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ACM Home arrow Media and monarchy

Media and monarchy

Media and Monarchy


 
Comment is free, but facts are sacred


The  media play a crucial role in a modern democracy in informing the people. To do this they must be free. The media agree that there is an ethical requirement that  fact and comment should be distinguishable, and that the news should be as truthful as is reasonably possible.

As the editor of the Manchester Guardian famously declared in 1921, " Comment is free, but facts are sacred"

But while the private media are entitled to editorialise, this is not a luxury which the taxpayer funded public media, the ABC and SBS, can properly have.

In the 1999 referendum, the media were mainly and strongly in favour of change.  What became clear was that this seriously affected the presentation of the news.

As the international authority, and in his earlier career a highly respected editor, Lord  Deedes, wrote in the London Daily Telegraph :

"I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end."

Dr Nancy Stone undertook a survey for The Samuel Griffith Society of two outlets at the time, The Age and The Australian.  Her research confirms Lord Deedes’ conclusion.



The media's role



"Our great misfortune, as we continue to consider the possibility of constitutional change,” observes Sir David Smith, an authority on the role and function of the Governor-General,” is that most Australians do not know enough about our present Constitution to be able to understand any proposals for change." 

To make matters worse, there are those who ought to know better yet would ignore or misrepresent its current provisions in order to advance their case for change.

“The media, who might have been expected to take a role in informing the electorate during the 1999 constitutional referendum campaign, behaved disgracefully, and no doubt would do so again in future. “Instead of reporting, the media were active partisans and conducted their own campaign for the republic.“

For example, when former Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen and former Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason signed an open letter for the republic, it was published on page 1 of The Australian.

“The open letter in reply, signed by, amongst others, former Governor-General Bill Hayden and former Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs, was published on page 10 of The Australian.

“Support for the present constitutional arrangements was equated with disloyalty to Australia, and there were some particularly nasty and offensive examples, such as The Daily Telegraph’s “Queen or Country” masthead; and The Australian’s “scales of justice” motif featuring a crown versus a slouch hat.

“Writing just after the referendum, Tony Abbott, himself a former journalist at The Australian, noted that ‘the reputation of the media can hardly be enhanced by so consistently misreading the public mood, so unrelentingly barracking for the losing side – and by subsequently insisting that voters got it wrong. ... But if the media’s job is to reflect (as well as to lead) a pluralist society, journalists as a class should be embarrassed at the way they have allowed ideological enthusiasm to get the better of professional detachment.’ "

Even the editor of The West Australian, himself a direct electionist republican, had this to say about The Australian’s coverage of the referendum debate:

“’I think it’s one of the lowest ebbs in Australian journalism because The Australian’s become totally partisan. It’s boosterism at its worst and it’s propaganda that goes beyond the rights of a newspaper to have a point of view. It was semi-hysterical most days and as it became apparent that the yes case was in trouble, it got more hysterical.”

“Even one year after the referendum, the ABC could not restrain itself. In a television news item about separate functions held in Sydney by Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and the Australian Republican Movement in November 2000 to mark the first anniversary of the referendum, the voice-over commentary by the ABC news reader told viewers that the republic would continue to be an issue 'because most Australians still wanted independence.'

Sir David adds "What was that about ABC bias?” 



The media in any future campaign
 

So how will the media behave in any future plebiscite or referendum? Will they behave ethically?

Sir David Smith doubts that they will lift their performance. If they do not, they will serioulsy risk the one valuable possession they have - their credibility.

There is a concern among journalists as to the future of quality journalism, and that is justified. The closing of The Bulletin and the running down of current affairs progammes on the Nine network  reminded journlists that these had existed only because of the indulgence of the late Kerry Packer.

The Australian only exists because its creator, Rupert Murdoch was - and perhaps still is - willing to subsidise it. The last thing journalist and editors should do is to jeopardise the standing of their outlets by indulging in shame faced bias in something as important as a proposal to change the bases of our constitutional system.

And journalists and editors must understand that the power of the mainline media has been diluted.Well before the mainline media were already losing their monopoly with the advent of talk back radio, which they had seriously underrated.

Since the 1999 campaign, the internet provides a way in which a voice minimised and suppressed by the mainline media can go behind the media filters and reach a large and increasing audience. 

Another factor will be the model presented in any future referendum.

If it involves a general election of the president, the united front among the mainstream media will fracture.  Most are opposed to this model. T

In 1999, a united mainstram  media were unable to ensure a victory for the politicians' republic in 1999.

But there can be no doubt that their long campaign for change had some effect, increasing to some extent  the "yes" vote.

Should they behave as badly as they did in 1999, they will only reinforce the lack of confidence people already show about the media in survey after survey.
 

Tony Abbott and the Cultural Cringe Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Flynn   
Thursday, 04 August 2011

There are lots of ways to finish a sentence that begins "the trouble with republicans is..."

One way is to say "...they attack the arguments which monarchists do not use" another would be "...they don't know and, what is worse, they don't know they don't know".

There have been a couple of examples of this recently attacking Tony Abbott for supposed hypocrisy.

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[ Australian to the bootstraps]

[Continued below]

Read more...
 
The Economist revisited Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011

I mentioned here earlier this year that I had subscribed to The Economist for well over two decades, but I began to lose confidence in it when I found that reports on matters on which I had some knowledge were superficial and even wrong.

The newspaper, as it prefers to call itself, was once edited by that great constitutionalist Walter Bagehot.  Today, it draws on the respect and standing it accumulated from its past high standards. But in recent times it has taken on an increasingly undergraduate air, at times substituting opinionated arrogance for knowledge, understanding, common sense and experience. 

