witness or bad mouth Mayne on the day he is speaking to the Inquiry.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Never read the newspapers!

When you were running Crikey, you, I think, no doubt with justification, are quite proud that you took on those people who you wanted to take on. Would it be fair to say that there was very little that was even-handed or balanced to an outside viewer, like if I were to read all that stuff?

MR MAYNE: No, I would disagree with that. I think we pioneered the right of reply and the corrections approach to journalism unlike any other outlet had done.


MR FINKELSTEIN: What did you do?

MR MAYNE: I basically ran into a little bit of trouble early on with some defamation, and_


MR FINKELSTEIN: Do you mean as a defendant?

MR MAYNE: As a defendant. We lost our family home. It was an action that was tacitly supported by News Limited, which was an interesting element to our relationship. I basically worked out that it was an ethical approach to journalism that, if you are going to go someone, you absolutely have to give them a right of reply.

With the email delivery mechanism you can hit every single person you hit with the first one, and then get the right of reply exactly the same. At one point I published a 5,000-word attack by Terry McCrann, which was an amazing attack.



MR MAYNE: Yes, on me. I found that an amazing contrast where every time I put in a letter or tried to put comments in on Andrew Bolt`s blog or a letter to The Australian today, which I did, banned.

It shows total suppression of an alternative view.


DR RICKETSON: "Banned" meaning?

MR MAYNE: It was not mentioned, or not run. Herald Sun, banned for 12 years because I criticised them on in 1999. It is an amazing long-term grudge, but my approach always was that if anyone ever puts in a reply or had a whack back, absolutely give it a run because it is fair and mitigation of litigation. If you are given the right of reply, it`s much harder to prosecute a defamation case and it is also a reasonable thing to do and it is also good content.

I used to joke about: "we`ll host your fight". We`re Las Vegas. Come and have a fight. We`ll give everybody a say, and it is good viewing.

730reportland: Our `lovely-assistant` has just chipped in twice with perfect timing and lead-in query. Great job by Ricketson.

It is very interesting to compare the culture and ethics that Mayne tries to operate by and, the culture and non-ethics that seem to operate within the global dinosaur.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Although you personally, and maybe for a good business reason, think that encouraging debate in a single outlet is a good thing- and no doubt it is- would you go so far as to say that it ought to be compulsory?

MR MAYNE: No, it ought not be compulsory, but the internet opens up unlimited amounts of volume, so I think it is unreasonable that the Herald Sun has an operating guide for their moderators that says don`t publish criticisms of the Herald Sun, the Murdochs, or News Limited.


DR RICKETSON: Sorry, how do you know that?

730reportland: Ricketson kicks another goal. Excellent!

MR MAYNE: One of their moderators told me.

I was complaining about every time the Herald Sun does its predictable six-month attack on council CEO pay, I, as an elected councillor who respects management of councils, dutifully do my letter, which says that $300,000 doesn`t sound much,

but Rupert Murdoch earns more than all 89 council CEOs combined, and I think that the Herald Sun should point that out. Every time it doesn`t run.

So you get a front-page attack on fat cat bureaucrat council CEOs, a councillor tends to respond, no reply online, censored, no reply in the paper- a policy which says to do that,

I think that is unethical and inappropriate if you have launched an attack on certain people`s pay and you refuse to run a right of reply by a player in that space. As a councillor, I thought it might change. When I started writing in as a councillor, no change, still censored.

730reportland: Mayne has done a great service to the Aussie public, with his appearance at the Aussie Media Inquiry. It is excellent that Mayne, who has worked within the Limited News toxic culture, has spoken openly and frankly about his experience with the global monster and, the treatment he has received from them since they parted ways.

It is great to have this on the public record.


The Limited News corrosive culture has often been self-evident in the output produced on certain topics such as, pro-business, pro-Noalition, pro-Mr-Rabbit, anti-environment, anti-Labor and anti-Joolya. This list is much bigger and, Politicians and politics are fair game.


What I have suspected, and Mayne seems to confirm, is that local operations of the global monster maintain `hit-lists` of people, who are `selected` for special attention.

The Inquiry has previously heard that Robert Manne and Tim Flannery have been targeted by Limited News and, it seems spiteful. But if we zoom in on Mayne`s home town, Melbourne, we can find that Simon Overland seemed to be targeted, resulting in his resignation from the Police. Add in, the treatment of Christine Nixon, because she ate dinner. The hounding of Mayne and Manne, also of Melbourne, shows their local monster is highly toxic.

Much of this is not fair game.


I suspect the industry culture will get way more corrosive before it gets any better, if ever. Gina Rinehart has bought up a chunk of Fairfax. The chunk is large enough for Rinehart to demand a seat in the boardroom for herself, or her agent.

This will not result in Fairfaxtopia.


More likely, this will be the start of the foxification of Fairfax. As billionaires rarely disagree on many topics, the public will receive lobbying, dressed up as news items from both outlets, like,

Don`t tax Billionaires because [insert no valid reason here]

We can already see Limited News, Network Ten, Rinehart and Boltreportland as an established connection.

With similar donkey data and, via major share-holdings and boardroom seats, the adoption or transfer of industry culture flows.

Watch_ http//

The above is a word for word extract from Page 102 to Page 109 of this transcript, with my comments added in color. We will return to the `show` after these sponsor `messages`.


Mayne On Press Licensing

20 Feb 2012.


Mayne On Press Licensing.

730reportland: We return to Melbourne as, retired judge Ray Finkelstein `hosts` the Australian Media Inquiry, with his `lovely-assistant`, journalism academic, Matthew Ricketson.

Their next `guest` is Crikey Founder and a media mover and shaker. Welcome to the `show`, Stephen Mayne.

MR FINKELSTEIN: One of the issues that you`ve raised is under this heading, "A light-handed licensing regime for editors and proprietors".

There are probably not that many people who are going to assert- I`m not saying none- or suggest that there should be licensing of newspapers.

Presumably, one reason for that is that the king and the government in England licensed the press for several hundreds of years and it came to an end I think in the late 1700s or thereabouts. It was regarded as a universally good thing that it came to an end.

Therefore, it is at least unusual- I won`t say surprising- to see somebody propounding the idea that editors and proprietors ought be licensed.

730reportland: Our `host` actually high-lights another problem here. The Legal, Political and Government systems always look to the past to aid them with making decisions.

The downfall of looking so hard at the past, is it tends to make them ignore what is in front of their nose, the `present`. In the 1700s, computers, technology, management systems and Police did not exist. This is 300 years ago. Different environment.

Finkelstein is `not` comparing apples with apples here.

MR FINKELSTEIN: I want to ask you, first of all, why you propound that view. I don`t know whether you want to deal with them separately, proprietors and editors, or whether it is the same underlying issue,

but I assume that a licensing regime is to make sure that a particular class of person or a person with particular attributes or qualities,

or whatever it might be, are to be the persons who run or own news outlets. Can I start by asking you what do you regard as the essential criteria for owning or running as an editor a news outlet, and why?

MR MAYNE: Many countries have had nationality restrictions, which effectively is a licensing regime which says no foreign party will ever be licensed. We had that for many years. Keating said to Conrad Black, "I license you to 35 percent of Fairfax, you can go no more."

I think we shouldn`t be too surprised that there are regulatory regimes in place. I do think it goes to conflict of interest, vested interest.

I wouldn`t support Exxon Mobil receiving a licence to buy News Limited`s Australian operations. I wouldn`t give a licence to British American Tobacco to buy 70 percent of Australia`s newspapers.

730reportland: Yes. I agree with Mayne here.
This is `defacto` licensing.

MR MAYNE: I think you have to start from the basis that the press is the Fourth Estate and there needs to be some sort of regulation as to who can have that power and responsibility vested in them. So I think the corporate conflicts, maybe the foreign interests, may come in at that point.

