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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.
 

John Howard on the republican media Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 17 August 2009

John Howard believes that one of the reasons why the Australian people voted no in 1999 to the proposition to make Australia a politicians’republic, was that virtually all of the media were telling them to vote yes. Mr. Howard was made the comment during a lecture in August on politics and the media at the University of Melbourne.

He said the issue was unusual because when it came to the media, “you had the ABC just in full republican mode, you had the Fairfax press in full republican mode, and you had the Murdoch press in full republican mode.

Image
[ John Howard Prime Minister 1996- 2007 ]


“And sure there was talkback people who had a different view, and there were others were taking a more sceptical view, and I thought it was an interesting reaction that despite all of that, and the stronger – the greater the crescendo came, it was almost as if the resistance began to build,” he observed.

“So it’s one of those interesting case studies that in a sense reminds us of a general proposition, and that is that the Australian people themselves have a great capacity for scepticism,” he continued.

“And I think that one of the defining differences between Americans and Australians when it comes to things such as this, is that Australians are a more deeply sceptical people than sometimes our American friends and cousins are.”



...case studies..


 

Demonstrating the balance the media did not always show  him, he  then referred to  some case studies where he believed the media had played a very positive role.

“I think from the 1980s onwards, the media in Australia, by and large, has adopted a very sensible attitude towards the need for ongoing economic reform in this country. Now you might say to yourself, he would say that, wouldn’t he, because he’s been associated with a lot of that economic reform himself.”

“ But I’m talking here not only about economic reforms that I’ve been associated with, but also economic reforms that the other side of politics have been associated with.”

Mr. Howard disapproved of the hounding of the former Governor-General, Dr. Peter Hollingworth.

”On the negative side, I have to say that I thought by and large the Australian media treated Peter Hollingworth disgracefully. You could criticise his judgement, you could criticise the prime minister who was responsible for the recommendation, but I thought the relentless pursuit and character assassination of a very, very decent man, I thought that was appalling. And it went largely right across the media.”

On both points Mr. Howard is absolutely right. We have cited here the scathing judgement of a visiting expert in the media Lord Deedes who wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999: 

“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.”


His conclusion was supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey  of two representative serious media outlets. 

Ten years ago the mainline media were unanimous in their prediction that the Australian Crown would and should be abolished.

How ironical then it is that it is the mainline media whose existence is under threat from the refusal of the young to subscribe in any significant numbers, and the development of the internet.


If the taxpayer funded media insists on campaigning for a particular agenda the time will eventually come when the taxpayers will tell the politicians they have had enough.

    
 
Freedom of speech and of the press Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 21 April 2009

One of the most disturbing aspects of the republican campaign was the really crass behaviour of the media. “I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one,” wrote the distinguished media authority Lord Deedes “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.”

Image
[ Where it began in 1803....a government newspaper ]





The Australian people were too sensible to fall for the overwhelming republican media campaign in 1999, but there is no doubt the ‘Yes’ vote was  inflated by their long campaign.  

That campaign was complemented by a speciality concocted by the sleazy end of the British media. This is “caricature journalism” which is especially directed against members of our Royal Family. We see it still in those constant  lazy ional and vindictive  attempts to paint the formidable Prince Philip as “ gaffe –prone”  For six years the man risked his life for his country, which is more than can be said for the caricaturists.

Freedom of speech and of the press is essential to the working of our constitutional system, our Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.  This freedom is always open to abuse whether by the practitioners or by those in authority. We have to be constantly on our guard. 



...soft totalitarianism...



This came into my mind in reading a piece by Dr Hal Colebatch in The Australian (21/4) which he says that Britain appears to be evolving into the first modern soft totalitarian state. “As a sometime teacher of political science and international law,” he writes, “I do not use the term totalitarian loosely.”  ( Dr Colebatch was one of the speakers at the  ACM 2008 Perth National Conference.)

He recounts how the Countryside Restoration Trust chairman   was arrested at a rally against   anti-hunting laws when he quipped: "If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you."

Months later he was told no charges would be pressed, but that: "If further evidence comes to our attention whereby your involvement is implicated, we will seek to initiate proceedings."

A 14-year-old schoolgirl, who asked a teacher if she could sit with another group  as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu, was arrested, taken to a police station, fingerprinted, photographed and put in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours.

A 10-year-old child was arrested and brought before a judge, for having allegedly called an 11-year-old boy a "Paki" and "bin Laden" during a playground argument at a primary school (the other boy had called him a “skunk” and a “Teletubby”).



Image
[ The war ends 1945 ]





Image
[ A tabloid view of the Falklands war ]





Image
[ New York tabloid crime report ]







...“Heaven and Earth”....


Another example of a combined media government attempt to limit debate is surely in the debate about whether and to what extent man is the cause of climate change.  I am no scientist, but I think that we should hear see and be able to read all sides. ACM has no position on this question and nor should it have. Constitutional monarchists’ views will range from confirmed believers in the need for urgent action to those who believe climate change is caused by factors beyond our control.

