July 13th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Escaping our debt roller coaster

CANBERRA: Simon Crean's winter of discontent

BIOETHICS: Tell the truth about adult stem cells

AGRICULTURE: Sugar industry report: a mixed bag

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Victoria clones white elephant / The new boy scouts

TRADE: Globalism - an idea whose time has passed

LAW: Government approves ICC - with qualifications

Sexual misconduct in the church (letter)

Keeping couples together (letter)

"Censor" or "classify"? (letter)

ENVIRONMENT: Our future in our own hands

MEDIA: What of women traumatised by abortion?

ABC Media Watch: who judges the judges?

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS: Mabo decision - ten years of frustration

AFRICA: Zimbabwe's agriculture, industry face meltdown

ASIA: Free trade agreements - what's in it for us?

FILM: Molokai: the story of Father Damien

BOOKS: Marriage, Health and the Professions

BOOKS: Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep, by Siba Shakib

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Media Watch: who judges the judges?

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, July 13, 2002
As Bill Muehlenberg discovered, the ABC's media watchdog uses the same tactics as the programs it regularly admonishes.

One can always count on the ABC to put its politically correct two-cents worth in to its many broadcasts. This has certainly been the case with its regular Monday night offering, Media Watch. The 15 minute show is supposed to be an analysis of the shortcomings, foibles and slip-ups of the media. Thus on a weekly basis it takes to task many that it considers to be falling short of Media Watch standards.

A good case in point concerns a story it ran on June 24 in which I was involved. The story dealt with the way the media in effect gives free advertising to someone or something it is reporting on.

More specifically, the story featured the way in which the Windsor Smith shoe company continues to run sexually-provocative ads (especially on large billboards) as a means of selling shoes. The ads usually feature half-dressed women in suggestive poses, with the clear message that if you buy the product, you will make it with the babes.

Media Watch noted how the ads generate negative social responses, which result in news stories, which result in more publicity for Windsor Smith, which result in more shoe sales.

When a Media Watch journalist called me about the issue, referring to recent comments I had made in the Herald Sun about the shoe sellers, he said I was just giving them free publicity. To which I replied, what should I do? Not take any more media interviews?

This happens all the time. Yes, some controversy may result in free publicity for whoever or whatever is being covered, be it Eminem, some sleazy play or film, or a scandalous TV show.

But on the other hand, maybe our comments will warn parents to keep their kids away, or result in some concerned citizens writing letters of complaint, etc. Thus it cuts both ways, and it is the nature of the game to weigh up the pros and cons of any media story.

Yes, the media does as often create stories as it covers them; but that is how it goes. I was tempted to tell the journalist that he was doing exactly the same thing: making a media sensation out of a minor story.

Who judges the judges?

The truth is, while Media Watch sets itself up as some kind of social and journalistic guardian, who keeps an eye on it? It seems to be a law onto itself, dishing out criticism left and right, while remaining aloof from any criticism itself.

This particular story, as should be clear by now, was just another example of the very thing Media Watch was deriding, namely, giving air time and free publicity to a particular company!

Here it had just spent around seven minutes chewing out media outlets for running such stories, giving the company in question free air time, and it turns around and does the very same thing! The hypocrisy and double standards of Media Watch are quite amazing.

Moreover, the show's new host, David Marr, clearly has his own agenda which he is pushing, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist takes regular potshots at myself and others whom he obviously greatly dislikes.

Indeed, his recent book, The High Price of Heaven, is one long sustained attack on those he considers to be enemies of a free society. In it he takes me to task, along with Fred Nile, Brian Watters, Brian Harradine and others whom he considers to be hate-filled bigots and moral crusaders.

Strange how those who cry out for tolerance the loudest seem to be the most intolerant.

Indeed, in the recent Media Watch piece he refers to me as an "extreme morals hardliner". If I were to publicly refer to Marr as a homosexual Christian basher, he would cry foul.

For the ABC to claim to be offering an objective analysis of the media by using David Marr is like saying we will get an accurate assessment of American foreign policy by relying on commentary by Osama bin Ladin.

So the moral of the story is, watch out. If you dare to speak out publicly, expressing your concerns about the moral free-fall which society is in, you will probably end up as public enemy number one on Media Watch. And of course your tax dollars will be used to foot the bill.

  • Bill Muehlenberg is Vice President of the Australian Family Association

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