A global war on public service journalism

You know what:  we think it’s tough fending off the Wellydogs and Dribblejaws when it comes to National Radio. And there’s a certain element of truth in that.

But, take heart, we are not alone. If Ruper Murdoch’s News Corporation had a bigger presence in New Zealand, it could be a lot worse.

After a year or more of sniping, bitching, biting and barking, Uncle Rupe’s dogs of war have had a substantial victory in the UK.

The BBC – the paradigm example of public service broadcasting – has trimmed its own wings, rather than have them ripped off by a Tory government. According to a recent piece the The Guardian, the BBC has cut 600 million pounds from its expenditure and is reducing its online presence in response to whinging, money-grubbing complaints from commercial media (led by Murdoch) that the BBC was stifling its profit potential.

You know what, these free-market shysters should shove their own medicine where the sun-don’t-shine. They want to live an die by competition, yet when a service is popular and actually out competes them they bleat on about how it’s unfair that the BBC is so successful and has licence-fee money to spend.

The market is a failure and for the losers to whine and cry till they get their own way is pathetic.

Murdoch has now set his sights on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. News Limited columnist Mark Day is spear-heading Murdoch’s down under, low and dirty under the table kneeing in the groin attacks on the ABC.

In a piece just yesterday [1 March] Day makes a direct link between the BBC’s pre-emptive self-kneecapping and what he thinks should happen to the ABC.

It is time we had a full debate about the role of the ABC. It was established in a vastly different media landscape as a taxpayer-funded entity designed to, in part, fill in the market niches not served by the commercial sector. Now, thanks to pay-TV and the digital revolution, those niches are hotly contested. [Day 1 March 2010 redefine ABC]

The man has no shame when it comes to doing Murdoch’s bidding and some people still wonder why we fight so hard for public broadcasting. This is a totally self-serving argument that ignores the reality and history of the market and clearly serves Murdoch’s interests.

So far the ABC is standing firm and Managing Director Mark Day Scott [tx Rob] has responded to the shot across the bows.

But it seems the vigorous pursuit of commercial agendas by some of our media rivals is allowing the facts to be sidelined in pursuit of a good story.

There is a concerted attempt to portray the ABC’s role in the media as solely that of a niche provider- participating only in sections of the market not served by the commercial sector.

This “market failure only” portrayal ignores the history: Australia has been richly served by a dual system of public broadcasting working alongside commercial media. [Not for sale]

Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a global trend. The media industry is in trouble and public service broadcasters are actually doing OK. We tend to trust them more; they’re reliable; they’re staffed by people who care about good journalism; and they don’t have greedy shareholders sucking the life out of them.

Now the greedy slugs and layabouts want a slice of our pie too.

We need to tell them to “piss off” in no uncertain terms.

This is the fight we are now joining in terms of Radio New Zealand.Murdoch may not have any direct influence here, apart from Sky TV, but there are plenty of stalking horses in the commercial media. Whanganui’s mayor is an obvious early starter.

I have been tracking the various speeches by shady members of the Murdoch clan. You can read all about it on the following links:

Barbarians at the Gate

The fall of Rome

Safe hands…not

Money-grubbing journalism

And Michael Laws’ contribution is straight from the Murdoch hymnsheet:

The state broadcaster robs taxpayers of $38 million a year to, essentially, provide two radio options. The ironically named National Programme (when its politics is ostensibly liberal Labour) and the leech-like Concert Programme.

At a time when your radio dial is replete with choice – from Radio Rhema to The Rock – public policy has decided that two types of listeners require direct subsidy. Actually, three – but that is another scandal.

The whistle is blown, the hounds are baying; they smell blood.

Get the bats ready.

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