Media storm of the month – July 2011

We wouldn’t be doing our job if the focus for Media Storm was on anything else but the News of the World “phone hacking” scandal. It has brought to light two interesting topics, one in regards to the impact of international events on Australia and also privacy rights in the media realm.

An event on the other side of the world immediately sparked the question of freedom of press at News Ltd outlets and the need for a healthy debate about rights to privacy down under.

Julia Gillard perhaps missed a good opportunity to state publicly the difference in media culture in Australia to that in the UK and to show goodwill to the Murdoch media, which is often accused of using its clout to oppose government policy, and making a new start.

Having worked in the UK, I would agree our media is somewhat different. A robust media will always be critical of a government but the question here is privacy. Some British newspapers are quite prepared to probe the lives of celebrities if they can get a story that will sell. I don’t think our papers get this carried away.

We have had the odd one slip through though. Lara Bingle, Jess Origliasso and Ruby Rose, Nick Riewoldt – you have to question the lack of public interest in these cases.

The Federal Government has now moved to introduce a legal right to privacy so it seems something is happening. The debate will need to consider our changing media environment with new media, smart phones and other new technologies allowing easy information share.

As for Australia’s media landscape, some seem concerned about the News Ltd stake (70 percent of print media) for whatever reasons. Is the Australian market place big enough for two dominant players? It could be more interesting and bolster the role of media in a democracy.

For those of you who watched ABC’s Media Watch on Monday night (25 July), it concluded by suggesting that with the News Corp. position weakened by the event in the UK it could possibly lead to Murdoch leaving with his newspapers, or at least many of them in Australia.

Perhaps another competitive player would strengthen Australia’s media landscape. Other countries wouldn’t allow 70 percent print media ownership by one party.

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