Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dr Pangloss always with us

John Roskam, executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, writes:

The Federal Government’s new media laws came into effect last week — and the sky didn’t fall in. ...

Gee, I hadn’t heard of any predictions of such an outcome, but anyway a quick look out the window confirms that Mr Roskam’s observation is indeed correct. Yes, the sky is still up there. Thanks, John!

Perhaps what Roskam really meant to say was that there has been public concern about concentration of media ownership as a consequence of those new media laws, but that he thinks such concern is misplaced. Roskam evidently isn’t the least bit concerned...

Even if eventually there is a further concentration of ownership in the traditional media, we should not be concerned. The internet ensures that consumers now have an almost infinite choice of news and entertainment sources.

Having effectively ceded “traditional media” — radio, television, print — to the monoculture of the media barons, Roskam seems to think the internet is sufficient to provide a diversity of views to all consumers.

Too bad for those who, for whatever reasons, haven’t embraced, or don’t have reliable access to, that medium. Their exercise of consumer prerogative is a losing proposition for them, and it appears Roskam doesn’t care.

Yet, it’s surely a significant failure if we as a community simply give up on the idea that “traditional” media in an advanced society ought to produce better outcomes for “traditional” consumers. And there are still plenty of traditional consumers out there.

It’s remarkable how “the market” — which is supposed to unfailingly deliver superior outcomes — seems to have somewhat let us down with regard to our media.

This seems a recurring feature of this age of ‘reform’. Free-marketeers promise that “the sky won’t fall in on us” if we do away with this or that safeguard. Then, when the predictable comes to pass — well, it didn’t matter anyway, because it’s all for the best in the best of all possible worlds.


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