February 21 - 27, 2021: Issue 484


The Federal Government 'media' Bill that seeks to reverse the democratisation of news in Australia: a local perspective 

Pittwater Online's Facebook platform page - as seen from a Visitor's Point of View from Thursday, February 18th, 2021
Well, it seems our days of flying under the radar have ceased - no longer are we happily being ignored, belittled, scoffed at and told we're 'not a real news service'.

Darn it!

The Australian Government's attempts to ensure the big media billionaires get a few extra guaranteed billions have backfired - the democratisation of media that came with the freedom inherent in the tenants of making the World Wide Web freely available, as was stated by its originators and specifically Sir Berners-Lee who made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due and the World Wide Web Consortium that decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology, so that they easily could be adopted by anyone, has been corrupted by our own government.

Please ask yourself - just who is the Treasury Department's News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020 actually for?

Under the current iteration of the code, this legislation applies only to 'registered media organisations' and grants them an extreme level of access to EVERY search engine algorithm from what the government refers to as 'designated digital platforms', not just Google and Facebook.

To become a 'registered media organisation' you must have at least $150,000 in yearly revenue and be subject to the jurisdiction of the Australian Press Council. This pretty much kills off most small independent journalists operating on other sites, along with all your little news services for your local organisations and their sites, as they are now forced out of the algorithm by Guess Who?

Pittwater Online News is a FREE News Service.

Pittwater Online being 'blanked' by the Facebook platform, in being where we 'post updates between Issues', such as the recent daily Health Updates around the 'Avalon Cluster' in terms easily understood, or events sent in as we head towards the weekend, is actually blanking the community. We receive nothing from any government department or agency, and no one has paid us yet to post their event. Even on the website Events have been charged at what it costs us to run them and most don't even bother to honour the Invoice.

the facts are - we don't CHARGE ANY $ for profit and that generated by the handful who do pay is donated back into the community - 110% of it - to surf clubs, youth organisations, it has bought food for people going hungry in 2020, locally, goes to the SES, the firies, you name it, they get it.

Further, it costs around 20k per year, from our own pockets, to run it, and around 10 thousand hours annually are done, unpaid, to get each Issue out - approx. 6, 250 by The Dill (Editor) and around 4 thousand, at least, by Contributors/Reporters (Approx. $500,000.00 in unpaid wages @ $50.00 per hour) and what's more those Contributors/Reporters are YOU - the community!

Lastly, Pittwater Online News is a 'news service' which places us outside of the realms of what is commonly referred to by circumspect Australians as the current 'media circus' that owns or runs Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Nine Entertainment or Seven West Media Limited

Murdoch-owned titles account for nearly two-thirds of metropolitan circulation, while Nine-owned papers account for a further quarter (26.4 per cent). Seven West Media Limited is Australia's largest diversified media business, with an extensive presence in broadcast television, print and online publishing. Rural and regional media is dominated by Australian Community Media (formerly Rural Press), with significant holdings in all states and territories, including the recently launched alternative to what used to come out of Manly.

News Corp (Murdoch) and Nine Entertainment Co. (Fairfax) have made no secret and even boasted in their publications that it is them that has lead the charge for this News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill 2020 for themselves to profit by. 

The current Australian Government makes little secret of the fact that they maintain close relationships with those at the head of these news and favour those who run what they want as they want it run. The New York Times stated in its own take on what's happened this week that; 

''Josh Frydenberg, who as federal treasurer would have enormous discretion over the new legislation, has media ties of his own. In 2016, he was the best man at the wedding of Ryan Stokes, who is a son of Kerry Stokes, the billionaire owner of Seven West Media, one of the companies that have reached a deal with Google.''

The 'deals' are being reported to be worth 30 million a year for the next five years for these conglomerates - around 150 million each from Google. Will we see new Australian content? Will we see an expansion of cadetships to train the next? Will we see some of our respected and trusted journalists and their voices returned to us again? Or will we see the 'personalities' have another brand new yacht and private plane proclaiming themselves fit for a knighthood?

Further, the NYT states;

''- 'The proposed code, which was originally designed to be voluntary, has evolved to become mandatory and tougher,' Paul Fletcher, the communications minister said, 'because that is what is needed to make the giant platforms pay closer attention to the value of credible information from established outlets'.

The code would apply only to media companies that registered and were approved as legitimate, making the government a convener of commercial deals — a role it already plays with the electricity market and other industries that require incentives to cooperate.''

''Credible'' Mr. Fletcher? Incumbent centric you mean. 

Please recall that these are the news outlets that ran perpetual 'Arson' attacks headlines during our most recent bushfires, attacked Climate change facts as pure nonsense, as that could not be recorded as the predominant cause, and whose coverage led to resignations of brilliant journalists with integrity through publishing outright lies to prop up a dead industry, coal, and ignore the ramifications of its continued production for use.

Even one of their own walked out in disgust;

“I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that’s important, but it shouldn’t be in a way that hides agendas. A contest of ideas shouldn’t be used to legitimise disinformation. And I think it’s often taken advantage of.