730reportland: This `4th estate` stuff is Bull-Crap.

There is too much donkey data and lobbying going on to give any weight to these `type` of catch-cries. Large chunks of the embedded media, pushing propaganda, have become merely `lobbying-firms` with catch-cries.


MR MAYNE: I also think there is a basic ethical morality fit and proper test, so if Alan Bond were still in charge of The West Australian when he was convicted of fraud, he would have been in breach of his licence and he would have been required to dispose of The West Australian, because he committed the largest fraud in Australian history. I`m only thinking about it in those sorts of relatively extreme examples.

730reportland: Mayne is correct. The bleating by the embedded media against this point really shows how out of touch they are. All kinds of citizens under-go this `type` of examination every day.

Vetting of folks who join the Police, become teachers and, tradesmen needing long term access to `secure` work-sites, just to name a few. The sky is falling, cry the embedded media `chicken-littles`, when asked to join the rest of society.

MR MAYNE: I must admit I am reminded by I guess a personal experience that I`ve had working within News Limited, watching News Corp internationally, that there has been a little bit of a tendency for some rogue editors to emerge and prosper and be rewarded over the years, with some rather colourful approaches. I`ve worked under some of them.

I think that sometimes I look at the culture and think at some stage there ought to be something about you just can`t phone hack on an industrial scale, for instance. If an editor was caught up in something like that, there would be something which would kick in and say, "I don`t think you are fit and proper." I stress that it ought to be light-handed and you certainly can`t have big brother government flicking editors because of a political line or a partisan campaign. It needs to be a pretty grave situation where you intervene.

730reportland: At least Limited News `is` consistant.

MR FINKELSTEIN: What is the sort of criteria, though? The idea of licensing- I don`t want to put too fine a point on it, because a couple of submissions make points about this- but it is as close as going back to the Dark Ages as you could find if you are serious about it_



MR FINKELSTEIN:_ but the idea that a government should say who can publish the news, because if you are talking about licensing, you are talking about the government saying who can say publish the news, is probably about as extreme an encroachment on news dissemination as you could get.

730reportland: At this point in the `show` I have become fully aware our `host` is tackling the licensing topic from the wrong end.

MR MAYNE: But they do that with television and radio now.

MR FINKELSTEIN: I know that.

MR MAYNE: So it`s not the end of the world with that.


MR FINKELSTEIN: No, and there might be some arguments about whether or not television and radio is different or, as many people say, there is no difference and that kind of regulation ought to go. The fact that it exists in television and radio might tell you something about television and radio but might not tell you very much about the press.

730reportland: Unfortunately Finkelstein keeps questioning from the wrong end of the `licensing arguement`. Our `host` seems to ignore that the media is an `industry` and the press is a `segment` of the media industry.

Licensing in most other industries have raised `standards` of all kinds, quality of product or workmanship, safety, and inspection and compliance systems.

Newspapers, Radio Stations and Television Networks all post mixed content online, text, audio and video. Some better questions Finkelstein should have asked,

Excluding to write `crap`, What advantage will the newspaper segment lose if a licensing system is put in place?

Excluding spectrum, Why should/shouldn`t the newspaper segment not be licenced, when the radio segment and television segment are?

Why should/shouldn`t the Global Monster remain unlicenced, while the National Monster has to operate under `Charter` and local television and radio segments are licensed?

Why shouldn`t all segments and, all companies in the same industry operate, as near as possible, in the same licensing and penalty system?

MR MAYNE: You don`t like legal malpractice, you don`t like doctor malpractice, you won`t license snake catchers and you license brothels.

Licensing is such a common phenomenon right throughout society and professions that I cannot see why the press, in the internet era where the genie is impossible to put back in the bottle, where the idea of a totalitarian regime coming in and shutting down newspapers, it is just no longer remotely possible in a democracy like Australia.

That risk of government intervention I believe has been utterly mitigated by technology to the point now where we can have a sensible discussion in a democracy about some basic standards and ethics and fit and proper requirements that apply with most other professions and industries.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Doesn`t the same kind of argument lead you toward the conclusion that licensing might catch a couple of people and a couple of organisations, but because of the internet it`s really a practical impossibility?

In other words, you will never devise a scheme for jurisdictional or constitutional reasons, any host of reasons, just straight impracticability of trying to license everybody who puts newsprint into the airwaves, the press, the letterbox or wherever?

MR MAYNE: For start-ups and the small fry and local papers, I agree, but when you are talking about the substantial powerful, entrenched, well-known brands, I think where a licensing regime already effectively operates is if News Limited went to sell its 70 percent of the papers there would be regulatory intervention around foreign ownership, around ACCC, about who the regulators license to have responsibility for so many newspaper titles across the Australian market and democracy.


MR FINKELSTEIN: It is not quite licensing, though. You could call it licensing, but I spent a lot of my working life dealing with competition cases, and never thought of it before- and I fought against the regulator and as a judge- as a licensing scheme. It is a series of legislation that works on the theory that you abuse a monopoly position, that`s a bad thing, and there ought to be laws governing the abuse of monopoly positions or laws governing the creation of monopolies, but they are based on economic criteria and they are looking at producing economic efficiencies. I don`t care who the people are who are involved, it has nothing to do with personalities; it is to do with having efficient allocation of resources in a community or a nation state.

730reportland: Whack, as Laurie Oakes likes to say.
Finkelstein fought against the regulator. This explains why he is coming at licensing from the wrong direction.

MR FINKELSTEIN: So the fact that you might describe that as licensing, it`s true that you need permission to engage in certain types of activity, but you don`t have that in mind, I don`t think, because what you are looking at is the identity of the persons concerned, that is, who is it that`s going to apply for permission to run the press or edit a newspaper, whereas if you are looking at foreign ownership and particularly anti-trust, they don`t care who it is, they are just looking to see what is going to be the state of the market before and after. So they are market economic considerations, looking at what is best for the economic development of the nation, but this is of a different order.

MR MAYNE: I guess I`m talking about gross malpractice, and phone hacking is the context that we have here, but the discussion from this morning about a beefed-up Press Council, if you had an absolute recidivist editor who completely utterly continually refused to comply with the new regime, which might be publish corrections, et cetera, it would be a final piece of recourse to give the regulatory regime some teeth.

Of course, like all good regulatory regimes, you never want to have to utilise the full powers. It just sits there and gives some authority and gravitas to, at the moment, a thoroughly disrespected regulatory regime that is trampled all over and is a bit of a toothless tiger and personally I think that it needs to be beefed up. If you have that final recourse, authority in the back there, like it works with TV and radio, I think it would improve standards and culture within the press.

730reportland: Mayne misses the mark a little bit here. Good regulatory systems, hold to account each person at every level or rank, for their own actions and responsibilities, or lack of.

MR FINKELSTEIN: If you are looking, speaking generally, at an ideal set of cultures or cultural rules, ethical rules or standards, would it be reasonable to proceed on the basis- people say how do you put it into effect, but I regard that as a separate question- but if I were to look at a typical set of codes of conduct or standards, if I take it from broadcasting, or those that are published by the Press Council or by the union that acts on behalf of journalists, they have pretty much common themes running through them, do you see them as being, relatively speaking, a reasonable set of standards?

MR MAYNE: All the words are terrific, it`s just that they are_

MR FINKELSTEIN: Implementation.

MR MAYNE: Yes, they are often ignored. It is quite uneven in terms of the way it is disrespected. There will be certain editors at certain times. Within Fairfax or News Limited you have good and bad. It goes through periods of ups and downs.

730reportland: In the current decaying news scenario, we have our Limited News star, Andrew Bolt recently losing his `white` Aboriginal court case. This has not stopped Andrew from `Dulux Color Charting` Aboriginals though. Andrew just changed the `style` of doing the same type of crap.

