The No Illusions Podcast #56 – Wendy Bacon on Media Bias

Wendy Bacon is a contributing editor to NewMatilda and has reported for Crikey,  the Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation in recent times.

She is an investigative journalist with a background in social activism who worked at the University of Technology for 21 years. Although no longer teaching at UTS, Wendy is still a Professor of Journalism at the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

In 2011 she published a report on the bias in Australian newspapers over their coverage of climate change. The results of this report BLEW MY MIND.

I chatted with Wendy yesterday about the report and the state of journalism in Australia.

You can find Wendy’s website here and her Twitter account here.

News Corp’s Anti-Science Agenda

“Big Bang Theory a Bust” is the way News Corp is peddling this two-year old story about Roger Penrose’s “Conformal Cyclic Cosmology” model for explaining concentric circles of cosmic background radiation. Why run the story two years late? I have no idea. But it’s the headline that is the true story.

It’s obviously written by a sub-editor to a) be sensationalist and b) discredit science in the minds of the general public. I’ve already seen people in Facebook picking up the story and using it to start discussions about how science is equal to faith.

Very similar to the HeraldSun’s approach to the now-discredited neutrino experiments out of CERN last year.

Sensationalist and anti-science. Of course, any intelligent person understands that the scientific method is a process of refinement – one experiment or, in Penrose’s case, theory, in no way “upends” or “busts” anything, especially not time-tested theories such as the Big Bang or the speed of light being the speed limit for relativity.

But I’m pretty sure News Corp cares not about such things as accuracy. It’s about sensationalist yellow journalism and trying to discredit science. Why would they want to discredit science? Because it helps them rally the Christian Right vote. Fox News has turned itself into a profitable political power house in the USA by pandering to the Christian Right, anti-science demographic and it looks like News International wants to try the same trick here in Oz.

TrueLocal Advertisers Deserve A Refund

I went looking for a house cleaner today and ended up on’s TrueLocal site. I found someone in my area, clicked on their ad, then tried to send them an email. Up popped the below contact form. But I COULDN’T contact them because the verification captcha is broken. TrueLocal FAIL by you.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, @truelocal replied

@cameronreilly Thanks for brining it to our attention, it’s an issue from our end with Firefox3.5 and will thankfully be fixed v soon

Well that’s all fine and dandy, BUT, I asked, are you going to be refunding your advertiser’s funds? It seems to me like you aren’t delivering your promised services.

So far, no response from @truelocal….

It’s not acceptable when billion dollar media companies can’t get a freakin website to work properly. My suggestion? Stop hiring monkeys.

If I was a journalist for Fairfax, I’d probably do a story on this.

Bad news for newspapers

Bronwen has written a great piece explaining, once again, why newspapers (and the companies behind them) are at the end of the road.

Of course the argument for paid content is about defending commercial news organisations and not journalism. Problem is the two aren’t mutually exclusive anymore.

For starters, it excludes the competition from government subsidised media – SBS and ABC – who probably can’t wait for News Corp and Fairfax to start charging for their content. A senior news person at SBS told me just yesterday that he “WANTS those sites to charge!” – not because he believes in paid content, he doesn’t, but because it certainly brightens his future.

read more: bronwen clune » Blog Archive » Bad news for newspapers, great news for journalism.

UK Radio Still In Decline Five Years AFTER Digital

I was doing an email interview with a journo this morning about the introduction of digital radio in Australia and I was asked if I thought, as the radio industry is apparently claiming, that the introduction of digital would lead to an increase in radio listenership. I explained that this certainly hasn’t been the experience in the UK, where radio listenership is STILL in decline five years after the introduction of digital.


I remember a few years ago when the radio industry in Australia wanted the Howard Govt to give them an exclusive license for “digital radio” in return for their investment in the infrastructure to roll out their digital stuff. This had some folks predicting podcasting would be outlawed. Telling the radio folks to go to hell was one of the Howard Govt’s better decisions.

Are you excited about ‘digital radio’?

I’m running a twtpoll today about the launch of ‘digital radio’ in Australia. Of course, as far as I’m concerned, ‘digital radio’ is a pretty silly concept. Podcasting has been around for five years and with iPhone and iPods and the like becoming pretty mainstream, podcasting already gives audiences a digital experience. Why would you want to go out and buy ANOTHER device?

Let’s see what exciting benefits digital radio offers, according to the industry’s own site, and compare that to podcasting:

  • Clearer sound and improved reception – Check. If you’ve downloaded a podcast onto your own device, you have PERFECT reception.
    • Extra features such as extra channels – Check. There are tens of thousands of podcasts.
      • pause and rewind radio – Check.
        • downloadable music – Check. It’s called “iTunes”, bitch.
          • more details about the advertised product – Hmmm. I’d say “Bonk” to think one as we don’t carry much advertised product.
            • slideshows – Check. Podcasts in Apple’s AAC format contain slides, if that kind of thing excites you.
              • scrolling text – Check. Ye old iPods scroll, but iPhones are far sexier.
                • Electronic Program Guides – Check. It’s called your iTunes playlist.
                  • updated news, sports and racing information – Check. It’s called “the web” and it comes fully-integrated into iPhones.
                    • Extra channels potentially doubles the number of commercial stations – Oooh “doubles”! That’s twice as much Kyle Sandilands! Podcasting has released tens of THOUSANDS of new ‘stations’.

                      What do you see in that list that is innovative? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last five years, you already have most or all of these features on your iPhone, iPod or mobile phone. And, if you don’t, you will when you buy one. And you’ll have a far wider choice of options that digital radio will offer you.

                      So far on my poll, 87% of respondents say they are not interested in digital radio. What about you?

                      This Isn’t Terrorism

                      Reports today about the AFP arresting 4 men in Melbourne who were allegedly planning to attack a military base in Victoria is being called "terrorism" by the Prime Minister and the mainstream media. For example, claims the attack, if it had gone ahead, would have been "the worst terror attack on Australian soil".  However, if they were attacking a military target, does that qualify as terrorism? Wikipedia states that there isn’t an internationally agreed definition of terrorism, but I normally associate it with attacks on civilian targets outside of wartime. A small group of Somali and Lebanese labourers and taxi drivers attacking a military base doesn’t sound like the definition of terrorism to me. It sounds more like the definition of "stupid".

                      (UPDATE: in discussion with @napper, I said I think an attack by citizens of a country on its own army and inside the country’s own borders is more accurately defined as “revolution” or “insurrection”.)

                      So – why is it being referred to as terrorism by the Govt and the media? Are we back to the days where The Great Corporation feels the need to frighten the masses? What should we be watching out for? Is there a new law coming soon that will disappear more of our civil rights? Will Rudd use this to help push through his Internet censorship?

                      UPDATE: I also meant to add – as Terry did in the comments – that I hope the AFP have actually done their job this time, unlike in the Haneef debacle.