Of course much of what it does is still good, but its sudden endorsement of republicanism for the UK was thoughtless, and too often rude  and infantile.  This is exacerbated by the anonymity of its reporters, as every piece of vitriol is thus endorsed by the newspaper.  A reader will then feel it is The Economist which says this, and be annoyed with the newspaper. If the columnist were named, the reader's annoyance would be directed to the columnist.

Anonymity was alright when The Economist was an objective observer, but not for columnists'  nastiness.

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..resign...

 

 One of the worst examples was a cover calling on President Clinton to resign, or be impeached, over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Needless to say the President did not accept this advice.I did not renew my subscription, but have received increasingly attractive offers to come back. Not while it propagates a republicanism which is too often infantile and nasty.





...another critique...

 
   



I was interested to see in the July- August 2011 edition of Quadrant that James Allan, the Canadian Garrick Professor  of Law at the University of Queensland, has taken a similar view to the Economist. ( An extract from this article appears in a recent issue of The Spectator Australian edition.)

 In "Out of love with The Economist” he writes that he first started getting suspicious when The Economist began supporting curious causes, including its call for Britain to become a republic.



 (Continued below)
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Media screamed at Australians to vote for republic...unsuccessfully, says former PM Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 18 July 2011
Among calls from politicians for a media enquiry, former Prime Minister John Howard has poured cold water on fears about the influence of the media.

Interviewed on the ABC’s Insiders television programme on 17 July 2011, he recalled that in 1999 Rupert Murdoch's News media, the major Fairfax media empire, and the public broadcaster, the ABC had almost screamed at voters to approve an Australian republic.

They didn't.



 

...republic low order issue...




(Continued below)

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Newspapers driving their readers away Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 16 July 2011

In the years leading up to the 1999 referendum most of the mainstream media ordered Australians to vote Yes to the Turnbull- Keating republic and get on with it. 

 So did about two thirds of the  politicians.

To the surprise of both, the majority of Australians didn't obey their masters, with the exception of the inner-city elites.  The vote was higher than it would have been if there had not been such an unprecedented attempt to brainwash the nation. Held today the Yes vote would be significantly lower, and certainly less than 40%. Again, no state would support it.

Most of the media and the politicians understand this. it is not that they have become constitutional monarchists; they have just put the Republic on the never-never.

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The spin is that out of respect for Her Majesty this is not to be done during her reign. 

The real reason for putting a republic on the never-never is that the republican politicians  have done their polling and focus groups and found that Australians don't want them to touch it with a barge pole.

Only two of the nation’s capital city newspapers still demand republican change - The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. There are still telling the people and the politicians to do what they clearly don't want to do.

The results are dire. In this column on 7 July we referred to a highly respected financial analyst on the media who predicts  that both newspapers  will cease to exist  physically  within the next decade.  Two thirds of metropolitan journalists will need to go just to keep their employer alive.




...how to lose readers...
 


 Now Ben Jellis in The Spectator Australia (16/7) concludes that the two news papers have become “‘niche publications”. But, he warns, “they are still managing to lose readers.”


He explains that both venerable publications have been captured by an out-of-touch elite.

 (Continued below)
Read more...
 
Now apologize to the Royal Family Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Friday, 08 July 2011
The announcement that the News of the World is to close has followed days of allegations against the newspaper. In 2007, the newspaper’s royal editor and an investigator were gaoled for hacking offences including the phones of members of the Royal Family.

It now seems that this  was only the tip of the iceberg.

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It has now been conceded that investigators working for the newspaper had hacked into the mobile phones of military families, the victims of the 7/7 attacks and murder victims, including the teenager Milly Dowler.  It had become clear that the hackers and deleted messages when her message bank was full so that new messages could be received.  This caused the family to think that she could still be alive.



...James Murdoch acts...




Mr. James Murdoch, the Chairman of the newspaper’s proprietor, News International, has rightly described these practices as inhuman.  The important point is this behaviour must not be repeated.

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From his comments in the video below it is reasonable to be confident in his undertakings.  But he should now also apologise to members of the Royal Family not only for the original offences but particularly for the acts of revenge following the arrest of the News of the World journalists. One of these, by The Sun, involved publishing material - on page one - of Prince Harry in such a way that the readers and the person most affected - his girl friend - would be misled. 


 




...more than 4000 message banks hacked....





The police have now revealed that more than 4,000 people were victims of private detectives employed by the paper. Apart from this scandal, the police are also investigating one concerning payments being made to police officers for information. The News of the World, hitherto the biggest selling English-language newspaper in the world, is currently at the centre of two police investigations, one into the alleged hacking, the other into payments allegedly made to police officers.

The gap in the market for Sunday newspapers following the closure of The News of the World is likely to be filled by a new Murdoch newspaper, The Sun on Sunday.





...widespread  revulsion...




 Robert Winnet of the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph (7/7) reports that after widespread public revulsion at the scandal and condemnation from MPs, dozens of companies had announced they were withdrawing advertising from the paper. The share price of News Corporation  had also been badly affected.

He reports that Rebekah Brooks ((née Wade), the chief executive of News International and former editor of the News of the World, has been allowed to keep her job despite widespread calls for her to be sacked. “Last night she faced angry scenes at the paper as she broke the news to journalists.”

He reports. “There were reports she had to be escorted from the offices by security guards for her protection.”

Ms Brooks was closely involved in the negotiations with the British Press Complaints Commission which resulted in a working understanding between the tabloids and Clarence House during the minority of Prince William.

According to Mr Winnet, Rupert Murdoch and his family have sacrificed the News of the World tabloid as they fight to salvage their company’s attempt to take over BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster.   There is growing political pressure on the Government to block the deal, but Mr. Cameron is resisting that.







  ...the first case....






(Continued below)




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