Hard News by Russell Brown

Thinking about the future now

Here's something new: Steven Price and I spent some time this year on a commission from the Broadcasting Standards Authority, jointly writing a paper called The Future of Media Regulation in New Zealand: Is There One? We were given a broad brief to draw out trends in electronic media use and abuse, especially on the Internet, and to speculate on what those trends meant for established ideas about broadcast regulation.

We looked at new media communities such as YouTube, examined the official approaches in Europe, Australia and the US - and repeatedly came down to the conflicting rights of individuals and democratic governments, as summed up in the paper's final paragraph:

In considering a response to the new environment, governments and regulators will need to balance two distinct philosophies: the traditional belief that democratic governments should regulate in the public interest; and the belief, embodied in Internet culture, that networks foster their own communities and that individual voices must be protected from authority.

There's quite a lot more in there - the damn thing came to more than 20,000 words in the end - and I was struck by the fact that I had to update my parts several times simply to keep abreast of developments. So you should feel free to download it and read it at your leisure. If you feel so moved, let me know what you think.

What is Murray McCully thinking?. And is it policy or just hot air? National's foreign affairs spokesman demanded yesterday that the New Zealand government start using aid and immigration policy as weapons after the disappointing votes of six small Pacific nations at the IWC meering.

Apart from being unethical in principle, this is nutty. It can have only two consequences. One is that we enter a bidding war with Japan (and guess who wins that?). The other is that we lose influence in the Pacific and - if a New Zealand government was truly to stick to such a policy - those small nations lose the support that helps keep them stable. Our biggest aid recipient in the South Pacific is the Solomons. Is McCully really seriously suggesting we pull the plug there? Goodness. Is this some sort of benign strategic environment thing?

There has been some interesting writing on the whaling issue in the past few days. Of all things, a Financial Times editorial emphatically concludes that "whaling must remain a historic industry", and author Brenda Peterson points out that given the level of contaminants such as mercury in whale meat, eat them is just a bad idea anyway. New local blog Meta_Analyses also has a thoughtful take on the issue.

I do think cetacean intelligence is an issue, whilst being aware that it is perilous to anthropomorphise animal behaviour to suit ourselves. There simply seems enough evidence of sentience among whales to make us cautious about killing them for food we don't really need, especially when such killing inevitably involves a high degree of suffering.

The Technsploder has an excellent analysis of the implications of the Commerce Commission's draft determination on mobile call termination charges. Bad for Telecom, good for consumer, basically.

And finally, I'm a big fan of Charlotte Ryan's Sunday afternoon show on 95bFM. And so, it would appear, is Keith Richards. During the wizened one's convalescence in Auckland, he called Charlotte - not to air, unfortunately - to say how much he was enjoying her work (and yes, it seems to have been a genuine call). Way to go Shaz!