Apart from the ABC and SBS, the government broadcasters, and the National Broadband Network there isn’t all that much for a Communications minister to do. Most radio, television, and newspapers are run quite efficiently by private enterprise, with the possible exception of Fairfax Media.
This is possibly one of the reasons why the current minister, Steven Conroy acts like a man with too little to do. The other is that he has a petty mind, is a control freak, and has an extraordinary capacity for hatred, especially toward those who criticise his party.
His record is one of continual attempts to control the output of the private media with enquiries, attempts to regulate media ownership with a public interest test, and an effort to licence journalists. He even pushed for a super regulator to control newspapers, radio, television, and even blogs that attained more than 43 hits per day. (Not kidding it’s real)
Cabinet is considering the recommendation of the Convergence Review for a public interest test for media proprietors and the call from Justice Finkelstein for a new statutory super-regulator that would cover radio, television, newspapers and the web, including blogs receiving as few as 43 hits a day.
It is not known why the minimum figure of 43 was chosen, rather than 47, 62, 96, or even 29, but perhaps it was thought that people might think of these as random numbers he pulled out of his hat, or might just look silly.
His hatred of Andrew Bolt has become something of an obsession though. He has now proposed legislation to block media companies from partnering with other companies on programs. While the blurb mentions the 10 networks’ Meet the Press although there is a much higher likelihood that it is aimed squarely at the Bolt Report, in which News Ltd personality Andrew Bolt appears on 10:
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is understood to have put the proposals to Julia Gillard on Monday night in an attempt to stop the Ten Network from working with News Limited to produce a Sunday current affairs program.
As Wayne Swan joined the discussion, Senator Conroy suggested expanding his reform package to ban free-to-air TV networks from outsourcing news and current affairs to other media companies. Labor's anxiety over the Meet The Press program on Ten contrasts with the show's impact on public affairs, given the forum for political interviews draws fewer than 75,000 viewers on Sundays.
And the high-level focus on the program appeared to ignore similar deals at the ABC in which Four Corners aired reports by journalists from Fairfax newspapers on subjects such as the Reserve Bank's note-printing subsidiary and global warming in the arctic.
While the Prime Minister rejected the minister's idea, the talks about such a contentious new measure indicate the fluid state of a reform package that needs to be finalised within a fortnight so there is time to legislate it this year. …
… The Greens are demanding legislation to stop Ten's agreements with News after being told by the media regulator last year that Lachlan Murdoch's interest in Ten and DMG Radio did not breach current rules because he was not a "controller" of News Corporation, parent company of News Limited, which publishes The Australian. Mr Murdoch sits on the News Corporation board.
Greens leader Christine Milne accused News of exerting influence over Ten and singled out the creation of a Sunday TV program featuring News columnist Andrew Bolt and the agreement this month for the two companies to co-operate on Meet The Press.
While Senator Conroy expressed no concern about News and Ten when asked his view in the Senate on Monday, several individuals told The Australian he is privately furious about the alliance. Labor's frustration with News is well known after cabinet ministers talked about "going to war" with the company in August 2011 because of their anger at reports critical of the government.
The decision to reject this effort may be the only sound judgment Gillard has displayed during her term although it might be merely be an attempt to slap back at the Greens. Previous efforts to destroy Bolt have only gained him more public support; this will be no different. If they keep trying they are likely to give him the reputation of “The man they couldn’t root, shoot, or electrocute.”