Andrew has `ignored` the court ruling and now uses pictures of the `white-est` Aboriginals he can find and makes sure he includes phrases like `indigenous program` along with the picture. With the current `gummy` Press Council, that doesn`t work pro-actively, Andrew has nothing to fear or lose.


So let`s create a `Scenerio 2` in which there is a pro-active Press Council that bites. News people are licensed from top to bottom, and directors meet the `fit and proper` test.

Andrew Bolt goes to court, which attracts the attention of the `pro-active` Press Council, which immediately looks into the situation from its end. The judgement of the Press Council may be, that it too finds Bolt is pushing `racism` or `hate speech` and suspends Andrews license for 3 months.

Without his license Bolt now cannot work not just at `Limited News` chip wrappers, but no Mac-Radio, no BoltreportLand, no Ten-News, no Qanda or anything else for the 3 months. And Media companies are not permitted to pay those who get their license suspended.

Then 3 months later Bolt returns to work and willingly chooses not to `Dulux Color Chart` Aboriginals anymore. Andrew now has something that bites to fear, and misses the salary he lost.


The pre Inquiry bleating about the sacred `press freedom` doesn`t really add up, but comes across as Herd-Think and Mass-Panic.

The `News` is too important to license.

No wait, the `Press` is too important to license.

Hang on, we want to `Lobby` and pretend its news.

The reality check the embedded media need to come to is that the news is either,

Important and should be treated as important and has a serious system of rules and penalty in place for all.

Or they want to lobby, spin and bullcrap about everything in a fact free style. Then they might as well save the cash and scrap the Press Council. The other regulators should go too, along with the ABC Charter, Codes of Conduct, and let everybody take their side and lobby for all their worth.

The above is a word for word extract from Page 98 to Page 102 of this transcript, with my comments added in color. We will return to the `show` after these `messages`.


Hirst On Editorial Reach

28 Jan 2012.


Hirst On Editorial Reach.

730reportland: We return to Melbourne as, retired judge Ray Finkelstein `hosts` the Australian Media Inquiry. Finkelstein is `assisted` by journalism academic Matthew Ricketson.

Ray continues with his `guest` Martin Hirst, who teaches journalism at Deakin University. Welcome back to the `show`.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Doesn`t that tell you that the marketplace is working in the way that it should and, if I take it from the converse standpoint, there are lots of players in the market producing their product, which is all you want from the marketplace for ideas analogy?

DR HIRST: I think possibly, but I would actually argue that it is not, as I said before, a level playing field.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Do you want to explain that?

DR HIRST: Yes. What I mean by that is that if you look at the still dominant mainstream media- and it is still dominant; daily newspapers, television, radio- that is where most people get their news and information from.

Of course, some of us trawl the internet into all hours of the night looking for alternative opinions and some of us actually write our own blogs and things like that to broaden that kind of debate. However, I think in terms of the main ways in which we get political information and the main ways in which the public sphere is created and informed, it still relies quite heavily on the main players in the marketplace, and they are heavily capitalised global companies in most cases that do, I think, have greater clout because of their economic size and wealth. Economic power does bring with it a certain amount of political and social power as well, in the battle of ideas. It actually creates a much bigger platform and louder megaphone than somebody on a blog that gets a couple of hundred views a day. It is a much more powerful tool of speech.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Size of reach–

DR HIRST: The size of reach and ability to marshal things together in a coherent kind of a way to present on a daily and ongoing basis; a repetition of particular types of ideas.

I think you see that in the mainstream media, and I don`t think the marketplace of ideas is actually an open and fair marketplace where everybody has the same right of access and the same ability to be heard.

DR RICKETSON: What might be an example of what you were just talking about before with the mainstream media and the fact they have an undue influence? What is an example of that, that you can think of?

DR HIRST: I think the kind of editorial pages of any newspaper provide that kind of platform. The Insiders program on the ABC, Four Corners, 7.30 Report, all those type of things generate a huge amount of interest- Q&A, all of that type of mainstream political information programming, news and current affairs type of programmes, I think carry a much greater social weight in terms of how we as a society form opinions and react to those things than the internet and blogs and those kind of things at the moment. There is definitely still a dominant mainstream media in that regard.

One example that is very current, which I am sure other people will talk to you about today, is the idea that the News Limited newspapers are running some kind of political agenda at the moment against the Gillard government. I actually think that is true.

DR HIRST: I have only been back in the country now for about four months after living in New Zealand for four and a half years and I was absolutely blown away by that, and by what I see appearing now in the newspapers, particularly in The Australian, which I have a subscription to and I look at every day. There is a consistent kind of approach to the way that The Australian is actually reporting federal politics at the moment. It seems to me that the people who are arguing that there is an anti-Labor bias in the editorial pages and in the newspages of that paper are absolutely right. You see it every day.

730reportland: Good on Hirst. A large chunk of the population have been complaining about Limited News lobbying in their so-called reporting. These claims have been robustly denied by the– Hey, it turns out we have been right all along. Even the bloke who has just returned to the country has noticed the Limited News lobbying.

DR HIRST: There is actually an accumulative effect to that. Every story about federal politics is slanted in a way which is against Labor, even stuff that`s completely irrelevant. If they could find a way of actually attacking Julia Gillard or another Labor minister in that text, they will do so. I think that is actually happening, and Robert Manne is right about that in what he wrote in his Quarterly Essay. I think that is actually happening now.

730reportland: While Hirst is correct about `the Australian` and how it reports Federal Labor politics, the scope of Limited News slanted propaganda is inflicted across many more `topics`. Limited News lobbying is not restricted to `the Australian` chip wrapper either. The Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph, particularly via their blog-umnists, regularly regurgitate these selected `topics`, while Lobbying to their `old-ideas` format.

MR FINKELSTEIN: If you make the assumption that that`s right- just assuming that`s right- some of my readings, and you probably know more about the history of it than I do or probably ever will, suggest that the early serious newspapers were borne of and paid for by political parties; that is, they were papers that espoused a particular view and the buying public chose which paper to read having regard to which particular political viewpoint they were interested in receiving. If you are right and a newspaper favours one political party over another, one argument is that that is how newspapers were born.

A more difficult question, in any event: is that exactly what you see when you have got free speech? You have got an organisation or a journalist or half a dozen journalists who have a particular viewpoint on politics, not vilification, but the other side of the equation that we have left for the minute, on politics, and they push it for all it is worth. Isn`t that what democracy is all about?

730reportland: Finkelstein goes a little `Pony-Express` worrying about the history of newspapers. A better lead-in here would have been along the line of, the ABC Charter prescribes certain reporting elements, accuracy, fairness, etc, to guide those who work for the National Monster. And Finkelstein should have then asked, why these reporting elements should not be applied to the Global Monster, and across the board, when reporting, particularly political reporting. But you know how these chat show `hosts` are.

DR HIRST: I don`t have a problem with The Australian doing that, but I just think it is interesting. I am not saying that The Australian shouldn`t do that, or it doesn`t have a right to do that; I am just observing that I think that`s what is happening.


MR FINKELSTEIN: But it`s not just an observation. Don`t you mean that in a critical way?

DR HIRST: Yes, I`m critical of it, but I`m not arguing that it should be stopped; that we should actually stop The Australian from doing that.


MR FINKELSTEIN: If you are not arguing that it should be stopped, then why are you critical of it? In other words, I don`t understand your submission.

DR HIRST: I guess I am critical of it because there have been a number of denials from senior people within News Limited that that is actually what is happening. They would like us to think, in the way that Fox likes us to think, that they are “fair and balanced“. They are playing on that idea that, “We are just a newspaper, we are neutral in this, we are not campaigning“. So there is a little bit of dissembling going on there, I think.

