Media: improve public sector, or control private sector?

INteresting piece from Colum Kenny in which he considers the possible reasons for the late arrival of the Republic’s overdue legislation on the media. He hints at an internal struggle within the cabinet over the degree of media control that might reside with a future statutary body: with McDowell looking for less and his colleagues apparently looking for more. One reader wrote in response to the Slugger debate started here that, the Minister’s focus on improving the quality of public broadcasting is for the very good reason that “RTE is in receipt of public monies and has legal obligations of impartiality and objectivity. The rest of the media funds its own way – it has no such legal obligation to be impartial or objective. As long as they stay within the laws of incitement, sedition and contempt of court, they are free (and should remain free) to say what they want”.

In contrast, Vincent Browne’s consistent approach to the ‘irresponsible media problem’ puts a premium on control putting a limit on the degree to which private players in the media market can establish single or complex monopolies and thus taking hold of the Republic’s wider political discourse:

There clearly is no disposition to do anything about the concentration of media ownership, in part, one suspects, because of fear what the corporate media barons would do in retaliation. He argued that the public service media should not take its cue from the private media and should be critical of the private media. But how does this fit with an objection to the public service media seeking to establish an independent agenda, seeking to ask different questions, seeking to shape the democratic debate outside the parameters decided by the private corporate media? He hints public service media should conform to the agenda set by politicians themselves. But he has already conceded that politicians do not set the agenda, it is the private media.