During the referendum, the mainstream media so strongly supported the republican case that they forgot their ethical obligations.
As that distinguished former British editor Lord Deedes observed in the London Daily Telegraph on 8 November, 1999:
“I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end.”
There was one exception. That was the greater part of commercial talkback radio.
Not that it was biased towards the constitutional monarchist case. Indeed, many of the presenters are republicans.
The point is that commercial talkback radio outlets were more often than not reasonably balanced.
The republican movement actually complained about the fact that the constitutional monarchists and the No case generally were being fair access to the radio waves.
Now an editorial in The Australian (4/3) asks: “Who listens to the radio?”
Who indeed? When it comes to commercial talkback radio, says the editor, too few politicians and press gallery journalists listen.
The editor argues that if government MPs and the Canberra press galllery had spent just a little time listening to commercial radio in each state, they might have understood taxpayers did not appreciate their money being wasted on the BER program or on pink batts, or had serious concerns about a federal mining tax.
…the role of the media…
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It goes without saying that the nation expects that the media play the role intended in our system of government – the role which their predecessors once so admirably played.
Had this editorial been written in 1999 it would have applied to the divide between the main stream media.
There is no doubt that in any future campaign to impose a politicians’ republic on the nation, constitutional monarchists can expect that they will receive reasonable and fair access from most of commercial talkback radio.
In such an event the nation would expect that the mainstream media do no more than apply the ethical codes to which they are committed.
Should they repeat their gross folly of the nineties, they will only lose not only more respect, but also more readers, listeners and viewers.
…changes in the media…
And there is one additional factor which wouldl make a significant difference in the media landscape compared with 1999.
That is the Internet.
Last year this site alone received over 8 million hits and well over 3 million page views.
In the meantime, the commentariat who were prematurely celebrating the passing of the Australian Crown in the nineties are now wondering whether their media can survive. But the Australian Crown is still there.
One thing is clear.
The dominance of the mainstream media has receded. It will not return.