Home Freedom of Speech Media polarisation dangerous for democracy and for science

Media polarisation dangerous for democracy and for science

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Michelle Grattan Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Arthur Sinodinos, former minister and Australia’s ambassador-designate to Washington, has warned that the media is becoming a polarised “battleground”, which is dangerous for democracy and science.

He said it was much easier for parties to be fragmented these days “because it’s much easier for individuals to get a platform, partly through the way the media itself is fragmented”.

Sinodinos leaves parliament later this year and will take up his position as ambassador early next year. Reflecting on changes during his career as a public servant, political staffer (including as John Howard’s chief of staff) and politician, Sinodinos highlighted the changing operation of the media.

“One of the dangerous trends has been that the media itself has become a battleground”, he said.

“We used to look to the media to be the journals of record and today much of the media gets dragged into the actual fight and this is a danger for democracy,” Sinodinos told The Conversation’s politics podcast. It was a danger for science, which was increasingly being “trampled in the public arena”.

“And I think it’s a danger when we have a situation where people can essentially choose their own facts,” he said. “And choose media outlets which feed their own version of reality and feed their own confirmation bias.

“I think that’s dangerous for democracy going forward.”

Asked whether he thought News Corp had become particularly partisan, Sinodinos said: “I think they have a particular business model, particularly Sky, and that’s attracted a particular viewership.

This business model was “to try and corner a particular part of the market and become the champions of that part of the market … as opposed to just trying to cover the field as a whole”.

This had meant other outlets, including the ABC, tended to take “stronger stands on certain things because they feel they’re pulling against a shift in the other direction.

“And so that’s the point – that these forces tend to sort of create this more partisan field out there.”

Sinodinos also suggested the difficulty of pursuing significant reform was exaggerated.

“Often we seem to act as if things are more difficult now [than earlier]. And yet I just think if people are prepared to stand up on something and explain it and indicate clearly why people will benefit from something, I still think it’s possible to get things through.

“But we seem to have somehow spooked ourselves overall that somehow the more difficult reforms are not possible these days. I think reform is still possible but it requires a lot of work”. There were many more outlets and many more stakeholders to consider, including stakeholders who had their own capacity to do research and undertake other activities.

He said part of the reason why the Howard government got tax reform through was that there had been a year of putting the plan together “and then a commitment at the political level to not only work out the technical arguments but to try and anticipate the political arguments and have responses to them so that when we were ready to go on that GST reform we thought we had, in terms of the arguments, every base covered”.

11 COMMENTS

  1. The media are the single biggest threat to our freedom and wellbeing.

    Properly informed people would not tolerate the bullshit we are fed.

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    • There are not many alternatives.
      NZ media is lazy as hell.

      This was shown clearly a few weeks ago with White Island.
      The reporting here was 30 to 40 hours behind the overseas reporting which would suggest they read the overseas news after they get their soy latte then change 3 or 4 words and enter that as ‘news’ ..when it is already dated.

      I think it is worse in Australia from my casual observation.
      The media seems to invade people’s lives a lot more so the message is controlled.
      The ABC is a lost cause union-run outfit of raving commies- not far from the BBC.
      The SMH took a massive dive in quality about 5 years ago to go from OK to WOFT.
      They seem to get their crooked message out effectively although there is offset with the likes of Sky News and independents like Jo Nova.

      I would suspect there is less penetration of the false stories in NZ. NZers do not seem to care as much.
      I am amazed at some pretty smart guys in AU I went to university with eg 2 of them have three Masters degrees each, swallow the climate change and anti Trump stories.
      One was quoting me all these ‘bad things’ about D J Trump when I stayed with him 2.5 years ago.

      In NZ I use so little media and glance at Stuffed a couple of times a day online to gauge activity.
      I don’t watch TV news and probably have not in 40 years apart from occasional glance.
      No radio for 15 years. I just purchased a Bluetooth rechargeable battery speaker at the Boxing day sales to project more music from thousands of digitised songs in my collection.
      I was expelled from the room when at my Father’s house 10 years ago and said at each article:-. that is a lie, that’s wrong…
      It was all manipulation, misrepresentation and misdirection. A simple 3M.
      I used to watch- for visual impact – events like floods (eg 2004 Manawatu) as one could gauge the impact from viewing it.
      Now there is YouTube and pop up video everywhere so no need for even that.

      I suspect people like to repeat the media filth’s lies as it makes them sound ‘informed’
      It is not malice.
      Just laziness that they don’t do their own research.
      They go along to get along and can abdicate responsibility for being informed by saying ‘well it was in the gnews’
      It makes it easy for the manipulators.

      I wonder whimsically as a comparison – was there more misdirection and lies during WW2 media censorship than there is today.

      It is hard to imagine there is more truth today than Govt controlled war media control.
      To be fair, it is a war…against the manipulative totalitarians that would bring us down.

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  2. Ads for tv news were funny over Christmas: (didn’t watch the main event)
    Something to do with NK and US and a claim that ‘commentators are struggling to understand what this means for the future. ‘
    Bahaha.
    How about the media faithfully report what has happened and leave the tarot readings for the circus.

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  3. And remember the CoL has installed a bunch of local Democracy Reporters out in the Provinces…
    pretending that they are providing us with a free service

    The Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) project is a free public interest news service

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/ldr/about

    But we are funding them… to the tune of $1M/year.

    All nicely installed to infest our airwaves and newspapers with tales of the CoL endeavours.

    6

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    • Yes. and this taxpayer does not see why I should be paying tax for this supposed service. I have no doubt politicians, local and national, will find a way to tell us how good they are without me having to pay tax for the service.

      This is a non delivery in the year of non delivery.

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    • RNZ will administer the service.

      They will be experienced journalists and will be given training to meet basic RNZ standards in terms of balance, accuracy, objectivity and impartiality – as well as multimedia storytelling.

      Yeah right!

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  4. “in NZ I use so little media and glance at Stuffed a couple of times a day online to gauge activity.
    I don’t watch TV news and probably have not in 40 years apart from occasional glance.
    No radio for 15 years. I just purchased a Bluetooth rechargeable battery speaker at the Boxing day sales to project more music from thousands of digitised songs in my collection.
    I was expelled from the room when at my Father’s house 10 years ago and said at each article:-. that is a lie, that’s wrong…
    It was all manipulation, misrepresentation and misdirection. A simple 3M.
    I used to watch- for visual impact – events like floods (eg 2004 Manawatu) as one could gauge the impact from viewing it.
    Now there is YouTube and pop up video everywhere so no need for even that.”

    @Howitis
    I suspect there are many of us like you as regards to our viewing habits.
    I check in to Stuff to see what is happening.
    never the Herald (no pay to be brainwashed)
    I sometimes watch Q&A if there is a good story or interview coming up
    I watch about 1 or 2 programs on TV1 and Tv3 a week
    I hate BBC World
    So I do enjoy watching Al Jazeera as they have some good reports fro all over the world, as wll as goo din terviews etc.

    2

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