Consumer watchdog: journalism is in crisis and only more public funding can help

Mass media Media regulation Digital news Journalism Australia

Once upon a time, step onto a train and you could be pretty sure that most of the passengers would have their noses buried in newspapers. These days, commuters look at their phones. It’s a powerful example of how much digital platforms – particularly Google, Facebook and the like – have become central to our lives.

In all of our overlapping personas – friend, employee, audience member and citizen – digital platforms have become the means to our ends. We use them to keep up with friends, to work out where we are going and to choose goods and services.

This means the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report on Digital Platforms, released last week, is potentially one of the most important documents in recent national history, with the potential to affect every area of life.

Whether or not it fulfils that potential will depend on the response of government, and of course the lobbying attempts of Google and Facebook, both of which will oppose much of the regulatory thrust – despite the fact this is the local version of similar inquiries and initiatives around the globe. Bringing these new and uniquely powerful players to heel will require an international lawmaking effort.

So far, there has been some media attention on the business impacts of the report, and the issues surrounding privacy. I want to focus here on what the report says about journalism – the provision of reliable news and information.

This, surely, is the aspect of the report that is most important to our role as citizens, the health of our democracy and the capacity of our political processes and system of government to meet the needs of the nation.

Read the full article on The Conversation.

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