And I think at great news organisations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will.” James Murdoch on why he resigned from News Corporation, quoted in The New York Times, October 10th 2020

These are the news outlets that turn up uninvited at the funerals of young people who have suicided to intrusively photograph their crying family members and run that on their Front Page.

Do that anywhere else and you'd get arrested - it's stalking. There's no 'right to know' pass there.

Just as much of the Australian population has lost trust in our politicians, so many now also disdain the lolling around on coaches and fake smiles of those who opine in favour of agendas sent down from their masters and look and sound to all like the donkeys braying from monkey mouths that has become our Australian media - thank God for the ABC - and thank God theirs is the website the bulk of us still turn to - even with these muckity manipulations of what government is actually for.

Who will redeem them - these forfeiters of their honoured place in the Fourth estate? 

Because it is an honour and a privilege to get to share people's stories, respectfully, without intrusion and without sensationalising it to milk more emotion from already exhausted readers-listeners and viewers. You are not in an amateur theatre group - you are reporting the news. Your job is to help keep your communities informed about anything that may impact on them and perhaps provide some beauty, some smiles, some connection. You are not more important than who you are speaking to, photographing or interviewing - be polite, ask permission, don't turn up with that 'lucky we're here' attitude.

Lucky there's a report to be made you mean.

At the Senate hearing on media diversity hearing on Friday, February 19th, Former prime minister Kevin Rudd compared the news ban imposed by Facebook on Australian news companies to the dominance of News Corp in the print media market.

“The problem that we’ve seen within Facebook’s actions in the last 24 hours is that they give us a graphic example of what a very large new media monopoly can do to abuse its power,” Mr Rudd said at the inquiry. “The problem with the government’s current response to the challenges of the digital media marketing code is that it seeks to solve one problem ... by enhancing the power of the existing monopoly – that’s Murdoch.”

Of course, Mr. Rudd and Mr. Murdoch had 'form' during Mr. Rudd's last run at a federal election when one of his mastheads ran Kick this mob out." just 11 days after a court judgment that would see News Corp collect $882 million from the Australian taxpayer, and 19 days short of the ATO's expiration date to appeal this judgement. In a February 17, 2014 AFR report 'News Corp’s $882m blew the budget' Neil Chenoweth reported that;

''The galling feature for the Tax Office is that the original deals that cost taxpayers $882 million cost News nothing.

In a 1989 meeting, four News Corp Australia executives exchanged cheques and share transfers between local and overseas subsidiaries that moved through several currencies.

They were paper transactions; no funds actually moved. In 2000 and 2001 the loans were unwound. With the Australian dollar riding high, News Corp’s Australian subsidiaries recorded a $2 billion loss, while other subsidiaries in tax havens recorded a $2 billion gain.

By last July that paper “loss", booked against News Corp’s Australian newspaper operations, had become an $882 million cash payout.

Under a legal arrangement when the company was spun off last June, News was forced to pass all of the tax payout to Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. 

News Corp said it had retained $A81 million because it faced income tax charges on the interest payments by the Tax Office. However it seems unlikely to actually pay these funds: News Corp Australia carried another $1.5 billion in tax deductions from a separate paper shuffle that it made when News reincorporated in the US.''

Meanwhile, back in Tuesday, February 16, 2021 The Hon. Frydenberg, Treasurer and the afore quoted The Hon Paul Fletcher announced in a joint media release that ''The Government will this week introduce technical amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code that will enhance the way it operates and strengthen its ability to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia.''

''The Code creates a framework for parties to reach commercial agreements so that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate. A central feature of the Code is that it encourages parties to undertake commercial negotiations outside the Code.''

(as long as you're making more than at least 150k per annum and qualify to be registered).....

''The Government will make a number of clarifications and technical amendments that will improve the workability of the Code while retaining its overall effect. These improvements will:

  • streamline the requirements for digital platforms to give advanced notice of algorithm changes to make them more workable;
  • clarify the arbitration criteria so that it considers the reasonable costs of both the digital platform and news media business and amend the legislation to remove any doubt that arbitrated remuneration is to be in the form of lump-sum payments;
  • clarify the role of the ACCC, ensuring its focus is on providing factual information to assist the arbitrator; and
  • adjust the effect of anti-avoidance provisions so that they take effect from the commencement of the Code and ensuring the government’s policy intent of not interfering with existing contractual rights under the code is achieved.

The Code will be reviewed by Treasury within one year of its commencement to ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with the Government’s policy intent.''

(and delivering the 'outcomes' those who pushed for an extra few hundred million required - monopolisation)

So - what did you miss via our Facebook 'between Issues Notices' on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week? Because those 'posts/notices' are still there, you just cannot see them as a 'Visitor' and its function, the way we use it, as a digital Noticeboard.