730reportland: Honesty and truth are not only a problem when it comes to reporting. It seems to go way beyond Limited News output. This is a corporate culture problem, which could make you think you need to look at some of the individuals as well. Other things they like you to think are, they don`t troll the internet and abuse those they don`t agree with on WordPress and Twitter.

MR FINKELSTEIN: That is not a complaint about the content of the political articles?

DR HIRST: I`d politically disagree with the editorial line of The Australian, but I`m not suggesting for a minute that The Australian should be banned or anything like that. I`m just making the observation that that seems to me to be one of the advantages of having a $30 million printing press that you can use. It gives you a big advantage in terms of the battle of ideas, absolutely.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Is there anything that you can ever do about that? If it costs you $5 million to buy a printing press, but everybody in the country is free, providing they have got the $5 million, to go and buy a printing press, they can do exactly the same thing?

DR HIRST: Yes. Now let`s talk about new media and so on, because there is actually an opportunity, and this is what the submissions Ivo and I put together is about, to actually start to lower the barriers to entry into news or news-like content and broaden it out. Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at the City University of New York made the famous quip that that citizen journalism is when the people forming the audience get access to the tools to allow them to publish.


MR FINKELSTEIN: I`m halfway through his book. I`m struggling with it.

DR HIRST: He is very famous for that and other things. He has a point. Yes, the internet, social media and the fact that a mobile phone is now a camera and an edit suite, does give people some of that power back, I guess, if you like. I do not think it balances up the $30 million printing press, but it certainly creates some interesting spaces.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Doesn`t it, in your terms, speak of a tendency to non-market failure? In other words, with the social media and its increasing use, you have increasing diversity of opinion being expressed?

DR HIRST: Yes, you do, but you also have a tendency towards the marketisation of that space. For example, user-generated content becomes a very useful commodity in newsrooms because it is free. Newsrooms can actually commodify that- news organisations, media organisations can commodify that free content and it helps to shore up their bottom line. I think we are seeing that now in terms of the problems that the mainstream media is having with its business models- falling advertising revenues, falling subscriber bases and so on, and cost-cutting in newsrooms. User generated news-like content is free content, and it has become quite an important commodity in and of itself. In fact, the process of market failure extends the market into some spheres of social media.

I have written about this extensively in a book published earlier this year called “News 2.0: Can journalism survive the Internet“. I talk about this process in some detail in that book; how there is a tendency to believe that the internet is open slather, it is going to democratise everything, it is going to be an antidote the big media and all this kind of stuff. I think that is pie in the sky, quite frankly.



DR HIRST: Because the logics of the market in a capitalist economy require capital to expand into every corner of the marketplace. What I think news organisations have seen here is that there is an opportunity to marketise that free content and commodify it and, therefore, turn a profit on it out of the labour of the audience, if you like.


MR FINKELSTEIN: You mentioned two features that have come up in lots of material which I have read, one being the decline in circulation of the print media; and, second, the decline in advertising revenue that the print media are used to getting from its newspapers. Does the decline in circulation- something that is not insignificant- cut away from some of your views about the dominance of the capitalist press? In other words, they might have been dominant 25 years ago when they were running particularly profitable organisations and could print fact newspapers and employ lots of journalists, and so on, but if your argument is a significant decline in circulation and a significant decline in revenue, with no doubt corresponding cost-cutting measures being employed, like less printing presses or less circulation or less journalists, and so on, doesn`t that diminish the power that you see that the print media has?

DR HIRST: At the margins.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Why is that?

DR HIRST: Because we are talking about Everest versus a molehill here in terms of the dominant power that they have. Obviously, you add a few more grains of sand on the molehill, it gets closer to being the size of Everest, but proportionally it`s still a molehill. I think that`s still the case. Yes, circulations are falling, revenues are falling, costs are being cut, speed has taken over from accuracy, journalists are doing more with less, all of those things are true, but we are starting from a position where, for the last 80 years or more, the mainstream media has been dominant and has actually, if you like, I think, been helped in that dominance through government policy, particularly the US and I think we follow that to some degree. Those monopolies have been encouraged to form by various types of regulation.

730reportland: Molehill and Everest are a good way to describe the style of sexing up reports too. The example of the Baiada Chicken Factory seemed to be reported and regurgitated using this style at by their troll-umnists. The `worker` draged into machinery to his death `focus` was `Molehilled`. The `Union/Worker_Picket_Line_Scuffle` and the “IF“_the_Company_closes then “it_will_cost-jobs“ focus was built toward Everest. The TV Networks followed. A similar style and `tone` was applied to the `Occupy` movement posts on as well.

DR HIRST: Even the cross-media ownership laws in Australia going back now to 1986 haven`t really addressed problems of dominance and so on. In fact, I think in the current iterations they do actually allow for more concentration in particular markets. The 40:60 rule, or whatever it is called, I can`t quite remember, does actually codify the ability of particular news organisations to be dominant in those markets.


MR FINKELSTEIN: I haven`t got at the tip of my fingers- I had it last night- the circulation figures from particular newspapers, but I did see lots of submissions criticise Newscorp Australia, even some of the comments that you made, and it struck me that their readership wasn`t particularly large- some of the programmes that you were talking about where people go to look for information of a political kind, the TV shows that you mentioned, some of which I watch and some I don`t. It has always struck me that there is a very small number of members of the community that read these kinds of “influential“ newspapers you are talking about and watch the particular shows that you are talking about.

730reportland: Shock. Horror. Who would have guessed.

MR FINKELSTEIN: I wonder whether there is a sort of a mismatch between the perception of power on the one hand and the actual power that is exercised on the other. I don`t know how you measure it either, quite frankly. You probably could by serious surveys that take years to undertake.

DR HIRST: I think the issue there is that the circulation size and influence are not necessarily tightly correlated. There are other things to consider- for example, the power of agenda setting; the power of gatekeeping, those kind of things, and also the fact that even though the circulation for The Australian I think is actually in the low 20s or 30s, it is not more than about 30,000 or 35,000.

DR RICKETSON: In Victoria?

730reportland: The `direct` or `primary` reach of all Limited News chip wrappers totals `less` than 2 million circulation, made up of `dead tree` and `intermess` numbers. The Aussie Population is 22 million. Simple mathematics means 10 of 11 people do `not` read newspapers by Limited News. So far, their direct reach is 1 of 11 people.

DR HIRST: In Victoria, yes.

DR RICKETSON: Nationally it`s 135,000.

DR HIRST: It is about, I guess, the quality of the audience and the influence and reach that it has amongst opinion makers and opinion leaders. I think you could argue that the broadsheet papers actually do have that kind of influence in those kind of situations.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Do you mean by that influence over politicians?

DR HIRST: Influence over the shape and direction of the public debate, more generally- not just over politicians, but more generally in terms of setting the tone of the debate and setting the parameters of the debate.

730reportland: Politicians are way down the primary reach list. They have an army of media wranglers and spin doctors at their disposal. The worst `primary` reach problem is `other` media. Radio and Television regurgitate, often what is just bullcrap. Just because it is in the paper. No matter how unworthy or, fact free.

MR FINKELSTEIN: If you are confining the focus of attention to the sophisticated reader- that is, the trend setters, the debate setters and so on- aren`t you speaking of people who are well able to judge whether they are being spun a line or not, or whether this is political propaganda or not, or whether they are factually baseless allegations or not, and so on?

You said you read The Australian every day. You are in a position to discern, I take it, good journalism from bad, or good reporting from bad reporting. If its audience is as small as all that, as the figures would suggest, I guess circulation can be bumped up by a whole range of ways, and it ignores the fact that you sit around the kitchen table with one subscription, four readers, and so on.

