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Most of our contributors and many of our readers are becoming aware of how unfree the mainstream commercial press and even ABC radio and TV are in Australia, due to the common commercial focus of government and the growth lobby, which seems to be the source of most of the problems that focuses on. Just to remind you, is "A website for reform in democracy, environment, population, land use planning and energy policy." Perhaps we should add that it is also a website for media reform.

I started out writing about the environmental effects of population growth. Later I began to write about who and what are driving population growth in Australia - notably the property development and finance lobbies. Then I realised that the reason we could not stop these commercial interests from ruining our country was that they had overwhelmed democracy and coopted government. Finally, I have come to the conclusion that the disempowerment of democratic communication in favour of commercial and corporate interests has been made possible by the cooption of the media.

This has occurred through the reduction in ownership of the media and through the weakening of cross-ownership laws. It has also occurred, historically, through the ownership and cost of media (communications) technology. Owning a television or radio station or a newspaper print works was not within the purview of everyone. It was a very expensive business.

Thank heavens that the whole business of mass communcation has changed. Electronic publication is comparatively cheap and the readers are not so passive and are able to contribute material. Many people still do not understand this revolution and it is imperative that they rapidly begin to, since, at the same time that a new free press has become accessible, democracy, freedom, and vital resource sufficiency are increasingly menaced by corporate interests. These interests and the associated spin continue to be fostered and represented by the commercial mainstream press.

It is up to you and me and us to encourage a self-reliant free press.

Whilst maintaining a website is relatively cheap, it is not cost free, and requires several thousand dollars a year. It is also very labour intensive, yet all of us on candobetter earn our livings in other ways.

This is a labor of love and a political commitment. Please help's owner - James Sinnamon - by making a financial contribution if you can. Alternatively, if you have a spare v-server, perhaps you would like to share it.

Contributions to:

Please e-mail james [AT] for details of the bank account.

It's not tax-deductible and what you see is what you get. If you like it, please try to help support it.

The initiative for this announcement came from me, Sheila Newman, although James Sinnamon is aware of it and has surrendered to my persuasion on this matter. He is not a commercially oriented person and earns his living in a low-paid occupation because of his committment to social, political and ecological reform. It would represent a hardship for him to pay for the extension of equipment and virtual space that now needs. I have personally contributed to in the past and will continue to do so, simply because I know Australia and the world need it.

In solidarity.


Quiet Tasmania's picture

Even the impecunious might contribute small sums occasionally via their PayPal account.

Does WCDB have its own PayPal account to receive them?

Peter Bright

No, it just has James Sinnamon's bank account.

Perhaps we could start a new bank account named 'Candobetter V-server' and publish the balance from time to time, but, at the moment, it would just go to James's account and people could send cheques or do a 'pay anyone' electronically etc. That might be too much effort. James doesn't have an accountant or anyone else to run to the bank and to send out letters and to file reports etc.

Previously people have paid bills or parts of bills on James' behalf, which means that they know where the money is going and what it is for.

No-one makes a profit out of CDB; it draws no income whatsoever and makes no payments to anyone. It is James who pays the group that rents him the server, who pays the electricity that runs his computer, telephone, broadband etc etc. The rest of us contribute stories as we see fit, from our own machines, using our own sources of electricity and internet connections etc.

If at any time CDB gets to replace the Murdoch Press (this idea keeps ME going!) we might consider something more formal.

The problem with formal associations with membership and all that is that they then get set in concrete and people invest all kinds of emotions in them and they do their utmost to make them conform to their expectations and then there are divisions and conquests etc. Loose associations seem to work better, so that you can distance yourself and stop sending in work if you don't like what CDB is doing, and send in more work if you do etc.

Feel free to ask more questions, make more suggestions.

all the best,

Sheila Newman, population sociologist

Quiet Tasmania's picture

Thankyou for responding.

I think informal, freewill donations through PayPal would prove quick, easy and efficient for some of us out here, and I recommend that this course be investigated and implemented.

In the circumstances, as outlined above, it seems to me entirely appropriate that James initially opens a personal account in his own name.

I suspect he could have one up and running within the hour.

Peter Bright

Perhaps the best way to raise the money is to ASK for it... how many members.. divided by dollars required... a 'donation'.. I dunno... 100 members by $100 is... umnn.. $10,000... how many members would be willing to pay an annual fee of $100?

