Comment on possible changes to the cross media ownership laws is emerging, again. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull reopened the conversation in an interview with Sky, reflecting that the media landscape had changed dramatically, so it makes sense to change the rules that govern the ownership that were set up before the changes occurred. It seems pretty sensible to me.
However, here is the paradox.
The traditional media is commercially stuffed, as the advertising has been drained away by the “new media” of the internet, but never have they been so powerful. Just look at the role the Murdoch press, and the so called “news” programs on commercial TV at prime time in the evening, played in the recent federal election.
“New media” outlets are popping up all over the place, previously unpublishable individuals (like yours truly) can have their say, amongst comment and analysis by serious groups like the Guardian , and new collaborations like that represented by the Conversation . However, the agenda is still being shaped by the newspapers and evening TV “news” programs.
Occupying a core place in the system is the ABC, seemingly reviled by both political persuasions when in Government, so they must be doing something right. However, the future of the ABC is consistently under question, and the economic argument is a solid one. The demographics of the ABC are heavily skewed towards the top half of the population, 70% of the population never engage with the ABC over the course of a year, and yet we all pay equally, effectively a regressive tax. As the argument goes, those who want the ABC can generally afford to pay for it, or have their viewing/listening interrupted by ads which pay for it, and those who do not ever listen/view it should not be expected to pay.
The media landscape has changed beyond recognition in the last decade, and the rules that govern that landscape should evolve as well to better ensure a competitively and commercially healthy system, as we are all best served by diversity, competition and innovation. Just what that evolved regulatory framework means is under debate, and some pretty smart people are putting their views, amongst them Marc Andreesen, an investor who gets it right more often than he gets it wrong, with this terrific post on the future of news.
Any change will impact all of us. How we obtain information, analysis, and opinion, wrapped up as “news” in my humble view, is crucial to the way we interact with the world, and we should all be engaged in the debate about the changes.