Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The decay of mainstream media in Australia – and the rise of new independent media

Faustian Pact: no way back from public relations for News and Nine, Michael West Media by Michael West | Dec 31, 2020 Old media caps off annus horribilis 2020 with its traditional horrible week. Michael West, standing in for Michael Tanner, looks at the fall of Fairfax, PR masquerading as journalism, who guards the Guardian, Seven News’ calls for war with China and how Scott Morrison’s media team has the game sown up.

Independent. Always.

Ahem …

How about Independent. Sometimes.

As annus horribilis 2020 shudders to its Covid-ridden close, the once venerable Australian media properties, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, have spruced up their advertising.

We refer not to their advertising for the Liberal Party, or even the heavy editorial influence of their beloved corporate sponsors, but rather the advertising of their own unseemly decline.

The shining example of the week was this Op-ed piece penned by a Liberal Party PR person and lobbyist Parnell Palme McGuinness.

Your humble essayist was once, long ago, a cadet at Fairfax – now Nine Entertainment. Reading this slavering panegyric to Gladys Berejiklian, which kicked off with a gratuitous swipe at Jacinda Adern, approximated the feeling one gets when scraping one’s fingernails across a blackboard.

It wasn’t just the tacky story. More the creepy incursion of political PR people into what purports to be independent journalism.

Since when is it de rigueur for a media organisation to run propaganda clickbait by Liberal lobbyists who benefit from limited-tender contracts from the Liberal Government? Answer: since Fairfax (now Nine newspapers) installed Liberal editorial management.

To be fair, the decline has been afoot for more than a decade – well before the Nine Entertainment takeover. And many fine journalists remain there – albeit cowed and interfered with – and feeble management and the global decline of a business model are largely to blame. Still …

Two days later, The Age sallied forth with a piece by a sociology professor who writes for The Australian and Quadrant claiming Dan Andrews was “heading the most incompetent Australian administration in living memory”.

This bloke must have a very short living memory. Incompetence is endemic to government and there are plenty worse than Dan Andrews.

Mainstream media train wreck

If the basic task of a media organisation is to hold both sides of politics to account, particularly the side in government, most of the mainstream media in this country has failed miserably.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp gave it up long ago. The Australian, the state tabloids and Sky News are little more than agitprop – their daily daggy a capellas to government merely the thing of a propaganda machine to further the power and financial interests of a US billionaire.

And although still insisting forlornly it is independent, still touting the “Independent. Always.” slogan on its mastheads, replete with emphatic full stops, Fairfax has now joined the choir; the shrill descants of the News Corp sopranos ringing above the melodic Fairfax bass, all perfectly complemented by the altos of talk-back radio and the reliable tenors of commercial TV – together as one – singing the praises of the most corrupt government in Australian history.

Independent. Always.? What a clear breach this is of Trade Practices law; truth in advertising, if anybody could be bothered to prosecute the case………….

By changing the law to allow Nine to take over Fairfax, former Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield did a big favour for his government, as well as News, Nine and Fairfax.

Now “Mitchell Peter Fifield is the Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations”. Thanks Mitch, job well done – for the Coalition, which relies on an obsequious and beaten Fourth Estate to stay in power.

It is a symbiotic relationship to be sure; a marriage counsellor would call it co-dependent. So tightly in the clutches of Murdoch is Mitch’s successor, Paul Fletcher, that he and his office can’t, or wont’, answer questions about where Rupert Murdoch has taken control of Foxtel.

Neither can his regulator ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Undaunted, ACMA pinged Four Corners earlier this month for its investigation into the dodgy Murray Darling Basin Authority because government refused to be interviewed – and because they refused to be interviewed, the show was not balanced, according to ACMA.

Elsewhere, Fletcher was busy harassing anybody at ABC who would listen, even browbeating chairman Ita Buttrose over the Four Corners episode, which exposed a couple of ministers for engaging in the act of extra-marital canoodling.

All this punctilious intervention and regulatory fussing over nothing while Rupert, the world’s dominant media mogul, took his government grants and scurried off to Delaware with Foxtel. To the sound of crickets from Fletcher and ACMA.

Where will it all go this year? What will the Government do to protect its machinery of public relations? If the trend is any indication, mainstream media will get even closer to governments and their corporate sponsors. It will get worse.

The formula is simple: you tickle my feathers, I’ll tickle yours………….

Doing journalism was an old-fashioned formula that seemed to take Fairfax by surprise. As its new, even more hopeless and sycophantic, editorial leadership under Nine tripped over themselves firing journalists such as Michael Pascoe, Peter Martin and yours truly and replacing them with pro-business toadies from News Corp, devising new ways to kowtow to governments and corporations, the biggest winner has been The Guardian. ………….

What then does 2021 hold for media? Younger Australians have deserted mainstream media in droves. Commercial TV, newspapers, MSM websites; they simply don’t trust them. It’s mutual.

For its part, the mainstream operators have clearly picked sides; they have picked the side of governments and corporate advertisers, and in so doing, cannot improve the public interest value or the authority of their products. This is immensely frustrating for the real journalists among them, and although the management agendas will continue to be interspersed with bona fide stories by reporters doing the right thing, the cultural malaise cannot be reversed.

The Faustian Pact has been struck. There is no turning back. Credibility can only ebb further as they rely on fewer larger advertisers to survive. The government will continue to come up with schemes to subsidise friendly media such as the attack on the digital platforms. The bright news is that, where there is demand, there will be supply. There is demand for the truth, demand for courageous and uncontaminated journalism, and that will be supplied as new independent sources of media flourish. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/faustian-pact-no-way-back-from-public-relations-for-news-and-nine/

January 4, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media

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