The following might be hiding behind a pay wall. I don't know.
Imagine if you turned on the ABC to find a current affairs program called “Inquiry & Discussion”. The panel is stacked with bright and articulate commentators such as Janet Albrechtsen, Noel Pearson, Rowan Dean — and a token leftie, Gary Johns. It’s hosted by Tim Wilson. The audience is a selection of correspondents to the letters page of The Australian. Imagine that. You can’t, can you?
- Letters to The Editor, (Derek Southey, Port Fairy, Vic), The Australian, 19th Nov 2014
There's a thought, Mr Derek Southey of Port Fairy. Can I imagine such a show? Indeed I can. It is called "The Bolt Report".
Week after week News Corp Australia's doyen Andrew Bolt, who I am convinced writes columns specifically designed to annoy people because that is what sells copy, hosts a weekly program on Network Ten which I guess is supposed to counter Insiders on the ABC. It saw off other Network Ten show Meet The Press and now occupies pretty well much a unique spot in the network for political comment (if you don't include that week-nightly marshmallow fluff which calls itself The Project).
I honestly don't know if Mr Southey's letter is a work of satire or not because over the past few weeks, I have seen as guests on The Bolt Report, Sharri Markson (of the Australian newspaper), former Treasurer Peter Costello (Liberal Party), Nick Cater (of the Australian newspaper), Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (Liberal Party), Michael Kroger (Liberal Party power-broker), Niki Savva (of the Australian newspaper) — and a token leftie, Michael Costa.
Imagine that? I can, can't I? Better than just imagining it, I've seen the sort of show which Mr Southey speaks of.
This illustrates something though. With the rise of the internet and the perceived value of journalism dwindling to little, the whole entire of the media landscape is like Ouroboros, the eel that eats itself. As the media eel pie gets progressively smaller, mastheads disappear (does anyone remember The Bulletin, Sydney's Daily Mirror or Melbourne's The Herald) and gradually the media is coagulating into two camps:
1. News Corp/Telstra
2. The ABC/Fairfax
Lachlan Murdoch was once CEO of Network Ten Holdings and Kerry Stokes' Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment Co. are probably stable enough not to be taken over for the moment but neither Channel Seven or Channel Nine even attempt to do political journalism any more. Neither Nine's A Current Affair or 60 Minutes really engage in any serious political commentary and Sunday Night on Channel Seven is kind of like the old Today Tonight but without dodgy tradesmen and washing powder comparisons.
Really only the ABC and SBS are even prepared to ask politicians questions they don't like and Andrew Bolt on his eponymous show which isn't called “Inquiry & Discussion” because his ego stands in the way, either asks Dorothy Dixers or shouts out anything he doesn't agree with, which doesn't really put anyone under the spotlight of interrogation at all. Maybe by not calling it “Inquiry & Discussion” there actually is an element of truth to this.
If Mr Derek Southey's letter to The Australian wasn't a work of satire, then does this mean that he'd like to live in a media environment like the United States where public broadcasting is severely stunted? I've been there; its terrifying.
Fox News is at times genuinely scary whilst at the same time, incredibly insular. I remember a trip I took to America in 2007 and was in San Diego and I didn't find out about a military coup style uprising which was across the border in Tijuana (only 8 miles away) until I got back to Australia.
The same sort of attack on public broadcasting goes on there as well, with Mitt Romney famously threatening to defund NPR and PBS during the 2012 Presidential Campaign.
I don't want to live in that sort of news environment. It's a fast track to the dumbing down of society.
In the end I don't know if Mr Southey's letter is a work of satire or not. If it is, then it's brilliant but if it isn't then that must mean that Mr Southey is speaking to the echo chamber. Imagine that.