Newspaper sea blue by Jon S
For those in Australia, you’ll be aware of our federal Labor government’s current media reform proposals. While I try not to be too partisan in my public comments, this is concerning enough to write about. I did enjoy watching Malcolm Turnbull berate the government on their proposal here. It is, as Mr Turnbull said, very significant that the government is proposing to introduce regulation into our print media in peace time for the first time in our history.
Also significant, and not discussed anywhere I can see, is that this is an example of the federal government seeking to take more powers from the states. The states, after all, were established before federation, so that there is no obvious reason that media regulation should be a federal matter. The federal government regulate corporations through the corporations act, but the press and other media are not necessarily owned by companies.
[Note in what follows that the proposed government regulation will cover press and internet media with (paid) circulation about 15000 people]
Imagine for example that the state police wanted to put out a publication for which they charge a fee, and they gain more than 15000 subscribers. Or one of the state councils do the same. Or the state government itself establishes a state government newspaper. In all of these cases, presumably the federal government is seeking to regulate such media output – which is clearly a trespass on state rights.
Or take non-profts like Christian newspapers. One of my favourite Christian periodicals is The Briefing. It’s quite possible they could have 15000 paid subscribers, so what about them? I’m dead against the idea that they should be regulated by the government in what they say, or subjected to a ‘public interest test’. I want them to proclaim the news about Jesus exactly as they see fit.
But imagine they are regulated, and further, that Matthias Media, their publisher, were not incorporated (I think they are, but they could easily, theoretically, be simply an arm of a church, unincorporated) In that case, why is it a federal government regulator who should be overseeing their publication? Why not a state regulator? The same question could be asked regarding an individual who publishes a subscription blog with more than 15000 paid subscribers. Why should they be regulated be the federal government, rather than the state government?
The creeping power of our federal government is a phenomenon I understand – it’s part of the sinful world that people try to arrogate power to themselves – but it is a phenomenon I lament all the same.