Now that I’m the new spokesperson for broadcasting, there’s a few things I should say upfront:
First, thanks to Brendon Burns for his efforts in the portfolio. He and I worked well together; he’s done some fine policy work and has stood up for the craft of journalism and the ethics of public broadcasting.
Second; I believe passionately in the craft of journalism and the importance of public media.
Third: I am also the spokesperson for communications and IT. I see a rapidly changing media landscape and despite the continuing need for good journalism and content, many of the traditional institutions that provide platforms for media are struggling to survive, dispproportionately dominate, or struggle for relevance.
The internet is the key. Whether you work in print, radio or TV, our news is rapidly being delivered via the internet, along with other content, such as music, video, movies and access to opinion and social media.
We are witnessing the rise of the citizen journalist. Blogs, facebook and Twitter are rapidly making their presence felt in how people consume information and communicate. Mainstream (traditional/old) media is struggling to adapt.
A few weeks ago I gave a talk about politics and the internet. I said (because it’s true) that despite the crisis for many media outlets about how to adapt, the content that they produce and the craft they practice is still vitally important.
The paradigm of New Media vs. old Media is now overstated. New Media and Traditional Media need each other to survive.
Blogs still rely heavily on mainstream media for content. A recent study by the Pew research Center found that 99% of stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post.
Two quick examples:
The tragic events in Tuscon on 8 Jan 2011, which killed six and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life -the news broke first through Tweets, blogs and Facebook status updates. Newspapers first put their stories online and then followed with more detailed print editions. Journalists and publications joined and added to the conversation with their own Tweets and Facebook pages. Broadcast and cable TV networks broke the story simultaneously on the internet and their stations.
And then the incredible sequence of events in Egypt, which broke on Twitter (that the Egyptian government had effectively shut down the internet) and sparked a storm of response from within Egypt, and outside. Social media was critical for spreading information,and as an organising tool, but the amazing and admirable efforts of Al Jazeera TV should not go unnoticed.
Of course there were other media outlets, including some of our own, that did a very good job.
What this tells me is that the medium is alive and kicking. It needs propelling into the new century (a decade or so late) in how it embraces new technology, and it needs support. A strong democracy needs strong, independent modern, public media. It also needs a competitive and active commercial media. In a modern context, across all media platforms.
This requires a regulatory framework which spans the traditional telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.
Quality journalism cannot be manufactured in a production line with cheap materials. It’s a product that adds value and should be nurtured and valued in any society. Governments don’t always like it, but they need it, and citizens cannot and should not be without it.
Time for change? This is an opportunity.
And the thing is, it doesn’t have to cost government a lot to make it happen.