Monday, February 13, 2012

"Free speech" should be honest speech

I've been thinking about the media, as I am sometimes known to do. The most recent round of thought was sparked by this blog post by Russell Brown on  In it, Russell looks into how the New Zealand Herald has repeatedly used an audience rating figure for TVNZ7 that is incorrect. Worse, the Herald has ignored attempts to inform it of the error or correct it.

The incorrect information supports the Herald's editorial line that no one watches TVNZ7. This view is less supportable when the real viewer stats are taken into account...and we see that TVNZ7 has at 3 times the viewership the Herald has reported.

So what do you do when the major news source in your town proves - again  - to be 'economical with the truth' when the truth is contrary to their political agenda?

Owning mass media should not be confused with the right to free speech. If you do blur the two, then "free speech" effectively becomes the right of billionaires to spew propaganda at us....and we are powerless and effectively we don't own a voice of comparable magnitude. We can talk all day and no one hears us for all practical purposes. There needs to be a powerful check on abuse by the owners of voices so loud and so powerful they drown out all others.

Media who lie or deliberately mislead (very subtle difference) should be accountable. An outlet that consistently behaves this way should be prevented from owning media, just as we prevent dishonest people from owning pubs, casinos, banks or brothels. 

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