Well, we ran Ausgrid’s annual poles and bushfire hazards check – usually via helicopter – this always gets a run pre or when that helicopter appears, along with our photo of it, because helicopters overhead around here are associated with Loss, tragic loss – someone lost at sea or someone who has lost their battle with mindful health, and they are associated with Crime Incidents – the local police trying to look out for or after – and the colours of the choppers are similar from a distance. So, we keep an eye on Ausgrid around this time of year and run that reminder so we don't have stress in the community around helicopters overhead.

Ditto to Surf Life Saving Australia's FB post on the Prime Minister at Collaroy due to the helicopters overhead that attracted - for a funding announcement that will equate to 5k for the next 2 years to all clubs. Yep - our Prime Minister on our community's page.

We ran a return to live music at Av. Bowlo today, Sunday February 21st - only they're moving it outside, into the fresh air beer garden - all nicely refurbished too - well done Av. Bowlo. 

There's a new Community Garden trying to get going at Narrabeen, they're having a meeting of those interested at Narrabeen RSL on Sunday March 7th at 3pm - yum, fresh veggies grown by your own hands (FB Event with details here - no, its not blocked), BirdLife Australia's news about the Migratory Shorebird Program team announcing the release of a revised 2021 edition of the much-loved educational Shorebirds WingThing brochure, thousands of local birdwatchers and bird-lovers always want to know about bird updates and this version is for kids (A5) helps children learn about shorebirds, their life and journey - this 2021 revised brochure version was published in February 2021 and is available from BirdLife Australia now, you can download a file copy here, Australian Seabird Rescue Central Coast's post about a fairy penguin they have in care excreting small plastic wheel, to illustrate what local wildlife carers are up against and as a plea to pick up plastic on our shores where you see it as it looks like food to what else lives here, one of our usual end-of-week promises that there's a new History page up this Issue, which of course is diminishing in realisation the longer I dither on this report, the Northern Beaches Police Area Command's post with a video showing arsonists and their appeal to locals to help identify them - the local police always get the support of any decent news service or citizen to do their work - a lovely photo by Contributor Joe Mills of South Turimetta just after sunrise - everyone loves Joe's photos' of this spot, that one is on the Front Page this week so you don't miss out, a poster about a chance to win $ towards a mural as part of Graffiti Removal Day 2021, and some nice photos of one done of a local treasured firie - poster down below - mural of the firie in report running this Issue HERE, a satirical post from The Chaser on February 19th stating ''Strange, we've gone a whole day as the country's biggest news site and the government still hasn't handed us $10 million to broadcast women's sports'' - thankfully no Live Traffic reports about the Wakehurst Parkway flooding and then the Lagoon and where to evacuate to, and even more thankfully, no need to onshare Health NSW Notices about local coronavirus cases or give 'heads up' about a new lockdown.

Prior to being blanked we received a spate of messages in response to last week's rebuke about council forgetting we care about the environment and looking after or enjoying it and they better too - these were, again, dogs mauling wildlife, dogs offleash in wildlife protection areas, dogs faeces everywhere, council's page where you can report these not functioning, people fed up with Bayview Baths being let rot and demanding action, people fed up with the polluting of Warriewood valley creeks, people fed up with the weeds growing in those creeks - better watch out Council - the natives are restless and not happy with performance levels and rangers deriving income via fines when they should be looking after the darling wildlife - ....

Basically, just the usual mix of what we know interests locals and, as usual, finding something for every age group so the page stays a common ground place for all age groups that offers and makes insights, beauty, opportunities and reports available. Why? Because Pittwater Online News is a democracy and everyone gets a go unless they want to be a raving lunatic spreading hate and division.

They all get to speak, in their own voice - in fact, that was a prime reason for starting the darn thing, to be able to hear everyone's very own voice and the way they express themselves. 

We get that those who make money from your work should pay towards its cost - but remember that we don't get paid, even while creating huge benefits for our community.

We get that creators own the copyright of their work - just ask anyone I've told 'last time! - don't do it again' for stealing my photographs for their own media profit or thinking the History pages or Profiles here are also theirs to steal and add their name to, for their own media profit. 

We get that Google benefits financially from they way they use Australian news services - and Facebook would do so to some degree too - but, you know, Facebook did not ask any Australian media circus to post their profit generating drive to their own website posts. Facebook did not ask the media circus clowns to use their platform to develop their own personality cults of avid followers. 

Facebook does not have a paywall.

Neither do we.

So, Mr. Morrison, by doing, as requested/pushed, like so many Australian Prime Minsters before you, the bidding of those already ripping us all off, you have unfortunately either deliberately or by accident, and as an added 'bonus' for the clearly not credible, commenced a reversal of the democratisation of news services in Australia and contributed to the silencing of all this community's Contributors and Reporters - and that is all of us - and that would include, if you lived here, YOU.

''foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia''? NOT!

A J Guesdon.
Editor, Pittwater Online News
(And, occasionally, also known as 'The Dill').

A few others taken about by the blanking incident of February 2021:

Even blanked themselves for a while: