Freedom of The Press – Finklestein Report

As is my usual weekend tradition, I wonder down to my local Espresso on Church in Mascot to read the weekend paper and have a great cappuccino. No sugar, but I can’t come to skim milk!

Todays Weekend Australian has a report from Cameron Stewart – Associate Editor and additional comments from Brendan O’Neill about the Finklestein Report and the freedom of the press. (You have to pay for online access to The Australian, or buy the physical paper today to read the article) Stewart focuses very much on what he sees as the huge gap between “real” journalists and the academics filling our universities with their negative views of the Australian Media industry.

You may also be interested in Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on the ABC’s LateLine from 9 March, 2012. LateLine’s Emma Alberici’s asked Turnbull the following:

After a five month review of the media in Australia, the former Federal Court Justice Ray Finklestein concluded that what’s needed to improve ethics is a government funded super regulator, if you like, that will essentially adjudicate complaints across the spectrum of radio, television, online, newspapers, et cetera. Do you think that would raise standards?

Turnbull’s response follows:

No, I don’t think it would. And I think it would be bad for freedom of speech. It would suppress freedom of speech. We have a very lively media scene in Australia. We have some of our media – the broadcast licensed media of course has a degree of regulation – but the print media and of course the media on the internet, which is the most fast- fastest growing area of news media, is not regulated in the way broadcasters are and nor should they be. We don’t see the need for that.

This is a very heavy handed approach. We should trust competition and a diversity of voices – and in that diversity of voice is getting more diverse all the time – to have the competition of ideas and the freedom that that brings to ensure that people can make up their own minds.

As a simple blogger through this website, I read the Weekend Australian this morning with a mixture of views. I can see the merit for greater regulation, but at the same time it makes me nervous that one of the hallmarks of democracy, a free press, is potentially about to have a noose around its neck by way of the proposed “News Media Council”.

In his article, Stewart cites a quote from Bill Birnbauer who during in journalistic career spent six years on the news desk at The Age. Birnbauer says:

“…for some years my job was to write “We Were Wrong” for the paper. I had to assess whether the journalism was accurate or otherwise. In doing that I found a lot of shades of grey. I found that people were motivated by all sorts of agendas. The notion of a panel of lawyers and academics, as suggested by the Finklestein report, under-taking the same process without being imbued with the journalistic free speech culture worries me immensely.” Emphasis added.

As a free citizen I share Birnbauer’s concerns. It’s possible that this blog, from a privately owned business in North Sydney, could be impacted by the News Media Council should it be created. Like many of our prospects and clients we’re in the business of providing services, part of that process is to share with those groups what we see as valuable information. I’m a keen follower of the IT industry, I enjoy technology and the many benefits it can bring to our lives.

We’re in a great position to be growing at the moment. I had the opportunity of meeting with a recruitment firm this past week. I shared with them some of the functionality of the Oracle CRM On Demand (CRMOD) and Oracle CRM On Demand Marketing (ODM) software. ODM is a SaaS based email marketing software application which allows you to gain greater insight about your buyers behaviour as it relates to your email campaigns and their activity on your website.

You can see who has opened emails, clicked links and what they’ve looked at on your website, helpful information for any business as you look to create qualified leads for your sales team. One of the recruiters was obviously uncomfortable with this level of insight, I found that quite amusing. Is this a privacy issue? Will government start to want to restrict this level of insight? After all, when a person walks into a bricks and mortor store sales people can watch them, they see what prospects and clients are looking at, which products they’re intersted in. Is this any different to what I’ve described above with ODM?

Many people today, of their own free will, provide personal and detailed information through their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Of course they do so with an expectation of privacy, but I would love to see stats on how many people actually scroll down and read the hundreds of pages of terms and conditions versus those who simply tick the box and agree to the T&C’s.

I attended a lunch time seminar last year by Sydney based PR firm, Recognition PR. The seminar was a “Getting Started on LinkedIn” session, well presented and very informative. Amongst those attending was a gentleman from the Australian Security Industry, he made it very clear that there is nothing private about the information we put on these social media sites. He said he had a team of people who could, within minutes, access anyone’s Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to gain insight about that person. So much for privacy.

Where Does This Leave Us?

As a business, we need to practice the highest levels of integrity in order to maintain the trust of our prospects and clients. Hacking into anyone’s accounts is reprehensible and illegal, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about understanding people, after all we’re in the people business. We have some great software from respected companies that helps provide that insight. 

In addition, our ability to provide our insight and view on topics which impact our industry is our right. Our views are our own and shouldn’t be governed by lawyers and academics. If you share my concerns about the governments suggested strangle hold on free speech, you may want to contact your local federal member and share your views. 

About Derek

Derek has worked in the Sales & Marketing Consulting and CRM industries for over 17 years. He's consulted to companies here and overseas helping them develop processes to support their lead generation, marketing and sales businesses. He sees CRM as an enabler and not a solution by and of itself. Implemented with users in mind and a clear view of defined processes, companies can derive great value from their CRM.

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