Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Murdoch's Media and the Many-Headed Monster

Graham Stewart at Critical Reaction writes a defence of Rupert Murdoch's plans to charge for access to his online newspapers. I remember rather petulantly dismissing this idea when it was touted in the past, but he's certainly entitled to charge for content if he wishes. The piece makes rather a meal about 'quality journalism', which overlooks the vested interests that move in the shadows, deciding what gets heard and what gets spiked. Needless to say, if Rupert is travelling to Beijing to negotiate a deal, you won't be reading about dead Tibetans that week. But, even if the mainstream media is inevitably biased, do we nonetheless need it or benefit from it? Perhaps so, but not be relying on any one or two sources. To get a broad understanding of what's going on in the world, you need to trawl through many sources, picking up threads here and there.

What is most concerning is that Murdoch's move will presage an attempted strangulation of the free flow of information on the web. Murdoch will want to stop his content being sneaked out of the pay-walled compound, and aggressive copyright enforcement is also on the cards, and the way these laws are being written, it is evident who's sitting round the table. When globalist cabals, such as the recently-held Bilderberg meeting, get together to discuss copyright protection, they are only considering their own interest, and free flowing information is of no benefit to them - indeed it is an existential threat.

Newspapers are no longer the primary means to disseminate the news. They still have a function as a literary product, and many people like to read them on the way to and from work (not me, I read a book), or on a Sunday morning, so there is still a market for them as objects, but when a big story comes along, by the time it hits the news-stands, we've all heard it. They are no longer at the cutting edge.

There surely cannot be a case for subsidising newspapers, like we do the theatre or the opera (I pass no comment on the validity of so doing, merely note it). They must adapt or die. The top journalists must recognise the good days are over. It may do their souls some good, if their job becomes a vocation again, and we are never short of aspiring journalists.

Looking at this issue, the privileged position of the BBC stands out like a sore thumb. As capitalist enterprises sink, the BBC sails majestically on, its revenue protected by the coercive power of the state. Whether this is right or tenable in the long term, I couldn't say, but it enjoys enough goodwill from the public to rest easy for now.

Given the choice between protecting the established media and the anarchy of the Internet, I do not have to pause a moment before answering that the latter is by far the more valuable. The Internet has brought a revolution in information, comparable to the coming of the printing press, or the breakdown of censorship during the English Civil War. Much of the joy of this has come from a relaxed attitude to copyright and an understanding of the 'fair use' principle, so necessary if ideas are to be debated. But the old media is not dead yet, and, although it may be the thing that finally kills them, they seem to be gearing up for a counter-revolution that must be resisted.

Lowly bloggers, such as I, cannot claim any great influence or power, and cannot compete with a worldwide media network, but taken collectively the micro-media make a pretty grand hill of beans, and since the worldwide media networks that exist do such a poor job in informing us, albeit in an entertaining or at least diverting way, I see no reason to resist the evolutionary tide that is sweeping in upon them.


James Higham said...

Bloggers combined though, cumulatively, count a lot.

Trooper Thompson said...

Sure. I try to make that point in the last paragraph. Blogs are very good at disseminating stories, and saying what the MSM will not say, but the MSM is still providing most of the material. If this latter were to change, and the MSM moved to squeeze out the alternative media, I think (or certainly hope) that the alternative media would flourish rather than wither away. As long as the MSM serves corporate interests, rather than the consumers, there will be a market and a need for the alternative media.

Anonymous said...

I suspect what would happen if he started to charge (and I can't blame him either -- who buys print anymore?) would be that bloggers would take it upon themselves to either scan, retype or in some way regurgitate the stories to the point he'd see very little change in earnings.

Trooper Thompson said...

... I'm sure that would happen, and Americans could claim 'fair use'. It's also possible that he'd end up with a micro-readership, and cease to be particularly relevant. No, the real problem I see is the moves to implement aggressive copyright laws, where the big corporations can get the plug pulled on sites they don't like, simply by claiming copyright infringement, with the onus and expense on the little guys to get their sites back online, and the set-up of a two tier internet system, where the corporate sites are in the virtual equivalent of a shiny, new, air-conditioned mall, and the alternative media are out on Cannery Row. This would be the likely consequence of ending Net Neutrality.

Still, as I say, people are increasingly turning away from mainstream media, and I like to think the genie is out of the bottle. I, for one, am not going to subscribe to Murdoch's internet services. I have only one subscription - to Alex Jones' Prison Planet TV. I don't need to do it for the content, because he gives it away for free, but I'm happy to support his operations. His model, I believe, is the future - give it away, and let those who wish to support it, do so. The same way you might go shopping at a local shop, even if it's more expensive than the supermarket.