ACT News

Canberra MP mounts argument for newspaper subsidies

A Canberra politician will today make the case for subsidies for quality newspapers to overcome what he calls an inequality in political information.

Andrew Leigh says technological changes in media have led to a greater gap between engaged and disengaged people than ever before.

The Labor MP for Fraser believes university journalism schools should produce more public interest journalism as another way to overcome the inequality.

He will give his views on the media in a speech at the University of Canberra, where he's expected to criticise the dominance of comment in news media, the use of anonymous contributions and a trend toward shallowness in reporting.

Dr Leigh says such a proposal would have to pass a reasonable cost-benefit test.

''But I am inclined to think that the benefit of a better-informed public would be likely to justify the cost of the subsidy,'' he says.

Advertisement

''In implementing such a proposal, it would be important to think about how to ensure that public money increased the amount of political information among those who are disengaged from politics.'' Dr Leigh says that for engaged citizens, the media is more abundant, diverse and accessible than in the past but, taken as a whole, the media has become more opinionated, nastier and shallower.

''The shift has not taken place because individual journalists have grown horns and forked tongues, but because the technological changes have privileged those kinds of voices,'' he says.

''There are two features of the technological shift in the mass media today that have accentuated the nastiness in political reporting - competition from online outlets and anonymity.'' Dr Leigh is concerned that the new political news websites that have emerged over recent decades are dominated by comment.

Dr Leigh says a major reason for the media shifting towards shallow reporting is the rise of television and the decline of newspapers.

''By international standards, the Australian media, particularly our newspapers, are not especially competitive, so competition from new outlets has come as a particular shock to incumbent players in the Australian media market,'' he says.

While studying at Sydney University, Dr Leigh wrote for the student newspaper for one year.

Advertisement

10 comments