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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.
 

No question of an abdication Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 31 January 2013

The announced abdication of the Queen of the Netherlands in favour of her son has once again encouraged the commentariat to agitate for change for the sake of change.

As the former editor- in-chief of The Australian Paul Kelly once admitted in an unguarded moment during Australia’s excruciatingly long republican debate, the media has a vested interest in change. It’s good for circulation and ratings.

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There are far more important indeed fundamental considerations. There is no tradition of abdication in our system; rather there is a tradition of service. Certainly Her Majesty is 86 but she is in good health. And she can increasingly allocate royal duties across the talented and respected members of her family who are equally dedicated to service.


...sacred commitment...



The Queen rightly regards the Oath she swore at her Coronation, and indeed the whole Coronation service, as no mere formality but a sacred commitment and trust.

 Our Coronation Service alone in the world retains setting aside of the Sovereign through the anointing which comes from the Kings of the Old Testament.

As Shakespeare’s  Richard II declares:

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off an anointed king

The Queen believes strongly that she has entered into a commitment to her people for her whole life, nothing less.

 Recall, if you will, those words from the declaration she made when she turned 21 in the city of Cape Town in South Africa when she addressed the people of the Commonwealth.




...Her Majesty’s Declaration...



If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world - than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers.

“To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, "I serve". Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did.

“But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

“But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

Her Majesty will not heed the impertinent calls from the press gallery “ Abdicate now!”   Nor should she .

Her loyal subject will support her.

They will say, as we will always  say “God Save The Queen! Advance Australia Fair!

 
Peter FitzSimons answered Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Garth Clark of North Sydney, NSW answers Peter FitzSimons ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )  in the Sun-Herald on 18 November, 2012 :

“I accept the fact that Peter FitzSimons is a socialist, republican (as opposed to royalist) atheist, and is free to air his views in the newspaper.

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“I usually read these views over my breakfast cuppa tea, mutter to myself, and go on to the cryptic crossword."




...and the evidence?...



“However, I feel that I must respond to his article ("Birthright?  What about our rights?  November 11) regarding the visit of Prince Charles and his wife, and ask on what basis does he claim that members of the Royal Family are "dullards"?

“There are many synonyms for "dullard", including dimwit, dunce, fool, idiot, imbecile.

“If he has evidence that any of these words are applicable to a member of that family, then so be it, and I will take his comments as fact.

“I believe it is simply his abhorrence of anything regal that has come to the fore."




...libel...



Read more...
 
Leading republican flag changer Peter FitzSimons forgets Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 18 November 2012

It seems that Fairfax journalist and author  Peter FitzSimons ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) may not have a good memory.

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In what he describes as his “brief republican rant last week”, he comes back to the same issue in his page in the Sun-Herald on 18 November 2012.

In response to what must have been several requests for him to specify what sort of republic he wants he writes:

"I propose the smallest possible change: the Prime Minister picks the Governor-General and then the Parliament gives its assent.  Nothing else needs change!  We don't even have to change the title ‘Governor-Ggeneral’, avoiding all the baggage that goes with the word president.”

Isn’t it interesting that Mr FitzSimons   is willing to abandon the title president because it has obviously bad connotations.  This reminds me of the move by Malcolm Turnbull and the a RM to suppress two words in the referendum question.  One was ‘ president’; the other was’republic’.



... At what cost?...

Read more...
 
One of my worst decisions, groans BBC supremo Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Saturday, 17 November 2012

It seems that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is not the only public broadcaster to have developed an aversion to doing its duty and not broadcasting matters of national importance just because they relate to the Royal Family. This emerges from a new book,  It's All Going Terribly Wrong: The Accidental Showman, by Major Sir Michael Parker, who produced events including the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilees.

 Readers will recall that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was planning to show the  old  movie “Shampoo” with Warren Beatty instead of the central events in London of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, including the river procession which involved teams of Australian lifesavers.

As a result of pressure from constitutional monarchists, the ABC correctly decided to allow Australians to witness the river procession: “ABC buckles to monarchist pressure”

 Recent programming decisions of the ABC are leading us to the conclusion – tentative at this stage – that the ABC has turned over a new leaf.
 

...BBC infected too




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In the meantime it seems that a similar malady had infected the mother of public broadcasters, the BBC.

The London Daily Telegraph's royal correspondent, Roya Nikkhah, reported on this phenomenon  in “BBC snubbed Queen Mother’s 100th birthday to 'avoid clash with Neighbours” 


 She reports that when the BBC declined to cover the parade for the Queen Mothers 100th birthday, it was a decision which mystified the nation, and brought heavy criticism from politicians and even the corporation’s own stars.

“Now after twelve years the reason has been disclosed: the celebrations would have clashed with Neighbours, the Australian soap opera.

“Details of the BBC’s controversial decision have emerged in a new book,
It's All Going Terribly Wrong: The Accidental Showman, by Major Sir Michael Parker, who produced events including the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilees and the Royal Tournament. (This book may be purchased tax and postage free by clicking on the link, for the bargain price of $30.60. In addition you will ensure ACM receives a small commission.)




...denial... 


 

Read more...
 
Journalists and a politicians' republic Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The republic referendum would have succeeded in 1999 if the electorate had followed the views of journalists, writes Dr Gerard Henderson in his Sydney Morning Herald column, “Power of the press a lot less muscular than some imagine” (26/6/12)

Although he is a republican, he thinks the media’s role was counterproductive.  I do not agree. The media argument that a politicians’ republic is inevitable was so persuasive that a large number of politicians and celebrities jumped onto the bandwagon.  

It became fashionable, especially for the more susceptible middle-aged in the inner-city electorates.  In my view this artificially increased the republican vote not only there, but across the country.  

At the same time the constitutional monarchist message was diluted or sometimes even suppressed.

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Republican support in 1999 peaked at less than 45%, but it was flaccid. Although the prominent republicans often describe themselves as ‘passionate’, there is little passion in their support. The demonstration which ACM called in 1996, with over 20,000 people has never been even approached by the republicans. Their 'crowds' have been so small to be embarrassing even during the referendum.

Republicans know they would be slaughtered in a vote today.




....journalists overestimate their significance....



 

 

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