Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Due to popular demand, this blog is now RSS enabled (Just don’t ask me what RSS means/does. My technological prowess is fully stretched as things were c. 2000, so anything after that date – e.g. predictive text on mobile phones, IMO the stupidest “development” in human history – permanently eludes me.)

IPA, blog-ify thyself

By which I mean that the right-wing think-tank, which today occupies scarce newsprint real estate just so it can assert that such is not really scarce, should put its content distribution where its mouth is.

It is one thing for bloggers to blather on about how they’re slowly but surely replacing mainstream/hardcopy media – although personally I don’t buy this argument. As I wrote a few months ago:

Writing/distributing information vs reading it are necessarily asymmetrical functions. If everyone (or almost-) was a publisher, there would ipso facto be no "news" worth reading. High entry barriers to newspapers reflect this fact – unlike digital TV spectrum which is artificially (and criminally, IMO) restricted by government, prime newspaper "real estate" is just naturally very scarce. While concentrated ownership does have obvious problems, it also – in theory – ensures that the actual content is produced by that catchment’s best and brightest.

Oddly enough, the IPA’s Chris Berg sees things very differently from cynical old me, so putting the IPA in much the same camp as a very naive, or very stuck-in-1996 blogger:

We live in an age of information and opinion abundance, rather than one where we need to be wary of the undue influence of media tycoons (penultimate URL).

But while the “Internet-has-changed-everything mantra” may be a happily shared one, the IPA obviously has its own deeper agenda, in which the blogosphere is disposable fair-weather-friend, or failing that, outright ignorable.

The irony of using scarce hardcopy, instead of abundant blog-spectrum, to promote a pseudo-Blogs-Rule argument is not the IPA’s only logic hole. Looming large here is the culture-war conceit of the Singularity Which Changed Everything About 30 Years Ago. Keith Windschuttle is a noted proponent of this, of course, but weirdly enough, given that the mass Internet only dates from the last decade, Chris Berg is determined to use the older (= boomer) tipping-point date (despite its lack of strong technological or other milestones):

Radical change over the past 30 years has inundated media companies with competition.

Yep, that’s “radical change” like, um, cable television – after 15 years in Australia, it is almost getting to US penetration levels of the early 70s. (On present indications, Australia is on track to meet late-70s (!) US penetration rates (80%+) in a hundred years or so). Oh yeah, and more recently, there’s been . . . like, blogs and stuff.

The funny thing is that Berg needs to use the 30-years-ago tipping-point date to set up a supposedly impenetrable wall between the admittedly all-powerful media tycoons of yesteryear (he mentions William Randolph Hearst and Lord Beaverbrook) and the current crop of tycoons like Rupert Murdoch, who “is no Citizen Kane”. That Rupert isn’t, dare I suggest, is mostly due to the cross-media ownership restrictions of, not technology over, the last 30 years, the same restrictions now in the process of being watered down – but not watered down enough to please the IPA.

Or to please Rupert Murdoch, for that matter (strange coincidence, that). While I have some sympathy for Rupert’s ostensible main beef – ongoing restriction of TV broadcasting, despite the underlying spectrum now being abundant – his intentions can hardly be for a DIY/Blogification-of-TV type outcome. Any more than the IPA is suddenly the blogosphere’s New Best Friend.

What Rupert and the IPA do have in common (along with all long-dead media tycoons; yes, the 30-years-ago supposed tipping-point is a typical, empty boomer wank) is this variant on the Augustinian mantra: “Give us media diversity, but not just yet”. In a nutshell, they want all the A-reserve seats (preferably for free): prime real estate from which to see – and cheer, verily – the great spectacle of unfettered competition, which they have been personally grandfathered against actual participation in.

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