If you are talking about the people of influence who set the debate in the society, then why can`t they look after themselves? Why do they need help? By “help“, I mean some sort of restraint on press freedom?

DR HIRST: They do look after themselves. I am not suggesting that we should restrain press freedom. I`m not making that suggestion.

730reportland: Finkelstein and Hirst have skipped or not aware of the `secondary` reach. The secondary reach and influence is the aspect that is agitating citizens much more than the primary reach. With the primary reach citizens simply do not go to website or buy newspaper of the offending brand. Problem solved.

With `secondary` reach it is a lot harder for citizens to avoid the offending brand. So let`s look at the global monster and some of its tenticles. Much like Foxnews audio and video propaganda become text based propaganda this side of the Pacific, we need to follow the data donkeys, as well as the donkey data.

Though recently removed from his position in Aboriginal Affairs, the Andrew Bolt tenticle is still a very good example of `secondary` reach. When we compare the Andrew Bolt, Limited News blog against the television show BoltReportLand on Network Ten, hosted by Andrew Bolt, the donkey data is the same. Only the platform is different. Andrew Bolt is also on Mac-Radio.

We can follow other tenticles from Limited News too. Joe Hildebrand goes on Network Seven`s Sunrise. The John W Howard government put Janet Albrechtsen on my ABC Board. Piers Akerman, Miranda Devine, Albrechtsen, Hildebrand and Bolt, just to name a few off the top of my head, have all been on the ABC Qanda and/or Insiders shows, to deliver to my ABC viewers, the donkey data. This is a one way street. Limited News readers are not exposed to ABC opinion via the Limited News platform.

If that is not editorial reach and influence, what is?

If any other industry colludes together on elements of business like supplying or pricing then they are seen as a Cartel engaged in `fixing`. The `secondary` reach is not being recognised by the embedded media, and is being passed off as, just a lack of `diversity of opinion`. Until the embedded media acknowledge the secondary reach problem goes much deeper, then we will all be stuck with, what looks like a Cartel, engaged in news fixing.

To be clear, `primary` reach is when the consumer chooses `directly` to consume the particular media brand. That is, at the shop buys the specific newspaper. With TV and radio, they select the specific channel.

The `secondary` reach is when the consumer receives brand-X via another, so-called media competitor, even though the consumer would never select brand-X.

The above is a word for word extract from Page 18 to Page 25 of this transcript, with my comments added in color. We will return after these `words` from our sponsor.


Hirst On Marketplace Ideology

23 Jan 2012.


Hirst On Marketplace Ideology.

730reportland: 08 Nov 2011, Melbourne, retired judge Ray Finkelstein `hosts` the Australian Media Inquiry. Finkelstein is assisted by journalism academic Matthew Ricketson.

Ray`s first `guest` is Martin Hirst who teaches journalism at Deakin University. Welcome to the `show`.

MR FINKELSTEIN: The best student should always read what the person supervising publishes. The topic of the paper is briefly summarised as dealing with free speech and hate speech. I am interested to know, in the first place, what you understand as being the underpinnings of the notion of free speech? This is a question without notice.

DR HIRST: It is something that I have thought about, obviously. I think that the underpinning principle is obviously the right of people to free expression of opinion. However, as I opined in that paper, I think that there are also rules of what I would call civil discourse that perhaps need to be observed around that.

I also make the point there that I don`t think free speech extends to the freedom to make racist comments or vilifying comments in relation to minority groups or homophobia. Those kinds of issues, to me, fall far outside the ambit of free speech.

730reportland: Hello Andrew Bolt.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Can I come to what might be the qualifications to free speech in a second. It is obvious from your paper that you think that free speech is a very important right, and I am using the word “right“ in its loosest sense, I suppose. Are you able to tell me why, for what reasons, free speech is such an important commodity?

DR HIRST: I think it is what I would call a universal human right, in that sense, I guess. I suppose that is the bottom line, really; it`s a human right in that regard. I think your use of the word “commodity“ is an interesting one, because I think, in a concrete sense, that highlights one of the key aspects of this Inquiry, which is the idea of a marketplace of ideas.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Is that a view to which you subscribe?

DR HIRST: No, I don`t. I think there`s actually market failure, and I`m writing something on that at the moment which I will be presenting to you. It`s not quite finished, but since you are still taking submissions, I will endeavour to get that to you fairly quickly.

I do make the argument in that piece that I`m doing that I think the marketplace of ideas rhetoric, which is, if you like, the rhetoric of liberal democracy and representative democracy and capitalist economy and capitalist society, is a flawed model in that the marketplace is not a level playing field. It doesn`t give everybody the same rights of access. I think it commodifies the notion of public interest, which is something I am also quite interested in exploring, because I think that our definitions of public interest are actually based on ideas of the market.

If you look at the legislation around broadcasting and telecommunications, for example, with the public interest test, that is often based on looking at economic benefits, so the public interest is defined in those terms and citizens are defined in that regard as consumers rather than as an expression of political ideas.

I think that there is a philosophical debate to be had about the idea of the marketplace of ideas and how relevant it is, and if it is working. My argument would be that it is not working and that we are in a situation we are in today, in terms of the collapse of business models and decline in public trust in journalism and in the news, as a result of failure of the market as it is currently established.


MR FINKELSTEIN: There are plenty of issues that you have picked up. Can I deal with a couple of them discretely.

When you speak about the marketplace of ideas, which I suppose is very fashionable, because the United States Supreme Court has picked up on that idea now for almost 100 years, do you mean the same as the jurists when they speak about the marketplace of ideas – that is, if you have a lot of discussion about controversial topics, the more discussion there is had, the easier it is that those who are the listeners can discern the truth, or discover the truth?

DR HIRST: Yes. I think that is definitely the theory, and definitely the ideal of the marketplace of ideas, but I also think that it is a marketplace in the sense of the commodification of ideas, particularly in relation to news, which is a commodity. It is commodified in the current society, and I think that distorts issues of access and balance, if you like.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Assume I was minded to jettison the marketplace ideology behind, for instance, the marketplace of ideas and opt for some other justification for free speech. Can I take it that, from what you said right at the beginning as to treating free speech as a human right, you would regard that kind of approach to free speech as more important or more relevant than the marketplace of ideas approach – that is, it has just got to do with individual liberty?

DR HIRST: I think it is more than that as well. In the paper that I`m preparing for you at the moment I talk about this in terms of the public interest, the underlying broad collective public interest as being one of the key cornerstones of freedom of speech. The ability to actually have a full and frank debate about issues of importance to citizens should be the reason why we encourage an exchange of ideas. It is to do with, I suppose, our ability to be informed citizens and to make informed political choices about issues of public importance.


MR FINKELSTEIN: That is to suggest that free speech and free speech through the media has a particular social role to perform?

DR HIRST: I would argue that it does, yes.


MR FINKELSTEIN: I`m actually trying to nut out whether they are the views you are expressing.

DR HIRST: I do think there is an important social role in the media in that regard, absolutely, because we live in a mediated world and the only way that most of us can participate in the public sphere, and in civil political discourse, is through the media. I guess some of the issues that you need to consider in this inquiry are the fact that the rise of social media and convergence technologies have now created, if you like, a different set of expectations and set of rules around that kind of thing. Obviously through blogs and social media, a lot more people now are able to have some kind of participatory voice, not necessarily in the mainstream media.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Your concept of public trust, does that carry with it the idea that the media, being as broad as you like at the moment, including non-mainstream or, if you like, mainstream media, has some kind of responsibility in the manner in which it goes about its business of informing the public of news or newsworthy information?

DR HIRST: Without a doubt there`s a responsibility attached to that, of course. I think rights do come with some responsibilities. The exercise of rights has to be done in a responsible way, and I think in terms of the media`s role in society today, you could actually argue that the mainstream media has a dominant role in terms of the circulation of ideas. Therefore, the responsibility on the news media is to actually present a broad range of ideas and to allow for that civil discourse to take place.

