Topic: election Oz 2007
As we published our Sunday Talkies of political tv shows yesterday we had to decide on a graphic. At about 10 am we grabbed a screen print of the Sixty Minutes website with the worm device very prominent. And it was foreshadowed in the prefacing Sunday 9 show too which gave us the tip.
When we watched last night we enjoyed 9 more than abc 2, and we did watch the worm, having already heard most of the policy debate already, to see how the studio audience of presumably average folks (?) might be reacting.
Having fallen asleep at one point we were wide awake at the wind up as Ray Martin made some pointed comments about "so much for free speech" when their coverage was apparently cut.
Now the commercial, legal, real politik bun fight is on for all. It's second lead story on World Today show as we write.
As always we sharpened our elbows a bit and called the abc 702 Trioli talkback at 9.15 am to say:
1. The 60 Minutes website early Sunday made it clear the worm was on and thus no ambush marketing as such, and
2. 9 clearly has a legal right (yes we are a solicitor with a practising certificate unlike Glenn Milne on 702 radio around 10.10 am this morning) to take material and repackage with a worm, just like our time years back at Media Monitors with press clips or sound/video grabs for sale.
We spoke to a press gallery journo earlier today too to add that Glenn Milne for the Press Council saying there was an offer with conditions by letter, which 9 by its action of taking the tv feed evidenced an acceptance of that contractual agreement (to not show the worm), is a quite dubious legal characterisation to our ear.
9 rep Westacott and others on abc radio are adamant there was no agreement, and we prefer that view because receiving a letter is equivocal evidence and not a course of conduct demonstrating agreement about much. Nor should Milne rely too much on law student days (refer Legal Practitioners Act 2004 (NSW)) to offer "city lawyer" opinions on air. Journalists ought not offer legal advice, even if obviously not 'holding themselves out as lawyers' as such.
On the other hand we do have sympathy for Milne's predicament - the Coalition won't support a debate at all if the worm is such an obvious punisher in front of a narrowly selected studio audience. This puts the Press Council in a no win position - forced to compromise our democratic free media to get a controlled product in any form. In this way however Milne is on weak ground to say 9 compromised future debates and should have taken the high moral ground on journalistic principles and refused compromised coverage altogether. Trouble for Milne is the same logic applies the Press Council to refuse hosting such an artificially conditional format as well. And presumably 9 would also have democratic obligations to a loyal audience who would only have watched their show, worm or not, so what's good for 9 is good for the Press Council in terms of pulling their weight.
The moral argument is thus a house of cards and Senator Brown of the Greens is right, as is 9, to ignore such fraught blandishments and legal try ons of the Press Council as cipher (?) for the PM's office. On the other hand the case for a Debates Commission as suggested by Milne to spare the Press Council from censorious pressure has great merit. Here is Brown here:
Monday, 22 October 2007
Worm Inquiry: Greens
The Greens will pursue a senate inquiry into efforts by the Prime
Minister's minders to halt national coverage of leaders' debate last
night because of the worm being used by Channel Nine.
"The cutting of the direct feed of the debate to Channel Nine is not
acceptable. This is Australia, not Burma," Greens Leader Bob Brown said
in Canberra today.
"The Prime Minister's dictate that the worm be banned and the ruthless
follow-up attempt to cut Channel Nine's transmission is unprecedented in
Australian democratic tradition. A post-election senate inquiry to find
out how the Prime Minister's office pressured the National Press Club
and or ABC, and to come up with a format to prevent a recurrence of such
influence by an incumbent Prime Minister is essential," Senator Brown
"At the Greens' People's Forum in the Parliament House Theatrette last
night, a full house used the worm technology with no interference.
Unlike the controlled Great Hall event, the audience participated: after
journalists' question sessions, the audience questioned the Greens
Senators and further questions were taken from internet participants.
Then the audience 'wormed' the Howard-Rudd debate with Rudd a huge
winner. But by the conclusion, the Greens' support from the audience had
risen from 69% to 80%."
"A great night," Senator Brown said.
