Keep Sydney Open rally gets diluted response from the media

Words by Claire Deakin

Just a few weeks ago, Keep Sydney Open hosted its part-rally/part-gig against Sydney’s lock out laws. As one among an estimated 10-15 thousand protesters, I couldn’t help but notice a lack of media – specifically, mainstream TV media – personnel throughout the course of the day.This absence, at least from my vantage point (which, admittedly, is quite limited at 5 ft 4), struck me as rather odd considering both the size of the crowd, and the incessant shade that was thrown Mike Baird’s way in the weeks preceding the event.

After a few conversations with close friends and family about the media coverage surrounding the rally, my curiosity was piqued. All had come back with virtually the same response: “I don’t remember seeing anything.”–Since all major networks use social media to direct traffic to their latest news scoops, the content that appears on their Facebook pages is, more or less, a reflection of the material they televisually broadcast. So, suffice to say, I stalked the *expletive* out of TV new’s biggest hitters.

What I found – or rather, what I didn’t find – was very interesting. Neither Ten nor Seven News, or their respective Sydney branches, posted a single story about the Keep Sydney Open protest.

Nine News posted one story with the even-handed caption: “Hours after emergency service workers urged the NSW gov to keep the laws, Sydneysiders took to the streets in a rally org by the Keep Sydney Open group.” Given this skewed introductory caption, it is perhaps unsurprising that the linked article only quoted Dr. Tony Sara, spokesperson for the Last Drinks Coalition (a lock-out laws advocacy group comprised of unions representing the state’s doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers). Tyson Koh, the founder of Keep Sydney Open, did not feature. Similarly, ABC News posted this story, which again, only included comments by said Last Drinks spokesperson.

Given the fact that “broadcast television remains the main source of news for most Australians.”, this systematic underreporting of the rally by free TV’s major networks is a cause for concern. Selective coverage not only erodes the credibility of the press in general, but also undermines the democratic process itself, since it obfuscates the discussion of topical issues by elevating one voice over another/others. Journalism101: neglecting to include voices that fall outside the parameters of support for the status quo is nothing short of partisan hackery, or, at the very least, feckless laziness.

Nevertheless, Keep Sydney Open’s work appears to have made a sizeable impact, having been recently invited by the NSW government to participate in “discussions about the future of Sydney’s nightlife.” Still, I can’t help but wonder whether this invitation would have been extended at all if it weren’t for the sustained momentum of the movement’s organisers and supporters, and the supplementary coverage of alternative online news outlets… •

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