The point is that our constitutional system allows us and indeed assures us  that we be both free to speak and that we be informed about all of those debates which must rage and swirl forever in the market place of ideas which is at the very centre of our democracy. We constitutional monarchists believe that our crowned republic is better at providing this than all of the alternatives.

I have just received my copy of Professor Ian Plimer’s “ Heaven and Earth”, Connor Court, 2009 ( Australian Conservative Books) which I have been waiting for since I heard this eminent geologist speak. A solid well footnoted tome, what really caught my eye is his warning about the “demonising of dissent”.  He says there have been calls for the trial and imprisonment of those who dissent, who have been likened to “holocaust deniers”. That is shocking.  I would not even suggest that those who want to turn this country into a politicians’ republic should be treated his way.

If our constitutional system is worth anything, it is for the freedoms for which we so many risked and  gave their lives to defend.

  

 

 
Media mischief: BBC report on Pope: " very close to outright lie" - Channel 4's Christmas message Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 27 December 2008

What is going on in the London media, in particular among British public broadcasters ? Not only has a British public broadcaster invited  Iranian President Ahmadinejad to give their alternative Christmas message, the BBC has mischievously put words into The Popes’ mouth, words he did not use, words which have gone around the world and caused outrage and condemnation. Not so long ago, the BBC had to apologise to The Queen for misrepresenting her (see this column, 14 July 2007).

Image
[ He's not exactly Santa Claus ]

Those involved in defending institutions, as we are, are entitled to believe that the media will report all news truthfully and objectively. This expectation applies with particular force to public broadcasters. 

Sadly, this was not our experience in nineties during the republican offensive and especially during the 1999 referendum campaign.

As the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:  “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.”

His conclusion is supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets.







...a Christmas message...



To say we have previously warned the British public broadcaster, Channel 4, will no doubt recall parallels with the famous, I think Irish editorial, early in the twentieth century, “ We have previously warned the Csar...”

In a column on the broadcaster, “Big Brother channel attacks Prince Charles,” 12 March 2007, we pointed out  that far too often  a  story about a member of the Royal Family goes around the world and is widely published. When it is subsequently established beyond reasonable doubt that there is not a skerrick of truth in the story, the correction is given minimal publicity and in some outlets, even ignored.

Damien Thompson, the editor in chief of Brotain’s Catholic newspaper The Catholic Herald observed the London Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve that  Channel 4's decision to invite Holocaust revisionist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its ‘alternative Christmas message’ is “more than a sick seasonal prank: it's further evidence of the Left's schoolgirl infatuation with Islamic bigots.”

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{ Stalin: he had a way with children ]
 He continued: “Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, justifies her decision as follows: ‘As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.’ 

“Well, that's one way of describing a version of history in which the Jews are held responsible for most of the evil in the world.

 “The president of Iran is a Holocaust sceptic who, a couple of years ago, organised an academic conference on the subject at which a neo-Nazi produced models of a concentration camp (complete with toy train set) designed to show that Hitler's gas ovens did not exist. “His government's views on homosexuals are also robust, shall we say. Indeed, several Channel 4 executives would find themselves locked up if they followed their ‘degenerate lifestyle’ in Iran. 

“But none of that matters to Channel 4 commissioning editors, because the Christians, Jews, gays and political dissidents being persecuted in the Islamic Republic are safely out of earshot: you can't hear their cries in Crouch End.”

Christians are a persecuted minority in Iran. Can you imagine, years ago Christmas messages on a British public broadcaster from persecutors such as say, Lenin, Stalin, Mao or Hitler ?




... “ close to an outright lie”...
 



 In the meantime, the news from the BBC went around the world that The Pope, Benedict XVI, had said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforests from destruction.

The fact is, he did not say that. As Damien Thompson observes, this report is  very close to being an outright lie.

But the BBC version went around the world. Whenever  it was reported in Australia, the report also contained  indignant reactions. No doubt that happened in every other country.

Image
[ The Pope...not what he said ]

Even an Australian Catholic Bishop was taken in. The Auxililary Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Pat Power,  expressed concern that Pope Benedict's recent comments on homosexuality have hurt people and damaged the church's standing.

Appparenlty r
elying only on the BBC’s claim about what the Pope said, Bishop Power declared: "When I heard that message of the Pope I said, 'What's that saying to those people that I love and share a great deal with?'" 

 

Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the Curia in Rome on 22 December was in Italian.  An English translation by  Bishop Michael Campbell can be found on the official website of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The relevant extract follows. It appears to contain traditional Catholic teaching presented in a calm and restrained tone.

“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic.

“It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God.

“That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator.

“Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him.

"But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator.

“The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition.

“The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind.


“This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God.

“Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.”

The BBC Director General Mark Thompson should apologise, and not at the end of a news bulletin. The Catholic Church should demand the BBC put this right. 
 
