Monday, December 08, 2008

Fuel of democracy

Democracy needs two things to survive. The first is an active citizenry, because no democracy can survive indifference. The other thing democracy needs is far simpler: Fresh air. The more openness, transparency and exposure, the better.

So it came as great news for Australian democracy that a new public affairs network, A-SPAN, is about to launch, 100% funded by the pay-TV sector, Foxtel and Austar, in association with Sky News. It will help provide the air democracy needs, and will make it easier to citizens to become informed and active.

Shortly after taking office, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd held a 2020 summit to look at where Australia should be in the future. One of the things that was recommended was an Australian version of the USA's C-SPAN, and that it should launch in 2020. Instead, it'll launch in January (carrying C-SPAN's broadcast of the inauguration of Barack Obama as US President). That's eleven years ahead of schedule.

A-SPAN will be an affiliate of C-SPAN, carrying much of its US and Canadian programming. It will also carry Question Time from the UK Parliament, as well as expanded coverage of New Zealand's Parliament. The thing that's extraordinary about it is that C-SPAN will also carry A-SPAN programming, meaning for the first time Americans will be able to watch Australian democracy in action (for better or worse…).

Probably more important for Aussies is the local coverage: Full coverage of sittings of Parliament, important committee hearings and other public events. A-SPAN will also eventually carry Question Time from the Parliaments of all Australian states and territories. Australian democracy will never be the same.

I was a big fan of C-SPAN in America, so I hope that A-SPAN is carried in New Zealand. It will eventually be streamed over the Internet. It's highly unlikely that New Zealand will see it's own public affairs network because there's only one pay-TV operator, and the Freeview consortium is also unlikely to pay for it. Still, as technology evolves anything could happen—even a little fresh air.

This post has been edited to fix some formatting errors that slipped through when I used a different program to write it.


Roger Owen Green said...

Since you're an Illinois guy:

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions, prosecutors said.

Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, also was arrested.

Federal agents were in Blagojevich's office in the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Tuesday morning.

Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal Operation Board Games involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday morning that the federal investigation had spread to Blagojevich's efforts to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by the election of Barack Obama as president.

Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a six-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. The decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor.

Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, did you hear Colbert last week. In the discussion over Mumbai, he sugggested that India might go retaliate against an uninvolved country - like New Zealand.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I did hear about Blogojevich. Yawn! I'm form Illinois: Tell me something new. I didn't hear about Colbert, but we don't get that here.