How much is required?

I have long held the view that no one group or individual should access facilities for which they do not make a contribution.

Having worked for governments of various colours over 30 years, and within the inner sanctums of Ministerial offices, I can say with some experience that policy advisors would be accessing, on a daily basis, major newspaper blogs as a standard method of measuring the national mood as well as the mood of their own electorates.

In fact I have noted the correlation between politicians' electronic media responses, and the general tone contained in newspaper blogs. There have been times when specific newspaper blog opinions have been the subject of political question and answer interviews.

This is all going to change when the Murdoch empire begins charging for internet-accessed news. The other media chains will quickly follow. Newspapers have done a good job of baiting the market, many of them have moved to "Log-in" and "Register here" boxes at the foot of newspaper stories. I feel sure they have built huge email address data banks that will be useful in advising potential subscribers of plans to charge for future access.

Think about it.

E-readers will no longer be able to hop from one news chain to another. They will no longer be able to email instant links and news across the world, because the receiver may not have a subscription to each and every media outlet.

I suspect this will severely restrict the massive scrutiny to which governments are now being exposed. It doesn't feel like a deliberate News Corp plan to do that, but it will occur by default. Newspaper/journalist/advertising returns are rapidly diminishing as internet news is freely available. They all have to pay their staff for hunting down the news. It was only a matter of time, and that time will soon arrive.

On the back of all this will be another type of communication revolution. What will happen and how, is difficult to predict.

So what are the costs involved in providing news and public access? How much per contributor is required in order for the continuance of WCDB and how will this forum react to the e-news changes that are predicted?

How can sites like this take advantage of what lies ahead when newspapers begin to charge subscriptions? Will contributors be quite as well-informed and therefore feel their subject knowledge remains up-to-date?

Forewarned is forearmed.

Quiet Please, I think you may be misinformed.

What Murdoch Said

A month ago, on 10 November 2009, Rupert Murdoch in an interview on Sky News expressed his frustration about the ongoing the theft of news content of his media companies online via Google by external parties, whom he labels 'content kleptomaniacs', and in order to combat content theft, he is proposing removing the free online access and charging for content .

Murdoch is concerned about lost revenue from those using his news content in breach of copyright to use for profit. He sees Google access as the means these competitors are accessing his news content and so Murdoch is suggesting "he may block Google's search engine from accessing information on their company's websites." Murdoch here is concerned with fighting back at Google which he sees is unfairly profiting from News Corp's news content, by selling ads next to the search results. [SOURCE: 'Murdoch faces off with Google in Free vs Paid', by David Cate, accessed 14-Dec-09].

Erosion of Mainstream Media Revenues

What the media have since teased out of this story is the broader issue of free online content versus paid content. This is a hot topic because newspapers have been steadily losing millions in revenues from paper sales and advertising to online media. Revenue from newspaper advertising such as employment advertising have largely gone online to websites like SEEK. In addition, Google's advertising has acquired much of the advertising revenue from traditional news media such as News Corp. So the challenge and debate is how does mainstream media stay competitive and remain profitable in this 'Information Age'?

Murdock, in the above article states "I would rather have a smaller audience of paying customers than people accessing it for free." His Wall Street Journal offers a partially-paid service - the website features an initial paragraph for most content, but ultimately requires visitors to subscribe to read the complete story. Back in September, Fairfax trialled charging a nominal $2.20 (inc GST) for news stories. It didn't last long, probably because few readers saw the value in paying. The Fairfax new online newspaper 'The National Times' is now completely free online.

Competition for News is fierce

Let's be clear about the distinction between 'news reporting' and 'news analysis'. The mainstream media has fierce competition for new stories and their reporting. If Murdock charges more for this he will clearly lose readership to the competition, simply on price.

