The problem of policing [irony acknowledged] 'free speech' in Australia is multiple and not just about free speech. It is about restraining the power of capitalism focused in one or two media corporations so that it cannot dominate public perception. Unusually public-spirited rich Australian, Dick Smith, has sent a long letter to Kim Williams, CEO of News Limited, defending the Australian Government's attempts to reform the press. In it he accuses the Murdoch press of cynicism in their opposition to these attempts.
"I hold the quaint belief it is incumbent on media owners to ensure their papers and broadcasting channels behave responsibly and in the public interest and show leadership on important issues that affect us. And while calling governments to account, they should not so intimidate politicians and public officials that they interfere with the process of rational debate and good policy. Your organisation has clearly failed this test." (Dick Smith, http://dicksmithpopulation.com/)
Free speech in Australia, Politicians, and the Corporate Media
The problem of policing [irony acknowledged] 'free speech' in Australia is multiple and not just about free speech. It is about restraining the power of capitalism focused in one or two media corporations so that it cannot dominate public perception. This notion of restraining capitalism is sacreligious to those who endorse the free market. Both Labor and Liberal Parties are completely in the thrall of free market doctrine so restraining the concentration of capital in the media seems to be a no-go zone. The problem of policing free speech is also about freedom for politicians to act on behalf of their constituents without being blacked out or attacked by corporate media monsters. On the other hand, it is also a problem of ensuring that Governments do not get into the position of being able to muzzle the media. At the moment, in Australia, the media muzzles and molds politicians. They dare not endorse any point of view that runs contrary to those in the interests of the Murdoch and Fairfax Press. Since the Murdoch and Fairfax press are pretty much all there is, this leaves politicians with no other major media voice, apart from the corporate look-alike ABC. This situation has been in place for so long that there probably are no established politicians in Australia who are not virtual mouthpieces of the Murdoch and Fairfax Press. (The fact that Julia Gillard is so hated by Fairfax and Murdoch is a factor in her favour.) On the question of 'free speech' itself, well, Australians have no right to it that they can defend at law. For this reason, perhaps, a law establishing free speech as a right would be a good place to begin media reform. But, unless we can regulate ownership of the press, only the very rich will be able to express their right to free speech.
Smith on how profit drives appeal to conservative views on climate change
In a straight-shooting and perceptive letter to Kim Williams, CEO of News Limited, Dick Smith condemns the media empire’s overarching profit imperative and the way it impedes free speech in the press when these two things intersect. You might wonder why there would be more profit in appealing to conservatives than in appealing to 'liberals' but Smith is talking about appealing to conservative advertisers, who come from the big business and anti-environmental sector. And, of course, Murdoch is in that very club. He should realise that anything that would reduce greenhouse emissions tends to curb growth and that the powerful on both the 'left' and the right love growth. (This includes the Greens.)
Smith says that the Murdoch media empire profits from prejudice but should be showing leadership on important issues. For instance, he says that the Murdoch Press indulges people who think that man-induced climate change is a furphy, in order to make a profit, even though Mr Murdoch may well not be in personal disagreement with the theory of anthropogenic climate change:
"When friends ask me why your [Murdoch's] organisation runs such opposing views on climate change – from Fox News’ claims that it’s all bunkum to The Australian newspaper occasionally claiming it’s accepted science – I am able to say, “it’s simple. It’s all about making more money. They have worked out they will get more advertising and make more money on Fox News if climate change is debunked using sensationalism whilst they are likely to get greater circulation and more advertising dollars if The Australian shows a different view, so staff are directed accordingly”.
In effect, your organisation promotes views that meet the prejudices of your audience so as to maximise profits. This is not promoting free speech – it is abusing it."
Dick’s letter was followed up by a clear as crystal interview on the ABC’s Lateline on Monday night July 23rd. (The interview starts at the 31minute mark) Dick spoke principally about how the Murdoch press operates with respect to heretical views such as his own - that the economic growth we have experienced cannot continue as it as it is, relying on the consumption of finite resources.
Dick describes the “self censoring” of journalists on this issue in order to maintain employment. He also takes the opportunity in the interview to show how the Murdoch media can appear to be on one side of a debate whilst using another outlet to promulgate the opposite view that will appeal to a majority, thus ensuring a volume of satisfied viewers/readers and profits for “New York” See the interview for yourself at http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/976817
Media promotion of unsustainable economic systems achieved by muzzling contrary views
Smith is particularly dedicated to promoting knowledge about the unsustainability of an economic system that depends on continuous growth in population and resources and energy. He feels that the Murdoch Press fails to support
"the need for major debate and planning by our leaders on how to move to an economic system that does not require perpetual growth in population and the use of resources and energy."
For this reason Smith is printing 2.4 million copies of a magazine to be inserted in daily newspapers, entitled, “Dick Smith’s Magazine of Forbidden Ideas That You Won’t Read About in the Mainstream Media”.
He writes to Murdoch Press CEO Williams,
"As you control 70% of the print media in Australia, it’s obvious that 70% of my magazines will have to go in your newspapers. So will you reject my magazine as you did the original paid announcement? Let’s test your commitment to free speech."
Smith claims that Murdoch won't answer his letters anymore. He seems to feel that this breakdown in communication with Murdoch coincided meaningfully with Smith's criticism of the Murdoch Daily Telegraph's
"...front-page attack of Cate Blanchett when she dared to support the carbon tax."
The Wilbeforce Award - AUD$1m for population leaders under 30
While you are on Dick’s website, if you are under 30 and are already aware of the need to move towards a steady state economy and a slowing of population growth, see if you are in the running for his “Wilberforce Award”.