Further comments on the hegemony of the media

Posted in: Bloggery

At a Committee for Economic Development lunch on August 14, I was privileged to hear Professor Tim Flannery speak.  Tim is of course Chief Commissioner, Climate Commission and a distinguished author and academic.

What struck me about his speech was his quiet blend of optimism and concern.  He quietly observed that whilst he was disappointed by the level of debate in his most critical area of focus, he then went on to talk very informatively, and optimistically about world developments, issues and technology innovations in relation to climate change.

It was a great example of leadership we need more of in Australia.  Evidence-based, thoughtful explanation and persuasion.

We live in a time of wedge politics, one line sound bites and negativity.  A time where politicians fear sections of the media, and try to stay onside with simplistic opinion and populism.  Which is worse, craven politicians seeking airspace, or a media organisation fanning basic prejudices and lowest common denominator populism?

I do wonder how individuals like Professor Flannery manage to maintain their tenacity, conviction and courtesy in this environment, but is terrific to see it.

But I think what gets me more worked up is to then see attempts to lift the media to a better level being pushed back by both politicians and the media themselves.  The current discussion of the Finkelstein review (the subject of an earlier blog of mine) is being hijacked by a spurious claim that those seeking to lift the professionalism of the media are against press freedom.

Justice Finkelstein is as passionate as anyone about the independence of the press.  What he demonstrated convincingly however is the steady slide of sections of the media to out and out one- sided political campaigning and shock-jock populism, with little accountability when journalists write one-sided and sometimes completely inaccurate articles.  He argues the case for a completely independent, but upgraded Press Council, to hold media accountable for quality, fact based journalism.

At present climate change mavericks get plenty of oxygen – and it is their right to have a say – but fairly limited coverage is given to the substantive research and issues raised by Professor Flannery and his Climate Change Commission.

I am sorry if this blog sounds a bit like one of those rants we associate with certain radio personalities.  I think we need much higher levels of accountability and intelligence operating among our politicians, and especially in those sections of the media so determined to dumb down debate about the big issues of our time.