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So how will the media behave in any future plebiscite or referendum? Will they behave ethically?

Sir David Smith doubts that they will lift their performance. If they do not, they will serioulsy risk the one valuable possession they have - their credibility.

There is a concern among journalists as to the future of quality journalism, and that is justified. The closing of The Bulletin and the running down of current affairs progammes on the Nine network  reminded journlists that these had existed only because of the indulgence of the late Kerry Packer.

The Australian only exists because its creator, Rupert Murdoch is willing to subsidise it. The last thing journalist and editors should do is to jeopardise the standing of their outlets by indulging in shame faced bias in something as important as a proposal to change the bases of our constitutional system.

And journalists and editors must understand that the power of the mainline media has been diluted.

Well before the mainline media were already losing their monopoly with the advent of talk back radio, which they serioulsy underrated. And since the 1999 campaign, the internet provides a way in which a voice minimised and suppressed by the mainline media can go behin the media filters and reach a large and increasing audience. 

Another factor will be the model presented in any referendum. If it involves a general election of the president, the united front among most of the mainline media in 1999 will fracture.

The mainline media were unable to ensure a victory for the politicians' republic in 1999. But there can be no doubt that their long campaign for change had some effect, increasing to some extent  the "yes" vote.

Should they behave as badly as they did in 1999, they will only reinforce the lack of confidence people already show in survey after survey.


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