Media in Australia is in crisis.
Despite Australians’ faith in journalism increasing according to the latest Edelman study, Australians’ trust in ‘the media’ is at an all-time low, ranking second-lowest out of 28 surveyed countries, only in front of Turkey.
At the same time, media ownership in the country has become even more concentrated in the hands of the few. The June 2018 merging of Fairfax and Nine epitomises the problems engulfing Australian communications policy: declining media independence and saturation of control within a handful of powerful individuals.
Meanwhile, private telecommunications companies have utterly failed in delivering quality services. Optus’ botched coverage of the 2018 World Cup is just one of the many examples. Whilst standards decline, costs are increasing, with phone and internet bills becoming unaffordable for many working-class people. Making a profit off an essential need is unacceptable. Companies such as Optus, Telstra and Vodaphone should be brought back into public hands to ensure that people’s needs are put first.
More broadly, the profit incentive within commercial media is becoming rapidly unsustainable. A commercialised media setting continues to have two main negative impacts:
Broadcasting is not conducted to keep the public informed, but rather to make profit
Views that challenge the status quo are drowned out
Through combination of the fact that the media landscape is controlled by the rich and that the primary incentive is profit, the end result is that the media continues to serve corporate interest. Presenting a narrative of ‘dole bludgers’ whilst normalising fascist views, the oligarch-controlled corporate media fail to not only report on the Australian Government’s disastrous policies, but also any attempts to contest such actions.
It also sees the working-class being divided. Since media serves those in power, it is in their interest to pit workers against one another. Channel 7’s racist fearmongering regarding a false ‘African gangs’ crisis unashamedly targets parts of the community and feeds lies to ordinary people.
The content broadcast on commercial media equally serves this purpose. Through an endless supply of entertainment and ‘reality’ programming, shows such as The Block and MasterChef lull the working-class into forgetting about their problems. Effectively a form of brainwashing, the corporate media gain from having an uninformed working-class that are unable to analyse the socio-political context of their society.
This endless cycle of profiteering and corporate propaganda means that systemic change is ultimately required.
Increasing developments in digital communication have allowed people to communicate more freely than ever. However, privacy and civil liberties remain under threat from continued attacks on digital rights. Whilst the Coalition seeks mass surveillance laws that further police and intelligence agency powers, Labor prevents any opposition at the mention of the unquestionable notion of ‘national security’. People’s interactions online need to be protected and shielded away from authoritarian overreaches.
Socialist Alliance recognises the important role that communications policy plays on the lives of working-class people and therefore commits to:
Massively increasing funding for the ABC and SBS
Resisting attempts to privatise public broadcasters
Protecting the independence of public broadcasters
Restoring ABC 2 and SBS 2 channels instead of ‘ABC Comedy’ and ‘SBS VICELAND’ that cater to market demands
Greater funding for community, multicultural and non-commercial broadcasting
Implementing greater regulation of media ownership laws in order to stop the toxic concentration of media ownership in the hands of rich oligarchs and instead encouraging plurality
Requiring media organisations to provide equal broadcasting time to political parties during election campaigns
Ceasing all public subsidies to commercial media organisations
Increasing subsidies for regional media organisations and local newspapers
Strengthening content regulations to prevent media from engaging in blatant, racist dog-whistling
Requiring commercial media to dedicate portions of their content to factual news, current affairs, political, arts, documentary and cultural broadcasting
Greater funding for local arts and entertainment industries
Investing to make cultural activities more accessible for everyone
Strengthening anti-siphoning laws to ensure that sporting broadcasts, including the Olympics, the World Cup and Australian professional sports leagues, are accessible to all on free-to-air television
Nationalising telecommunications providers in order to prioritise people, not profits
Greater investment in publicly-owned telecommunications to provide affordable and high-quality services to Indigenous, rural and otherwise-disadvantaged communities
Delivering world-class fibre-to-the-premises broadband through a publicly-owned NBN scheme, without public-private partnerships
Protecting Australia Post as a publicly-owned postal service
Liberalising copyright laws to prevent corporations from hoarding innovations for their own profits
Reforming defamation law that currently prevents robust public debate and allows corporations to use the threat of legal action to thwart criticism
Stopping censorship of pornographic and video games industries through X-rated and denied classifications
Adoption of a federal bill of digital rights to safeguard online privacy
Enshrinement of net neutrality in legislation
Reversing metadata collection, encryption bypassing and other mass surveillance laws that curtail civil liberties and infringe on individuals’ privacy