Be aware aware of mediacracy

‘Mediacracy’ is often referred to in the United States, during arguments about media and news outlets exerting a great amount of influence over voting citizens’ evaluations of candidates and political issues, and thereby effectively having control over politics in the United States – often favouring conservative politicians and policies. Fox News is frequently mentioned in this respect.

Closely related to this is the term ‘plutocracy’ it is often used to describe a society ruled or controlled by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. We have regularly reported on this issue as well.

However more recent mediacracy developments have shifted to the UK, where the Murdoch Press has been very successful in undermining the BBC, leading to significant political support from the conservative government for Murdoch, which could have a devastating effect on the public broadcaster, which is certainly one of the best and most respected news outlets anywhere in the world. Its demise would be a disaster, not just for democracy in the UK, but indeed worldwide.

Mediacracy has also reared its ugly head in Australia where the country’s conservative leadership, especially under the previous PM, has been successful in undermining the ABC and the SBS – first of all financially, and secondly by directly interfering in issues such as the independence of the media and the freedom of press in general.

The role of the Murdoch Press in Australia has also been mentioned in this respect, and the awkward position it found itself in when the conservative government in Australia changed leadership and moved towards a more liberal style of government. The Murdoch Press had been a very strong supporter of the conservative policies of the previous PM. With a clear change in some of the headline policy directions they have to decide either to criticise the new PM or to change their own reporting on those issues; and the tone of some of their comments has already changed thanks to the popularity of Malcolm Turnbull’s new powerful leadership.

The current PM is far more liberal than conservative, and has always been a great supporter of the two national public broadcasters, as well as of press independence and the freedom of press. So it is hoped that these incredibly important issues of democracy will be restored under his leadership.

Not only has the undermining had a devastating effect on the media.. The generally negative and sometime even hate-filled reporting by the mediacracy makes people reluctant to speak out on issues that are controversial, such as refugees, detention, climate change, and so on. It is all too easy to see what happens if the leaders go down this slippery slide and give in to, and even stimulate, mediacracy. It only empowers ultra-right movements of vigilantes, who will take over the discussion and intimidate and bully those who oppose their views.

Cristal Nacht in Nazi Germany saw what happened in the 1930s when the German leadership took that path, and we all know what happened then.

Strong leadership is needed to take a stand against mediacracy, since it is the political leaders who are the most influenced. It has often been asked how it is possible that a shock-jock like Alan Jones (with less than 180,000 radios tuned in on any given day, covering Sydney only, and 68% of his listeners being over 50 years of age) has such an enormous political influence in Australia. It clearly is a sign of very weak political leadership.

The dumbing down of the commercial media is already bad enough on its own, but undermining the independent public news outlets on top of that is a very serious attack on our democracy, where the need for frank and free reporting from independent journalists and analysts is absolutely critical for the democratic future of any nation.

The PM can make good on his promise of ‘no cuts to the ABC and SBS’ and reverse the cuts that have been put on these broadcasters. By all means make sure they are efficient, but don’t cut down on quality people who produce quality journalism.

Paul Budde

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