Grateful for Australian media? Well, since you asked …
Australians are a grateful lot. If it’s not above 35 degrees Celsius (95 °F), we’re happy. If we can slop some tomato sauce (ketchup) on our dinner then we’ll eat it with a smile. Got discount vouchers? Golden. Working with mostly international people, I’ve come to notice more and more our laid-back and contented national identity — and it makes me proud to be from down-under.
But when my country gathers for the National Day of Thanksgiving on May 29th to honour the media and communication sector, I’m going to struggle to be so grateful.
I am fully aware of the irony of questioning media through media and am similarly cautious not to paint the whole profession with the “dodgy brush.” Truly there are amazingly hard-working people with high standards in many areas of the media machine, but on the whole, this industry of misused power, deceit and bias leaves me unsatisfied that this in itself is much to be grateful for.
The mass media reflects a society back to itself, more than that; it can influence a nation almost subliminally. Chris Mitchell, editor in chief of The Australian (a daily national newspaper), cannot tell you what to think but he can tell 1.2 million Australians weekly what to think about. Reading the Christian evangelical magazine The Briefing does not make you love Jesus but it certainly legitimises the idea.
With the Howard Government’s media law reforms in April 2007, Australian media ownership regulations were relaxed and the slow and inevitable conglomeration of media superpowers was set in motion. Eleven of the 12 major newspapers in Australia are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. or John Fairfax Holdings. Ultimately that’s two people who determine the slant for the majority of information the 21 million people in Australia receive daily. Power corrupts and this power should have us worried.
In Acts 15, Peter addresses the Council in Jerusalem. In a sharp retort to the teachers who were encouraging circumcision among the believers he calls to remembrance Amos 9:
“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent, Its ruins I will rebuild and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things – things known from long ago.” Acts 15:16-18 (Amos 9:11,12)
Peter stops a superfluous teaching, saving many people’s skin, but even more he pulls out a great biblical truth and one that sheds light on what a redeemed media would look like in the kingdom of God.
Choice. We see it everywhere; God is holding off on the second coming to give people to time to repent; Jesus spoke in parables so that what he was saying wouldn’t be obvious to everyone; in a highly confusing and controversial move, we are predestined but also definitely have free choice. God respects our personal space and always gives us a choice. So when in Amos we read that God is restoring and redeeming a fallen civilisation all for the sake that people may seek the Lord, we can paraphrase that to – so that people can have the freedom, the dilemma, the democratic right — simply stated, the option — of following the Truth.
What serious option does a highly conglomerated, information-starved and humanistically biased media offer our wonderful nation in term of finding truth? If we take the time to really evaluate the root values communicated by the major news providers, we can see individual slants reported as mass opinion in a supposedly objective realm.
Please do not take my word for it. What emotive vocabulary is used in a headline? What political party gets more air-time or favourable interviews? What events are picked up and run across the three major TV networks? What is deemed not newsworthy? There is always a worldview at play and sadly, a Biblical one is never popular.
While I’m personally ungrateful for where we’re at, I’m thankful that it’s not over. I’m thankful for media watchdogs and commentators. I’m thankful for independent and transparent journalists. I’m thankful for the huge potential of a redeemed media culture and for this generation who can turn it around. Thank God for media and the place it will have in freeing a nation and giving us back our choice.
Beth Reid has been a full time volunteer with Youth With A Mission in Perth, Australia for 2 years. After completing a degree in Communication and Media Production in Sydney, God called her to make the move into Christian Missions on the west coast with a specific goal of transforming the nations through discipling media workers and students.