It is widely agreed that a free and independent press is an essential part of a democratic order. This submission addresses itself to the implications of the words free and independent. Government Intervention in the market for journalism risks undermining the reason we value publicly interested journalism in the first place – its role in providing a check on government and as a third-party watchdog on possible abuses of political, regulatory and fiscal power. When it comes to the profession of journalism and the industrial structure of the media, government is not a disinterested player. Even granting this parliament’s best intentions, government intervention in the media opens up the risk of government interference with the media from future parliaments.
It is undeniable that the supply of public interest journalism has shrunk in recent years. It is much harder to determine what the desirable supply of public interest journalism is. If the parliament wishes to intervene in the market for journalism, it will have to come to terms with this problem: is the optimal supply of journalism greater than the amount of journalism which audiences demand? It is certainly the case that there is a value in a free and independent press that is conceptually separate to market interactions. Yet media policy in the digital age ought not be shaped by nostalgia for an industrial structure that prevailed when classified advertising cross-subsidised journalism. The final section of this submission paints a picture of a desirable media market in the digital age.
This submission was originally published in June, 2017.
Below is an extract of Chris berg’s appearance at the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism.