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Australia's media up for grabs

Mike Carlton writing in the SMH today:

"There is not the slightest justification for the Howard Government's blustering insistence that the media ownership changes are a wonderful thing for the Australian people.

The Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan, wanders about on stage, occasionally crashing into the scenery, proclaiming that all is for the best as she leads the nation into the thrilling new world of fibre-optic this and digital that. But that world has zoomed past her at warp speed. Believe me, they are not knitting their brows at Microsoft and Google, at IBM and Time Warner, wondering what zingers Coonan will come up with next.

The ownership changes she has fumbled through the Senate, even watered down as they are, have zilch to do with expanding the choice of information available to Australian consumers and everything to do with allowing the Government's favourite media proprietors to make even more money than they are making now.

What other reason could there be for creating a media bazaar in which the Packer gambling, television and magazine empire can, should it wish, devour Fairfax, owner of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne and, richest prize of all, the nation's only business daily, The Australian Financial Review?

Why are the commercial free-to-air TV networks shielded from new entrants into the game for years to come, while the ABC, and to a lesser extent SBS, are starved of funds?

Stuff the public interest. As ever, the Government is looking after its mates."

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