Media abuse or public interest? Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 23 July 2008

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[ Heads of State meet: the Governor - General, the Sovereign Pontiff and Mrs Jeffery]

The visit of the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI and World Youth Day has concluded. The event was reported widely in the international media, including overseas television news.

A controversy has now surfaced concerning the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and World Youth Day.

The role of the media is of course to report the news, and not make it themselves. While the commercial media may campaign, media ethics require that comment be distinguishable from news reports.

One of the features of the 1999 referendum campaign was the way of vast elements of the media, particularly the “serious” media, campaigned for the Yes case even in claiming to report the news.

As the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:  “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.”

His conclusion is supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets.

The present controversy does not relate to the debate about the subventions to World Youth Day  by the Commonwealth and NSW governments, which was widely and properly reported.




...a campaign against Cardinal Pell, or acting in the public interest?




Rather it is about what Christopher Pearson described as a “reckless and ill-considered “attempt by ABC Lateline in almost nightly programmes to discredit and bring down Cardinal Pell (“Pell war a cardinal shame, “ The Weekend Australian , 19 July, 2008). 

This centred on whether one particular complainant  had almost 30 years before consented, as a twenty nine year old man,  to the sexual encounter he says wrecked his life, and for which his lawyers have demanded a settlement of $3.5 million. Lateline and other ABC programmes concentrated programme after programme on this story.

 

“If Lateline had done its homework,” Christopher Pearson wrote, “it would have discovered that this was not an open-and-shut case and made an effort to tell all sides of the story. Had it paid more heed to the fraught state of the claimant under the spotlight and the outcomes of previous criminal proceedings and litigation, it would probably have decided that this was a story it shouldn't touch with a barge pole. “

 


On 22 July, 2008 the ABC TV Media Watch programme attacked The Australian and other News Limited (Murdoch) papers for their position on this.  Media Watch  said a civil action by the complainant had only been settled in June, and that documents revealed there had only become available now.  But for most viewers this was news; if he had just settled his claim, what was his complaint?  

 

 On 23 July, The Australian suggested Media Watch was partial; it had not invited the newspaper to respond.

 

The question that Christopher Pearson raises is important. This is whether the resources of a taxpayer funded broadcaster should be used for such a constant daily campaign, and news and current affairs conscripted to this end. Has the ABC adequately answered this?

 

The ABC will say that it was raising a matter of public interest. The matter will no doubt be aired on this in the relevant Senate Estimates Committee where the Minister , This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , and the Opposition spokesperson, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it are usually in attendance.

 

Incidentally, Christopher Pearson was one of the few commentators who during the 1999 referendum campaign, was completely unashamed to proclaim his attachment to the existing constitution. In the Adelaide Review he coined the wonderful counsel to voters  “Annoy the media, vote No.”

 
Media assessment of a great Foreign Minister Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Friday, 11 July 2008

Image




...systemic bias...

 

One of the features of the 1999 campaign was the way of vast elements of the media, particularly the “serious” media campaigned for the Yes case even in claiming to report the news.

As the eminent British media authority Lord Deedes wrote in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:  “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.” (“Will the media be balanced ? ” 11 May 2008).  


Lord Deedes’ conclusion is supported by Dr Nancy Stone’s exhaustive survey of two representative serious media outlets. “(“Republicans turn on former leader, benefactor,” 14 February 2008)

 

The failure of the media to report accurately the precise decisions of  the 2020 Summit on proposed republican change, and the surreptitious way these were changed, would not have occurred had the Summit been a project of John Howard.(“ Mad Hatter’s Tea Party: media accused over 2020 Summit,“ 9 July 2008.)



...a nasty personal attack more appropriate to a gossip magazine...

 

In the various commentaries on the role of Alexander Downer as the longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs , I found the one in The Sydney Morning Herald particularly unpleasant, a nasty personal attack more appropriate to a gossip magazine (“Vale, Alexander the not-so-great,” Peter Hartcher 4 July , 2008).


This sort of commentary would never have been tolerated in the golden days when The Sydney Morning Herald was one of the world’s great newspapers.

How the mighty have fallen.  

.

 In the gallery of Foreign Ministers, as they are now known, we have had some outstanding world statesmen  from Dr H. V Evatt who was the first President of the General Assembly and, incidentally, a great constitutional monarchist.

In The Sydney Morning Herald of 11 July, 2008, (“Bias ignores years of hard work on foreign policy”) Mr Downer pens a response which captures the feelings I had when I read Peter Hartcher’s quite personal attack. Mr Downer replies:-

“The tragedy of much public commentary in Australia is that it is blatantly anti-conservative, fascinated with trivia and, when it comes to conservatives, rich with personal abuse. 

“Peter Hartcher's retrospective last week of my 12 years as foreign minister was a case in point.

"For any commentator who is a self-styled serious analyst of Australian foreign policy to reduce a dozen years of diplomacy to a tirade of personal abuse is to reveal a stark and embarrassing anti-intellectual bigotry.”

Exactly.  

   

 

 
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