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The Milne legal analysis is thus weak as above subject to this: We offer a another preliminary view - 'tortious interference in contractual relations' by 9?: That is
1. contract with abc, Sky, Press Council, Liberal Party, ALP (they deny such an agreed term) to a worm free format as a condition of participation and broadcast feed;
2. 9 by grabbing the feed - and applying the worm device of audience reaction to get higher ratings (in the long long 90 minute broadcast which is much lower ratings than comparable coverage) - absent any contract obligations with themselves, or intellectual property concerns, might be said to be effectively interfering in the contractual terms of those who definitely did agree to the worm free pre condition?
This legal aspect based on a obscure tort 'legal cause of action' ie to prevent rivals deliberately going around deliberately stuffing up other peoples business contracts might be quite a hard road to hoe for the Press Council - because of the obvious public interest in 9's editorial right to free media not least for free market reasons, and in an election. Constitutional rights to political discourse spring to mind. 9 for instance might argue they didn't try to upset worm free coverage of their rivals' audiences abc, Sky, other. They simply wanted their audience to have the choice of the worm. In other words a free market. We don't recall judges being very socialist in constraining the media market or even willing to sanction brutal competition (the C7 litigation being the latest laissez faire example of free for all amongst tough business folks).
We submit what this affair does reveal though is 'the Right' PM Howard's team doing its best in a dictatorial way to control media whatever the free media principle. But they have hit a wall with 9 in its post Kerry Packer personna, like David Penberthy as editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, his boss Rupert Murdoch, and the Right to Know Coalition of Big Media here (eg Hartigan at Andrew Olle lecture 2007) are saying - all bets are off, we love our democracy too much to cop any more of this special dealing for the Howard Coalition Govt, at heart we are free media people and on this rock we stand.
And amen to that too as essential discipline on Big Brother government 11 years now under John Howard.
We get the vibe that the ALP are very happy this Monday because simply their man Kevin Rudd won the debate that few voters care about (as per the Bill Leak cartoon above) but helpful to their own morale and professional pride so to them personally it makes alot of difference.
We say in a brutal way this is shallow egotism by ALP aparatchiks in case of an honourable loss at the end, compared to even stevens after one big week of a 6 week bone jarring clash where one can expect to be very weary with arms and legs virtually shaking with fatigue and all arteries and veins engorged from the effort (if the ALP machine is serious).
We see this much like a grand final after the first quarter, with the Howard team winning the toss, kicking with the wind, taking a quick 4 goal lead (tax package), and through serious endeavour and guts the ALP reducing the lead to a few points either way.
The 2nd quarter has begin with the ALP similarly getting some early goals with the wind (Rudd's win like Latham 2004 in the Leaders Debate but not vote changing as such). All this means the bruising fearsome 3rd championship quarter is yet to come. Who will cramp up? Who will tear an anterior cruciate ligament? Who will play above themselves and bloom even beyond their own self knowledge or expectations, kick straight in front of goal for a change, take the screamers, and ruin the star power of their opposition? What if the wind changes mid game (eg invasion of Iran?, Kurdish uprising in Turkey, implosion by such as Michael OConnor on the national executive of the ALP for past union thuggery, etc?). The possibilities are endless really.
Sure the ALP team mates on field, and non aligned crowd in the stands are roaring encouragement, bouyed by the positive vibe against the traditional election league leaders.
Only trouble is none of this is probitive of who will actually win.
This is the prescription we suggest as the guy at the back of the high stand on a cheap ticket to the game via a micro news blog:
Like Geelong in the AFL - the goal of the Opposition Parties is to take every goal, every opportunity and to be clinical in maximising every shot at goal into a 6 pointer. The amplified lead now is the victory later. When lining up make sure you kick 30 metres past the goal line, not 10 metres. Be emphatic. Be energetic. Fight on for every half chance to make your own luck. Dominate.
Because winning the game is not going to be random luck. The culture for a safe win is excessive success preceding. No rests, no breathers. No resting on laurels, no downtime, exploit all unforced errors and half chances, daring to believe in the election victory and spurning with contempt any culture of defeatist symbolic gestures beloved of loser victims everywhere who catch a temporary lucky break and fold when tested.
If you need a reality check from the West Wing style posturing try watching Shaun Micallef on Newstopia eg last night at 10pm SBS free to air but also webcast. Talk about kick the ankles of serious politics and media industry in their comfort zone. Laugh? It was fast, and delicious.
Let's see what the 3rd quarter brings about week 4 of this historic election. They call it the chamionship quarter because it usually decides the game.