I would actually argue that it doesn`t do that as well as it perhaps could. I think there is in fact quite a limited range of political opinion that gets displayed across the media. I am not here to bash the Murdoch press, but I think across the board in the mainstream media there is what I would call a limited variety of speaking positions. There is a limited view of what are permissible views in terms of what`s actually picked up and promoted through the media.

If you look at, for example, the rostered columnists across all of the print media, there are very few people in that roster that actually argue outside of a kind of narrow consensus of centre-right opinion, I would argue. There is not a great deal of what I would call strong left opinion in the mainstream media.


MR FINKELSTEIN: That sounds like a complaint about lack of diversity?

DR HIRST: I think it is. I think there is a lack of diversity. Particularly in terms of opinion, there is a lack of diversity.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Can I take up a couple of issues out of what you have just been saying. You mix together notions of public trust on the one hand and rights and obligations on the other. Most lawyers will understand that if there`s a claimed right, there is a corresponding obligation. Legal philosophers have written much about that topic. If the press have an obligation, what is the corresponding right one then has which gives rise to the obligation? Is it the right of free speech?

DR HIRST: I think it is the exercise of that right of free speech which they have, obviously, and I think, as I have said earlier, it is a flawed model and one that certainly is worth debating. People have said previous to me that the right of free speech in terms of the mainstream media is the right of the proprietor or the owner, and that freedom of speech is to those who own the press.

I think there is some truth in that. In the marketplace of ideas, if you have a commodified public sphere, as we have, then there is actually, if you like, a commodified right that it exists within the mainstream media. The obligation that goes with that, I suppose, is to exercise that responsibly and honestly. So it is about the truth, it is about the promotion of public interest and it carries with it the obligation to act in that kind of manner.


MR FINKELSTEIN: The types of ideals about which you are speaking are ideals which a society might demand, or expect rather than demand, but which society may not have a right to enforce, if you understand the difference. You have got ideals, everybody has for themselves a personal set of ideals which they strive to achieve, but you don`t get punished if you don`t achieve them, it is just that you fail either in your own eyes or somebody else`s eyes. Do you see the distinction I`m getting at?

DR HIRST: Yes, I do. I think the public does have a right to expect honesty and truthfulness and a variety of opinions through the media.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Why does it have that right?
I understand that it expects that.

DR HIRST: Editors and journalists will often fall back on, “Oh, we`re doing this in the public interest.“ That is an excuse, in my view, sometimes, which covers a multitude of sins, if you want to go down the track of journalists raising this idea of “We did what we did in terms of the public interest.“

If the media was claiming to have this role of defending the public interest – being the watchdog, being the Fourth Estate- if it is claiming those rights for itself, then I think the public, the citizens, have a right to expect what they are getting from their media is living up to those ideas, and I think sometimes it doesn`t.

730reportland: Hirst is way too gentle here.
The embedded media, who romanticise they are
“the gate-keepers of the truth“, have often acted as
gate-keepers “from“ the truth.
Example, http//
Topics, Labor, Greens, Science.

Embedded media self interest is often dressed up as public interest. Tit for tat word wars are rather easy to find between Limited News and ABC webpages. A never ending game of ego driven `gotcha`. Followed by robust denial or fake hurt. The vast majority of this is `not` news. Just blow-hard self interest.
I exclude Media-Watch.

MR FINKELSTEIN: What kind of machinery could ever be put in place to see those ideals achieved which wouldn`t smack of censorship?

DR HIRST: I think that is a difficult question.
I think it is for you to answer, judge, but–

730reportland: Do I smell chicken?

MR FINKELSTEIN: I`m going to ask as many people as I can for help.

DR HIRST: On regulations, I do have a view on that, and I think my view is that what we are actually experiencing now is something that I have written about, and I call it the “techno legal time gap“, to use a piece of jargon that I quite like. What I mean by that is that through convergence and through the growth of media technologies, such as social media, the fact that now an Apple iPhone can be a production suite in and of itself with user-generated content, all of that kind of stuff has created opportunities for new things to happen that we couldn`t do before.

DR HIRST: For example, newspapers or media organisations that go on to Facebook and download without permission photographs of young teenagers killed in an horrific car crash when the family has requested privacy, and the media says, “It is in the public interest, we are going to go and take those photographs“, without any regard to the consequences of their actions. They would argue Facebook is public, but it`s not, really. There is a whole bunch of stuff that sits around that – for example, copyright, where does that sit? It actually sits with Facebook. Is it the situation that people put things on Facebook expecting it to be published and to be used in that kind of way? It has created a whole new set of problems.

730reportland: The embedded media stalking children on `social` websites. So far the stalking has not been `Limited` to children, not that that`s okay. Tweeters, bloggers and tram drivers have already been stalked by Limited News so far. I suspect their list of future targets is growing, not shrinking.
Stalking? No Surprise Here

DR HIRST: For example, journalists are being sacked for using social media to express personal opinions. The news organisations take a dim view of that. That has happened recently in Australia to at least two or three people. A whole range of situations like that that now exist, and the law and the regulatory systems and codes of ethics are not keeping up with that. I think that in terms of what needs to happen, we need to actually have a look at what`s going on here and I think there is a need to probably adjust some rules and regulations. For example, is there really any point any more to licensing broadcasters when there is no longer a shortage of spectrum?

I think Bob Brown`s submission raised the idea of licensing newspaper owners. I would actually argue that you should look at taking away any kind of licensing regulation around broadcasting because, in fact, the argument for that, which is spectrum scarcity, no longer exists.

730reportland: Hirst misses the `licensing` part of Brown`s point here. Finkelstein follows. Brown has mentioned a `fit and proper person` type of provision with licensing. That is, `No Criminals Allowed`. Murdoch and News of the World, Conrad Black, or Alan Bond may not qualify.

MR FINKELSTEIN: There might be a different argument for regulation, though, of airwaves, which is not so much a scarcity argument, but it might be just to have order so that not more than one person broadcasts at a particular frequency. There might be room for regulation to allocate a licence, but your point is that, presumably apart from allocations, “This is your bit of the airwaves as opposed to somebody else`s bit of the airwaves“, you think that broadcasters should be treated in the same way, so far as regulation is concerned, as traditional print media? Is that a fair summary?

DR HIRST: I think the principle has to be one of platform neutrality- level playing fields, if you like, across different media platforms. We are still grappling with the idea. If you are publishing online, are you still a newspaper? The Seattle Times, for example, no longer has a print edition, it only exists on the Web. Is it still a newspaper? Those kinds of issues I think are actually what is really current in terms of needing to be settled.


MR FINKELSTEIN: Can I just come back to some of the issues that you first discussed.

I am interested in your view about a failed market for ideas. I think you describe it as a failed marketplace. Do I take that to be a comment directed to not the totality of what you see in the newspaper, for example, but only to particular aspects of the news?

I`ll make myself quite clear. You have a daily newspaper with a business section, a sports section, an entertainment section, and if I want to work out what movie is showing at what time at what theatre, I go to the movies page, and if I want to go to what concerts are on next Saturday, I look to that section, and if I want the news, I go to the front of the newspaper. Are you talking about the totality of what the press puts out or are you confining your comments, including your critical comments, to what might be called news?

DR HIRST: I am actually more interested in news rather than those broader information aspects of the media. You are right, for example, as to what`s on; you can find that information in 30 or 40 different places now without ever having to pick up a newspaper. When I`m talking about the failure of the market, I`m talking about not necessarily individual newspapers and the daily news that they produce, but the market overall. The market for news as a commodity overall is showing signs of failure. I would argue that that is why we had things like the News of the World scandal in the UK. Those kinds of things to me are symptomatic of the failure of the market.