As for new analysis, there is less competition. But if Murdoch starts charging for his 'news analysis, he has less competition sure, but this is the realm of the blogger - a disparate mix of qualified journalists, citizen journalists, experts of a particular field, and the odd letter contributor. Newspaper blogs are only part of the online media. There are many blogs outside the mainstream media. To dominate this realm would be like trying to use Patton tactics in Afghanistan against Taliban guerrillas. Bloggers will find ways of attacking government. They will move about using nom-de-blogs and pop up at different locations. Bloggers will migrate to the many free online media sources out there like the ABC (which will never charge), Crikey, New Matilda, CanDoBetter. In Australia. much is coming in from AAP, so if it is in The Age, odds are the same news item will be on the ABC. The online traffic will shuffle away from the greedy to the noble. One would have thought Murdock would have some understanding of market forces. I think he is testing the market to gauge likely reaction and to stimulate debate before he commits. I am sure he has his staff monitoring the debate for him.

Personally, if I need to refer to an article, I can do so from the printed newspaper. I can even scan it into OCR. I can access radio news which is recorded online in text format. Importantly I respect copyright and so always try to reference the source. So in this way, my scrutiny of government shall endure. I intend to continue "to hop from one news chain to another". I have no loyalty with greedy moguls. They already have enough influence.
So bring it on Rupert!

Cost Recovery is morally distinct from Profiteering

I am not opposed to a nominal account fee for special privileged access like what Crikey does or to donations or to voluntary contributions like what CanDoBetter is proposing. If Murdoch and Fairfax and others in-it-for-the-money and start charging for access to information that readers have become accustomed to obtaining for no charge, those readers will migrate. Many bloggers I suspect don't trust the mainstream media, often don't get 'airplay' anyway and so chose not to participate in mainstream media blogs, expect with the odd informed and targeted comment.

Further Analysis

To demonstrate that I practice what I preach, relevant to this issue, University of Queensland academics Ian Ward and James Cahill of the School of Political Science and International Studies, wrote a paper 'Old and New Media: Blogs in the third age of political communication' I recommend reading it online. It's free! In their abstract they observe:

"The Internet offers an unprecedented confluence of low cost production, distribution and marketing in a single publishing platform with minimal barriers to entry. At least in the USA, this distinctive political economy has seen an explosion of bottom-up, grassroots journalism and political discussion without the centralised direction, large-scale funding, and editorial control which are hallmarks of traditional news media."

"In effect bloggers now constitute a ‘fifth estate’, fact-checking and—often obsessively— analysing the output of mainstream news media including its coverage of politics. In some cases bloggers have also shaped the course of political events by publicising issues originally overlooked by traditional news media. Yet in Australia the picture is rather different. In a different institutional setting blogging has not emerged as an important vehicle for political
news and debate, nor even taken firm root. This would appear to pose a difficulty for the argument advanced by its champions that, with its particular political economy, the blogosphere is destined to transform political communication."

On this last point, I think Australian bloggers are catching up - this little black duck is at least.

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885

Dear AP,

We don't have members. We are a naturally formed association of people who see value in contributing articles and comments to the site, and who read it.

I will quote myself rather than reinvent a serviceable paragraph:

The political problem with formal associations with membership and all that is that they then get set in concrete and people invest all kinds of emotions in them and they do their utmost to make them conform to their expectations and then there are divisions and conquests etc. Loose associations seem to work better, so that you can distance yourself and stop sending in work if you don't like what CDB is doing, and send in more work if you do etc.

Then there is the OTHER problem, which is that the most committed people seem to get dragged down into eternal clerical, reporting and membership services - how would any of us keep writing?

I do appreciate your suggestion though. It is good to have an agent provocateur on side.

Feel free to ask more questions, make more suggestions.

Sheila Newman

I greatly appreciate all the interest in raising funds, however there is one point I would like to make clear:

The most important contribution anyone can make to this site is to add comments and write articles for it. After that it is to publicise the site or simply to read the content in order to inform themselves, so that they may eventually be able to inform others.

I would not want anyone, who feels unwilling or unable to financially contribute at this point, to allow that to become a barrier to participation.

Personally, I use a good many other sites that I am unable to contribute to. Even if I had a less modest income I would not be able to contribute to all the sites I would like to, so I can understand that a good many who use this site may be in a similar position.

I intend to set up a facility (most likely PayPal) to allow people to contribute. However, it will only be there for people who feel motivated to, and able to contribute financially. If they do not choose to contribute financially, but continue to contribute in other ways, then that is fine by me.

When it is set up I also intend to list the contributions (anonymously where people prefer) and list all the corresponding direct expenses as well as, possibly, indirect expense (i.e. Internet connection, computer hardware, etc.)