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Right-wing think tanks & the press

Groups such as the  Institute of Public Affairs play a dominant role in providing newspaper commentary in Australia, particularly via the Murdoch press but also in some of the better quality Fairfax papers.  Partly, no doubt, when it comes to papers like The Australian this is so because the propietor endorses the views.  But I wonder too whether it is also because groups such as the IPA provide a way of getting copy on an outsourced basis at much lower cost than using full-time journalists.  The newspapers are experiencing well-known financial problems and a major cost is full-time journalism. It is better to get copy from those with an ideological axe to grind who are willing to accept low rates of pay in order to get their ideology across.  In support of this I notice Fairfax also publishes a lot of stuff from the IPA and both Fairfax/Newscorp publish outsourced material from groups such as the Australia Institute. Rupert Murdoch’s notoriously fickle politics might make sense if you assume his attention is mainly on the bottom line – he likes to back winners but also keeps his journalism bills down.

Of course this suggests that social democrats could make a bigger impact if they combined to form a think tank that supplied copy on a regular basis to the media.  To some extent groups such as the Australia Institute and the non-aligned Grattan Institute do this but I think not as effectively as the IPA although I certainly believe the quality of the research done at Grattan far exceeds the low level prejudice generated by the IPA

6 comments to Right-wing think tanks & the press

  • I used to be not trampis

    If Rupert’s eye was merely on the bottom line then the Australian would not exist.

    He always wanted a counter to the AFR.

    totally agree on the Grattan Institute puts out the best research I have read by a mile.

  • derrida derider

    Na, trampis, getting pre-edited free copy to fill your opinion pages will always be an attractive deal. And such copy is more bountifully available from the right than the left because, in the words of JK Galbraith “commercially, you can’t go far wrong appealing to the prejudices of rich old men” – true for “think tank” and newspaper alike.

    The trouble with the left wing and centrist think tanks alike is that they think their role is to propose well thought out detailed policy options, in the grand tradition of the Fabians. The IPA realises that its funders pay it to engage in polemics and lobbying on their behalf, so it is irrelevant how well or ill thought out the proposed policy is. Getting opinion pieces into the papers is probably not even one of the KPIs for Grattan Institute fellows, but I bet it damn well is for the IPA.

  • hc

    Like DD’s comment. Spot on.

  • HC, similar claims have been made recently about the Centre of Independent studies being the local ringmaster of the vast neoliberal conspiracy in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Apparently everyone in Canberra is just waiting for their marching orders from Greg Lindsay from his tiny office above uncle Pete’s Toys in St Leonard’s

  • I like your thinking DD. So what the left needs to do is just make things up like the right does. And then just insist on it being true, no matter what evidence is brought to bear against it. And dress in suits and look serious while spouting lies.

    I reckon the left needs to get started on this quick smart. What is a catchy think-tank name?

  • derrida derider

    The CIS is a different kettle of fish from the IPA. IMO often just as wrong, but nowhere near as nasty and rarely outright dishonest. And that’s because they take the “Independent” part of their name seriously. CIS scribblers are all selected as ideologues, but once selected are free to think before scribbling and are not rewarded for preserving a convenient ignorance. Some good research and ideas have from time to time come out of the CIS, which is not something I’d ever say of the IPA.

    As for the need for Teh Left to behave similarly, well it’s just a matter of organisation really. There is certainly no shortage of lefties out there every bit as tribal and careless of facts as any IPA fellow, as I’m sure Harry will agree, but perhaps they are not as easily disciplined to serve their paymasters, it being a matter of the differing personality types of righties and lefties.