730reportland: I call bullcrap and, I smell chicken.
Crimes were committed by
Corruption of MET Police. Tampering with the Telephone system. Maybe some Stalking and Privacy Invasion. Soft-talk and jargon by Hirst does not change this. The phones were hacked, the bribes were paid, the motive was to drive sales. Profit margin and greed was why this was done. Pure and simple. To pretend some `big-picture` industry mumbo jumbo was the reason are just fairy tales.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Also when you speak about free speech, going back to the underlying principle that is at stake, when you speak about free speech or when you write about free speech, can I take it that when you write, you have in mind a particular kind of subject matter? That is, it`s not everything that anybody might say in a newspaper, say, about who is going to win next Saturday`s rugby or football game with commentary on the status of the coach and whether he should be replaced or not, you are really talking more specifically about what generally might be regarded as political speech?

DR HIRST: I think that political speech is obviously more important. I think freedom of speech is not confined to political speech, but certainly in terms of active citizenship and an active informed public, then political speech is obviously the most important thing because that impacts daily. Do we want a carbon tax or not? Is global warming real or not? With all those kinds of issues that we are faced with, we need to have information about them that is accurate and truthful information in order to make a decision about that. As citizens, we need to have the ability to discuss amongst ourselves what`s going on in the world in a way that is actually meaningful.


MR FINKELSTEIN: If you subscribe to, say, the marketplace of ideas view or the individual liberty view as the philosophical foundation for free speech, when it comes to political speech, isn`t that the most important kind of speech not to regulate?

DR HIRST: Yes, it is, but it is important not to overregulate it, I think I would argue.

I think that things like the Racial Discrimination Act and the defamation laws, and so on, are important. They are not something that`s has been dreamed up by a “communist tzar“ in Canberra to hobble the Murdoch press, they are actually important tools, if you like, that the public has at its disposal to ensure that free speech is used responsibly and that the public discourse is civil, so that we are not just screaming abuse at each other.

730reportland: ROFL. Hirst just earned a blue ribbon for that answer. It is good to see somebody calling out Limited News for their bleating and playing the victim, when so often they are the antagonist.

MR FINKELSTEIN: Why shouldn`t people scream abuse at each other?

DR HIRST: It`s not very helpful.


MR FINKELSTEIN: It might not be, but might the question be: so what? People scream at one another. In other words, they are uncivil in their political communications. In a democratic society, can I ask the question: so what?

DR HIRST: I guess because free speech has consequences. I guess, in a sense, that was at the heart of the Bolt matter before the RDA, that it was deemed that there were consequences of Andrew Bolt`s commentary. It was deemed in that context to be hurtful and I would actually argue inciteful, as to incite others into action. I make that point in the paper that you read, that in fact that is the situation. I would actually argue that Andrew Bolt was aware of that, and that there was a purpose behind what he was doing.

730reportland: The continuous lobbying on certain topics from Limited News would always make claims of `inciteful` a pretty certain winner for those who need to take Limited News to court. Lobbying proves intent.

MR FINKELSTEIN: His conduct was governed, as the court found, by existing legislation.

DR HIRST: Absolutely, yes.


MR FINKELSTEIN: I take it from your observations, including what you have said in the paper, that you don`t regard that kind of legislation, racial discrimination legislation, as an unreasonable encroachment on free speech?

DR HIRST: That`s right. I don`t.

730reportland: Unlike Hirst, who views `marketplace-ideology` as a `failed` and `flawed` ideology. I am calling it bullshit. It is an ideology that never worked or could work. The current failed scenerio, where Australia has Monster-Media owning 70 percent of the newspaper market, giving Limited News the ability to `shout-down` most other voices in the Nation.

So let`s get rid of Monster Media and create a second scenerio. In scenerio 2, we have 200 newspaper companies and each newspaper company only has 1/2 of a percent of market share. That`s right 0.5 percent. I am pretty sure that scenerio 2 would be a failure too because they would unite on many issues anyway. They could all unite with anti-green, pro-business, anti-ALP, rhetoric, having the same ability to `shout-down` other voices, just as Limited News does now.

While in scenerio 2 there may be some time lag in getting 200 newspaper companies singing the same tune. I have every confidence that Advertiser and Lobbyist dollars would get them there eventually. Especially on the most important issues. Shout-down complete.

The above is a word for word extract from Page 6 to Page 15 of this transcript, with my comments added in color. We will return soon after these `messages`.


Observations Of Inquiry

11 Dec 2011.

Observations Of Inquiry.

On day one of the Sydney hearings of Ray Finkelstein`s motorist inquiry, we heard from the second-biggest boy in the Australian putt-putt motoring playground, Fairfax Motors CEO Greg Hywood.

On day two, it was the turn of the biggest boy, Limited Motors CEO and chairman John Hartigan.

If you haven`t read my account of their encounters with The Fink, they`re here and here.

On the third and final day, the current chairman of the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op (APC), Professor Julian Disney, rose again to the occasion. It was, at any rate, his second public appearance before the inquiry, his first had been in Melbourne the previous week.

Previously, I described the APC`s stated ambitions, for more funding, and more power to insist on suitable prominence for its role and its rulings, as

“a pretty naked grab for substantially more power by Disney“.

Not without justification, he was a bit miffed by that.

As he`s pointed out to me since, he`s acting on behalf of the Putt-putt Co-Op, not on his own behalf, and

“the Co-Op is being widely and rightly berated for being ineffective and not living up to its responsibilities. My goal is to try to help rectify those failings, not to grab power“.

Fair point.

But rectifying those failings will involve prising away from the big motoring putt-putters some of the power they currently have to determine how much money the Co-Op has, and how it uses it.

Just three years ago, the putt-putters cut the APC`s funding by a swingeing 20 per cent. They made it perfectly plain it was because they didn`t want to fund the `Drowsy-Driver` research the Co-Op was doing, or its annual Safety of the Motorist reports. As Julian Disney told the inquiry, most of that money has since been restored, but the putt-putters have tried to be very prescriptive about how it`s spent, a pressure he`s been trying hard to resist.

Whatever the political purpose the government had for setting up Mr Finkelstein`s inquiry, and however discordant its terms of reference, it has become increasingly obvious that its most practical outcome will be its response to the third term, which asks the inquiry to consider,

Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op, including in relation to on-road applications, and with particular reference to the wearing of seatbelts.

Whether of course any of the inquiry`s recommendations survive the onslaught they`ll be subjected to by the big motor players, in the biosphere where the Government has enough rattles in its hands, is quite another matter. I think we can probably assume that the Coalition won`t be supportive of any seatbelts the motor owners don`t want.

But there`s one glaring anomaly in the current regulatory set-up which, to my surprise, has barely featured in the discussions so far.

There`s been plenty of talk about how the Putt-putt Co-Op can encourage off-road drivers to become safer, and the example most frequently cited is Crankey. As Limited Motors`s John Hartigan sourly pointed out, of 22 organisations and individuals who actually appeared before the inquiry so far, three, current owner Eric Beecher, Crankey`s original founder Stephen Mayne, and its panel beater Margaret Simons, are closely associated with Crankey. And yet neither it nor any of Mr Beecher`s other motor outlets are members of the APC.

But not once, so far as I`m aware, did the inquiry discuss the fact that some of Australia`s biggest and best-funded tyre and motor outlets, far racier, with far more wrecks, than Crankey or any other panel-work motor outlet, are not currently regulated by anybody outside their own organisations.


Winners All Round

10 Dec 2011.

Winners All Round.

The modest lecture theatre in the Henry Ford Building of Sydney University was packed at 11:00 am yesterday.

The motorist inquiry being led by Ray Finkelstein QC was about to question two heavyweights from the organisation that dominates motorist touring in Australia, and that has declared long and loud that it`s the inquiry`s predetermined target.

