Friday, August 12, 2005

Free speech goes so easily

Here's an example of how government control increases incrementally.

As most of you know, the High Court yesterday took it upon itself to command a private broadcaster to include two politicians on a programme belonging to that broadcaster. The politicians' reactions to the decision ranged from the "Oh, well" to the smug. The public reaction to this dictatorial legedermain ranged, for the most part, from "Oh, well" through to "Oh, what?"

Here was a blatant violation by a court, acting at the behest of two politicians, of a broadcaster's right to its own private property (its programme, network and broadcast spectrum), and to its right to free speech across that network. And in response to this violation the public barely gave a shrug. Such is the way new violations are welcomed day after day. With a shrug. Such is the way liberty yields, and government authority gains ground.

To the credit of some commentators, bloggers and broadcasters, there was at least some resistance. Most bloggers, to their credit, realised the significance of the decision and were opposed. No Right Turn was one who seemed happy at the court's bullying, however, calling it "good for democracy" while still trying to straddle the issue by agreeing the bullying "is a prima facie violation of [the broadcaster's right to free expression." There's clarity for you.

The Herald reasoned the judge's focus should have been "the freedom of the media to cover political events as they see fit, and the right of private companies to make their own decisions about their operations." Quite right. Tim Pankhurst of the Media Freedom Committee called it "a dangerous precedent for the democratic process when judges are allowed to dictate which politicians should be included in specific programmes.” Bernard Darnton of the Libertarianz, who some were saying should perhaps have joined in the application to the courts, replied that "Libertarianz... is taking a moral stand by setting aside narrow self-interest, as in the long run, we are all better off with a free press." Quite true.

And TV3 itself, fearful of the precedent this has created, has announced it will be fighting this ruling. Thank goodness for that. "[TV3's Mark] Jennings told the Herald after the decision was announced that it was the first time judges had "decided our editorial policy for us. You'd have to think 'what's next? Where does it stop?'"

Where indeed.

Where it will probably stop is with people like the vacuous announcer on the Breakfast Show at Radio Live this morning who can't tell the difference between a dictator and someone who pays her wages, and wants to be told by someone else what to do in her job. Bernard Darnton had just repeated his assertion that "state direction of the media through the courts is something that would not be out of place in countries such as Zimbabwe. These politicians have criticised the regime in Zimbabwe, but are now demanding that totalitarian policies be implemented here."

Her response: "If we let private broadcasters choose who they have on then aren't we replacing one dictator with another?"

Galt save us from vacuous idiots who would give up their liberty so easily.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous tincanman said...

I've had a friend tell me: "It's a bit of a no-contest, the way I see it. This isn't a freedom of the press issue. It's a national interest issue." I'm still trying to work out how a controlled press for parties polling so low they're lower than ACT (!) can be in the national interest.

8/12/2005 09:39:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

As Helen Clark might say if she was French, "L'Etat, c'est moi."

Such a sentiment worked for absolute monarchs for centuries. It's still working now for those politicians that seek to lord it over us.

8/12/2005 10:41:00 am  
Blogger Craig Ranapia said...

tincanman:

Well, I've been hearing that argument and, call me naive, but I thought the "national interest" (WTF that means) was best served by a robust culture of speech freedoms (even if you think that freedom is exercised by cretins) that lead to robust scrutiny of the powerful and self-important. Silly me, apparently.

8/12/2005 11:13:00 am  
Anonymous tincanman said...

It's a stupid argument as far as I'm concerned. National interest in the name of the individuals preference? The only people I've heard supporting it are also voting Labour come September and if they are willing to compromise on free media then they deserve what they get.

What happens next, can Twit and Twat turn around and say: "We're under represented in the polls - please recount or use a different sample so we look better?"

It's good that they were exposed for the idiots they are and hopefully this will be reflected in the next survey. Bound to be interesting, either way.

8/12/2005 12:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

Look - all you peeps are wrong except me. If TV3 had any balls they would have taken no notice of the Judge's decision. And called for his prosecution.

8/12/2005 01:32:00 pm  
Anonymous tincanman said...

I asked them if they would consider putting up an hour of static. Alas they declined and said they'd carry on with the debate. But you can't just ignore a court ruling - down that road lies anarchy. They're doing right with the appeal process - even though it has already been done they can at least get the Labour flunkies to apologise for making a comedy of independant broadcasters and the whole political morass.

8/12/2005 01:53:00 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

If expecting judges to uphold the law is anarchy then I am all for it. The sheeple are so easily herded into the pen.

8/12/2005 02:10:00 pm  
Blogger Duncan Bayne said...

I was actually kinda hoping Campbell would go on strike in protest. Wouldn't have bet on it though - which as it turns out was correct.

No Right Turn was one who seemed happy at the court's bullying, however, calling it "good for democracy" while still trying to straddle the issue by agreeing the bullying "is a prima facie violation of [the broadcaster's right to free expression." There's clarity for you.

Looks like he either doesn't understand the principles from which statist policies derive (unlikely), or he's sufficiently moral to realise that they're wrong and finds himself in conflict between morality and his chosen political allegience (more likely).

8/12/2005 04:00:00 pm  

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