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Jun 29, 2012

A ‘fit and proper person’ test for media ownership; Why not for politicians?

Image: Press control is an old idea. Here is Pickering’s take on it from Whitlam's attempt in the 70s.

Stung by media reports of the growing disfunctionality of the government and the specter of Fairfax Media falling under the control of Gina Rinehart, senior federal ministers are pushing for media control. The idea of controlling the media has won favor from authoritarian regimes ever since news was invented, so this is nothing new.

The catalyst Gillard is hoping to propel her party into full press control mode is the involvement of reporter, Steve Lewis in the machinations leading up to the Slipper scandal. This is being promoted by Labor as a sign that the whole of the news media in this country is hell bent on bringing down the government bt ‘sabotaging’ it:

Federal cabinet is set to approve and present to Parliament a tough public interest test for media ownership that could vet investors such as Gina Rinehart and the expansion plans of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd.

Labor MPs have been told to sell the idea of a media crackdown to their electorates over the next six weeks after allegations involving the media’s role in the Peter Slipper affair galvanised cabinet into “fierce backing” of the controversial test.

Cabinet is also backing a new regulator to make media “more accountable” and force outlets to run apologies, retractions and rights of reply. …

… The government yesterday stepped up its criticism of the media’s role in the Slipper affair after leader of the House Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday: “People in the media need to recognise whether they’re reporters or participants, whether they’re observers or they’re activists, and there’s an important distinction.”

The government’s media convergence review has recommended a public interest test for changes in media ownership to ensure they do not diminish “the diversity of unique owners providing general content services and news/commentary.” …
With two inquiries already having been completed including the Finkelstein one which recommended a ‘fit and proper person’ test for media ownership, it just seems like a great idea to piss a bit more money away on another. With the right people on it, maybe there will be some even more draconian recommendations:
It is understood Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has told caucus colleagues he would consider their demands for a new media inquiry. The government said yesterday it had received the two reviews long before this week’s events and it was considering them both.
The real problem the government has is that it has to deal with two scandals, the Thomson one and the Slipper one. This follows the massive incompetence of governance ever since Rudd was elected and the deliberate deceit involved in the 2010 election. Despite the disastrous results over this time, most of the leadership and ministers are still in place.

Perhaps there would be less for the media to get its teeth into if there was a ‘fit and proper’ person test for MPs and ministers.

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