The Null Device

Silencing Dissent

This morning, 3RRR had an interview with Sarah Maddison, one of the editors of a book titled Silencing Dissent, which alleges anti-democratic and authoritarian measures by the Howard government in recent years. Maddison gave a few examples of the way the government has allegedly used its power to suppress dissent, such as gagging CSIRO scientists on issues like climate change, pressuring non-governmental organisations to suppress criticism of policies, and banning unsympathetic journalists and photographers from the Parliamentary press gallery. From the book's web site:
Silencing Dissent uncovers the tactics used by John Howard and his colleagues to undermine dissenting and independent opinion. Bullying, intimidation, public denigration, threats of withdrawal of funding, personal harassment, increased government red tape and manipulation of the rules are all tools of trade for a government that wants to keep a lid on public debate. The victims are charities, academics, researchers, journalists, judges, public sector organisations, even parliament itself.
3RRR has taken a position consistently critical of the Howard government and its allies. For example, this morning's news mentioned the government's dealings with a nuclear power consortium, suggesting improper collusion between the government and mining concerns which have funded dubious research denying global warming.

I predict that at some stage (possibly after the next election, should they win it), the Howard government will get around to setting its sights on the community radio sector. This sector was established in the more politically liberal climate of the Whitlam government and those which followed it, and has a similarly anachronistically progressive outlook. In the mythology of Howard's Australia, the bulk of community stations represent a minority range of views—those of the inner-city latte-sipping pro-refugee socialist elite—increasingly out of line with the (economically aspirational, socially conservative) views of the Silent Majority Of Suburban Battlers in the marginal electorates. It is obvious that such an arrangement on scarce, federally regulated radio spectrum is not sustainable the climate of the Howard culture war; the only question is, how long will it be allowed to stand by default.

Perhaps sometime after the next election, we'll see a bold plan of community radio "reforms", with stations being subjected to the same majoritarian "objectivity" criteria as the ABC on pain of loss of licence, or possibly the three liberal stations in Melbourne (RRR, PBS, and the radical-leftist 3CR) being reduced to one, with remaining licences either being sold commercially or given to new stations run by groups "more in line with mainstream Australian values", such as, say, the Hillsong Church.

There are 7 comments on "Silencing Dissent":

Posted by: datakid Wed Feb 28 23:01:46 2007

I'd be interested in what your other aussie-based readers are thinking on this one mate - cos I'll tell ya, the general feeling is that he will lose. It may be hard to gauge from the UK - it's hard enough to gauge from here - but Rudd is conservative and boring enough that he may just make it over the line. Between voter fatigue (!what a concept!), Rudd's fancy footwork (Maxine McKew running for the ALP in Bennelong etc), David Hicks, Climate Change and Nuclear Power, Johnnie's up for losing the next one methinks (and me bruvvers'n'sistasthinks).

Posted by: dj Thu Mar 1 03:04:56 2007

It seems that the Liberals are on the back foot at the moment but I bet a whole lot of money will be brought to the table for a propaganda campaign using both taxpayer and private money that will surpass that of last time. It's hard to judge this far out how much of an influence such a campaign will have against that run by the unions and Labor and the swathe of issues that should have seen half the front bench resign from their ministerial responsibilities in a parliament that took democracy and accountability seriously.

Posted by: gjw Thu Mar 1 06:56:37 2007

Too small a target. Howard wouldn't be concerned about the tiny progressive minority and their little radio programs(is RRR's market share out of the low single digits?) Kicking up a fuss on the issue would probably serve only to inform the public that there ARE community radio stations out there; something 95% percent of people are currently only barely aware of. Unless RRR DJs start promoting Sharia law or something, I think they're protected by the security of obscurity.

Posted by: acb Thu Mar 1 11:09:10 2007

Or until the Assembly Of God/Moral Majority types start kicking up a fuss about how all these un-Australian leftie extremists have all the community-radio spectrum whereas Decent Australians like them don't get any, the Herald-Sun takes up their cause, and some MP decides that remedying this is a cheap way of scoring some points.

The views which are mainstream on RRR and such are out of line with the "majority of Australian opinion". The fact that they've got a grip on scarce non-commercial radio spectrum will surely be noticed soon enough.

If that doesn't happen, there will still be a changeover to digital radio at some stage (they have that in the UK), and the allocation of channels there may be somewhat less Whitlamite than the analogue one was.

Posted by: acb Thu Mar 1 11:13:22 2007

As for the next election, the Tories can count on most if not all major media (News Corp., Fairfax, Stokes) backing them. And given their "reforms" of media ownership, that's fewer people to negotiate with for a stranglehold on the data from which Australian voters form their opinions.

They looked like losing in 2004 as well, and got a landslide. I suspect that the Tories stand to govern govern Australia until their leadership itself disintegrates (as it did in the post-Menzies vacuum before Whitlam got in).

Posted by: toby Fri Mar 2 09:58:42 2007

You haven't spent much time in the low end of the spectrum, have you? There are plenty of small christian radio stations out there. Gippsland even has a rather major one...

Posted by: dj Wed Mar 7 08:05:16 2007

Adelaide has a commercial Christian Radio station.