long ago, Australians were treated to what became known as the “Cash for
Comment” affair. At its centre was an inquiry by the Australian
Broadcasting Authority into undisclosed contracts with various sponsors
secured by prominent Sydney talkback radio hosts in return for making
positive comments about those sponsors.
publicity the issue attracted led me to wonder what the Net has to offer
on media influence, media abuse and the legislative, independent-watchdog-
and self- control thereof. Today’s column presents a short digest of what
I found when I went browsing.
surprisingly, there’s plenty of stuff on the media as a subject for study,
with many such Web sites emanating from academic institutions, where media
courses are becoming more popular. For instance, a well-known media
commentator at Macquarie University in Sydney, McKenzie Wark, has made
available on the Internet in his
Warchive a selection of his essays
on media, culture, technology and education, notably the sections
Australian Media Politics, American Media Politics and
Global Media Issues.
Wales, the Uni at Aberystwyth site includes the
Media and Communication
Studies Site run by Dr Daniel Chandler, a lecturer in media theory.
While concerned mainly with curriculum matters, he does give useful
summaries of all his courses, plus copious reading lists.
in Canada, at the University of Oregon, is the
Media Literacy Online
Project. The aim here is “to provide a support service for teachers .
. . concerned with the influence of media in the lives of children and
youth”. By Media Literacy is meant “informed and critical understanding of
the nature of the mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact
of these techniques”. Among its many features is a comprehensive
collection of articles on media literacy and education topics, plus links
to other on-line information.
the Canadian border there is no shortage of material to be had. Let’s
start with Media Watchdog, maintained by Michael Ernest at the MIT
Laboratory for Computer Science. This is a collection of online media
watch resources with a special emphasis on articles that critically
analyse the inaccuracies and biases of the mainstream media. In addition,
many organizations are listed which regularly offer media criticism,
including some in Europe.
is the product of The Freedom Forum. Chiefly devoted to preserving the USA
First Amendment, Newseum boasts an advisory committee that includes
veteran reporters Walter Cronkite and Robert MacNeil. Many provocative
articles on the media’s effect on society are readily available. One
appealing regular feature is their Outrage of the Week.
Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, has a site called
Online. It appears to be updated weekly, and apart from its unhidden
self-advertising intentions, contains a number of commentaries on the
ethical and other challenges confronting the journalist of tomorrow.
consumers rather than professionals is the Center for Media and Public
Affairs’ NewsWatch, a daily media criticism Web Site. Formed in
1985, the Center’s goal is “to provide an empirical basis for ongoing
debates over media fairness and impact”, claiming that what sets it apart
from other media watchdog groups is its scientific approach. As with other
sites I mention here, NewsWatch can be had in a fuller printed
version via subscription.
Media Watch — the Aussie TV show where the “Cash for Comment”
matter was first made public — has its own Web presence. It resides at the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s site, and transcripts of recent
programmes are obtainable there.