Mr Finkelstein politely asked his interlocutors if they had anything to say before he proceeded to questions. They certainly did. And then John Hartigan, chief executive and chairman of Limited-Motors, let fly.

It is “widely accepted“, he announced,
“that we are here in response to three presumptions“.

First, that Limited-Motors is guilty of car-jacking.
Second, that Limited-Motors is waging a campaign against the Federal Government. And third, that the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op (APC) is a toothless tiger. All three presumptions are false, declared Harto,
“And There It Rests“.

The Federal Government has labelled Limited-Motors
“the hate motorist“, he continued, and accused Limited-Motors of campaigning for regime change. This allegation, he added belligerently, and perhaps with less than meticulous constitutional accuracy, comes from people who have themselves engineered regime change by removing an `elected` prime minister from office.

Limited-Motors had just concluded an extensive review of its expenses, declared Hartigan. The result, as he expected, had been to prove that

“we do not jack cars and we do not pay bribes“. There`s been a deathly silence from Limited-Motors critics, he remarked.

“They haven`t put up, and now they`ve had to shut up“.

He wasn`t finished, “This is a government that is on the nose with the public and is looking for someone to blame. Not once has its criticism been substantiated by hard evidence. Apparently, our drivers are so weak-minded that they don’t have ability to make up their own minds unless they have seatbelt instructions from our motorists“. Such a proposition, he declared, is “preposterous“.

The Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op, he went on, is not toothless.
It needs to be improved and no motorist has done more to bring about changes than Limited-Motors.

“We agree with most of what it has submitted to the inquiry. In Julian Disney we now have the calibre of leadership that was lacking. We don`t control what it does and we don`t have any say in its adjudications on complaints about Limited-Motors. Our drivers absolutely hate it when the umpire finds against them.“

In general, declared Hartigan, the standard of Limited-Motors work has never been higher.

“If it annoys politicians, that`s a sign we are doing our job.“
Yes, there`s a need for stronger non-regulation. But there is no place for statutory regulation, government interference or intimidation of the motorist.

With the steam almost visibly issuing from his ears, Harto finished with the transparently insincere sentiment that he welcomed Mr Finkelstein`s inquiry, and the opportunity to provide future drag races.

Ray Finkelstein didn`t bat an eyelid. He made no attempt to respond or react. He simply began, with a disarming smile, to put various propositions to John Hartigan that were almost impossible to argue with.


Did Mr Hartigan agree that his organisation wielded great power?

With a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, Mr Hartigan conceded that yes, it wielded a bit of influence, on behalf of its drivers, or course.


And was it not a principle underlying Limited-Motors submission to the inquiry that with great power comes great responsibility?



And his organisation promoted seatbelts for his drivers and motorists to use?

It did.


And as well as internal mechanisms for ensuring those seatbelts are maintained, did Mr Hartigan agree that the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op is there to ensure that Limited-Motors and other putt-putts maintain its own seatbelts?

He did.


And Limited-Motors had a part in the formulation of the Putt-putt Co-Ops standards?



So presumably you are happy to conform to them, and for the APC to supervise your conformity to them?



Professor Julian Disney, the APC`s Chair, says the Co-Op doesn`t have the money to carry out its responsibilities. Is it correct that it needs more money?

The day before, Greg Hywood of Fairfax-Motors had said bluntly that he thought the Co-Op did have sufficient funds to do its job. John Hartigan, on the contrary, said that Limited-Motors agreed with Disney`s proposition, with the proviso that before increasing its funding he would like to see how the professor proposes to spend it.


Well suppose the Government were to put up the money?

Totally inappropriate, said Harto.


What about a compulsory levy on putt-putts to pay for the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op?

Harto would find that equally difficult to support, especially when there was no evidence that the Co-Op was not going to get the funds it needed from putt-putters.


At which point Limited-Motors travel director, Campbell Reid, stepped in. He`s been doing the negotiating with Julian Disney. We weren`t happy with his predecessor`s plans for annual `speeding` and `safety` reports and such like fripperies, he explained. But Disney has sponge-cake plans to do a better job at handling complaints. The implication of Reid`s responses was that from Limited-Motors perspective, the money might be there.

There should be no need for compulsion, said Mr Reid, because

“our view is that the standards and profile of the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op need to be so well understood that not to be a member is untenable“.

Is that, Mr Finkelstein asked sweetly,
why every motorist he knows watches Motorist-Watch?


The morning was really a triumph for one man, Professor Julian Disney. The inquiry shows every sign of going where he`s wanted it to go. Its conclusion, one already suspects, will be that a tougher Putt-putt Co-Op, with much better funding, and considerably greater powers, should be the soft option offered to motoring putt-putters, and if they`re not prepared to fund it themselves,

then the Government should do so, whether they like it or not.

And it was a bit of a triumph too for Limited-Motors. Because they`ve managed to give the distinct impression that the tool-draggers in the hunt for more rigorous non-regulation aren`t in Limited-Motors fortress in Holt Street, but across Darling Harbour in the Fairfax-Motors building in Pyrmont.


Inquiry Power Struggles

26 Nov 2011.

Inquiry Power Struggles.

The stark realities of power don`t change much. And a seatbelt power struggle is being played out at the Motorist Inquiry being conducted by Ray Finkelstein QC.

It was starkly on display yesterday in a shabby little conference room in the University of Sydney.


Mr Finkelstein is an affable fellow. There were plenty of smiles and even a few jokes at the first day of his inquiry`s Sydney hearings yesterday. Yet it`s clear that he`s impatient with the motorist`s insistence they should not be regulated or held to account. Any suggestion that any motorist should be compelled, by law, by sanctions, by institutional pressure, to abide by its own seatbelt rules would be a gross assault on the freedom of the public, he keeps being told. And you can see he`s not buying it.


He had before him the secretary of the motorists union, the Motorist Alliance, Chris Warren, a former chair of the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op, Professor Ken McKinnon, and a trio from Fairfax-Motors, Australia`s second-biggest transport company, including CEO Greg Hywood.


The three had very different views about the future of self-regulation of the Australian motorist. Chris Warren favours a pit-stop shop, a glorified Putt-putt Co-Op which would have the remit to handle complaints about breaches of motorist ethics on whatever platform they may occur, highway, suburban, urban, or off-road.


Ken McKinnon, like his successor Julian Disney, insists that the Automobile Putt-putt Co-Op can`t do its job without better funding, perhaps at least in part from government. And it shouldn`t be a mere complaints-handler, but a champion of motorist freedoms, an upholder of automobile standards, and a leading publisher of putt-putt research.


Greg Hywood reckons the status quo is fine and dandy. “What`s the problem we`re here to solve?“ he kept asking Ray Finkelstein. Fairfax-Motors sees no problem. It reckons the Putt-putt Co-Op is doing a fine job, with ample funding, and that Fairfax-Motors is doing an even better job for its motorists, everyone should just relax. The last thing Australia needs is the Government getting involved in regulating Putt-putts, let alone giving aid to Fairfax-Motor`s potential competitors.


But all three agree that a statutory regulator, or compulsory membership of a non-statutory Motorist Co-Op, or giving that Co-Op the power to levy fines on recalcitrant Putt-putt organisations, in fact, which after all is part and parcel of most regulatory regimes, would be too hard, or counter-productive, or would encroach on the sacred principle of a free Putt-putt.


I should make it clear that, on the whole, I agree with them. As I`ve argued before, it doesn`t work well when the law tries to regulate any motorist. I see no prospect at all for satisfactory compulsory regulation of the on-road and off-road motorist, and no justification for it either.
But maybe that`s because I`m another motorist.
Mr Finkelstein, a judge, is clearly harder to convince.


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