Thursday, 8 October 2015

To maintain a free media you have to pay for news

It's like watching a slow-motion train wreck: you can see the disaster coming but there's nothing you can do to stop it. The forces are inexorable. On the one hand you have the tendency for corruption and illegality in society - even in government and in trusted institutions - and on the other hand you have the liberalising force of the internet, making information free and easy to copy. In the middle sit the mainstream media; those stalwart bodies that break stories on a regular basis and so make society better, safer, and more productive.

Actually there's another actor in the equation that I missed out on above: it's you, the reader. As Jonathan Holmes - who used to do the ABC's Media Watch program, but who now writes about the media for the two main Fairfax broadsheets - wrote yesterday, most people say they won't pay for news. So it might end up being that the only news outlet protecting us from the forces of criminality and venality in the community is the ABC (who yesterday told us that three of the Australia Post contractors who had been underpaying employees were let go; this story was originally broken by the ABC).

Now the media as an industry has many issues that might be best addressed and rectified but overall it does essential work. The media has preceded democracy in every country where that system of government has appeared. In fact, a free media is a precondition of democracy. Along with freedom comes responsibility but in general it is the same thing that corrupts the media - the forces of capital - as causes so many other problems in society. In order to keep both capital and government in line, the media plays an essential role. You would not like to live in a country that does not have a free media, believe me.

Soon this blog too will have a paywall, mainly because I am a bit fed up. I put up the 'donate' button over two years ago and not one person used it to send money my way. So now there will be a stronger incentive to pay. Either you don't give me some money, or you won't be able to read the site. Obviously it's your choice, but I am quite prepared to see the pageview statistics take a fall in the interests of a bit of lucre. I like having readers but I also think that my work has value and therefore should be compensated for. Dear reader, it's your choice. And don't forget: a free media comes with a cost.

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