The paucity of debate on media reform has thrown up an ugly prospect: local content and diversity are goals only for policy wonks, journalists and National Party backbenchers. The rest of us just doesn't seem to care. Even that famed reader of the public sentiment, Prime Minister Howard, regards this as a "second-order issue".
It's worth remembering that the present regulation is only necessary if you believe that the public, if given its druthers, is unwilling to pay for the diversity and local content it deserves. Maybe Australians just don't wish to pay for more newsrooms and "live and local" radio with increasingly frequent ads and higher subscription fees? Is that not a valid public choice?
It's easy to dismiss the Chicken Littles' concerns as special pleading - journos want more employment opportunities while agrarian socialists want any subsidy, grant, special allowance or political favour going. But if there are real concerns that go beyond ideology or private interests, then we need to hear about them. Monica Attard on Media Watch has gone some way to highlighting problems in regional cities. Let's hear more examples of why diversity and local content are worth the steep price.