Inquiries out of control trying to control the message

THE media are always fascinated by the media, and so it makes sense to talk about our future while we can.
Nanjing Night Net

Some weeks ago I wrote about the Finkelstein inquiry and did my best to bury it because it made no sense. I see I didn’t have to try too hard. It’s faded away all by itself.

But hard on its heels is a 200-page report commissioned by the government on what has been called convergence. Charlie thinks a convergence is where five roads try to become one and road authorities think they need to install traffic lights. Too often they forget that the Romans invented roundabouts to let the vehicles work it out for themselves.

Sadly, the report is trying to overcome history and put traffic lights and policemen at every intersection, or even install stop signs on the open road.

This review makes some worrying suggestions, such as the establishment of a super-regulator, able to approve, or “certify”, self-regulatory bodies. It’s a contradiction in terms and nothing more than government interference in our most important freedom.

Some of the media are happy to see a beefed-up Press Council that would work to preserve free speech and promote public accountability, but if the government is going to say how these “self-regulatory” bodies will operate, they won’t be self-regulatory.

There is a feeling that there are only two major news sources other than the ABC – Fairfax and News – and that governments want to control them. This makes no sense because, on the one hand, the ABC is left alone to make its own codes and, more importantly, there are now hundreds of news sources on the net.

The government and bureaucrats are trying to move too far to establish control over an ever-changing world. It simply can’t happen. In trying to force regulatory bodies on our free expression, media owners and journalists are being treated like potential enemies of the state, and the public like morons.

I spent last weekend beside the Delatite River. One of the old-timers was commenting on someone with a bulldozer trying to reshape the river: “Rivers are alive,” he said. ”They change their own course. You manipulate them at your peril.” And so it is with the control of the media.

It is probably bureaucracy trying to persuade its political masters that it can reduce the heat in the kitchen for them. Not likely.

Recently, a very senior political leader said to me: “The trouble is, we live in a 24-hour news cycle and everything we do is noticed.”

My reply simply was: “Get used to it. If you live in a public place and benefit from it, the public owns you. If you don’t like it, get out.”

A long time ago someone wiser than this columnist said: “Power to the people.” And then whispered “and not the bureaucrats”.

Harold Mitchell is executive chairman of Aegis Media Pacific and a board member of Crown.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.