Thursday, December 17, 2009

Subsidised journalism

The main obstacle to independent journalism in Maldives was the state control during the previous regime. People yelled left and right to give media freedom and to remove the influence by the state. Now that media has somewhat been freed, the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) is saying they can't be too free! They claim they need financial support from the state via subsidies to keep the government accountable. They claim that their independence will not be compromised if the subsidy were allocated by the state, rather than the government (forgetting to mention that the government is a subset of the state). Hmm, makes one wonder, who is going to make the state accountable then?

Of course, its not for the love of money they are doing it, it is only for the social good "to protect and preserve independent journalism in the country". If not, its doomsday and "would have an adverse effect on this burgeoning democracy".

President of MJA said "We have 300,000 people [in the Maldives] and that’s not enough of a market for fully private enterprise". I wonder where he has been living all these years. It is the fully private enterprise that gives us the pen, pencil, paper, computers, phones, contractors, engineers, architects, lawyers etc. Sure, lots of them studies on scholarships, but the services they provide are available in the realm of private enterprise, and don't rely on state subsidies. Maybe the contractors, engineers, architects, lawyers, teachers and others should ask for subsidies. They are a vital part of a functioning society.

This guy proposes to give subsidies based on circulation, and this guy's newspaper (Haveeru) is the most circulated. Maybe just coincidence? He also goes on to state that fully privatising media ownership would consolidate control in the hands of a few wealthy individuals. Well it already is. Maybe he should concentrate on abolishing the high fees charged for licensing by TAM, which the MJA itself criticises. That will be more beneficial for the upstarts, and prevents consolidation in the hands of the wealthy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Secret anti-counterfeiting trade agreement

The world over, politicians are trying to control how people live their lives. These politicians are backed by powerful corporations, lobby groups, vocal minority and sometimes the majority. Corporations want to control people economically to the detriment of economic freedom of the people. Vocal minority wants to control the rest to the detriment of the civil liberties, while the majority plays the number game of denying basic rights to the minority because they are few in number.

The powerful countries are now exporting their own system of laws via the international organizations. Currently, the heavyweights such as US, Japan and EU are negotiating a new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. The contents of the agreements are kept under wraps, only available to the corporations and sponsored politicians. They refuse to release the details of the agreement, which in time will be forced upon the rest of the world. In fact, US Trade representative Ron Kirk is quoted to have said that the parties will be walking away from the negotiations if the content is made public.

Whats more, the EU council has res refused to release the documents when asked by FFII. A good analysis of the leaked documents can be found here.

In broad terms, its a treaty designed to give even more power to the powerful corporations in the developed countries. Hollywood will be the world copyright police. The big pharmaceuticals will be the world patent czar on medicine. The big software companies will become the lord of software patents. It proposes "criminal measures against infringements without motivation for financial gain", which seems to be a direct attack on the open-source software developers.

So did the people world over elect the supposed representatives to suppress our freedoms? Whatever happened to the role of the government to protect life, liberty and property? Is there legitimacy to a government and their policies that do nothing to protect the fundamental liberties of the people?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fatally flawed freemarket

Above is the BBC survey results. Click on the image to reach the BBC article.
Wikipedia defines freemarket as:
A free market is a market without economic intervention and regulation by government except to regulate against force or fraud. The terminology is used by economists and in popular culture. A free market requires protection of property rights, but no regulation, no subsidization, no single monetary system, and no governmental monopolies. It is the opposite of a controlled market, where the government regulates prices or how property is used.
The following are probably true for the above survey:

- The software (Excel or some statistical software) used to collect and analyse the data ran on an operating system (Windows, OSX or Linux) powered by powerful hardware. All of these were supplied to BBC via capitalism.

- The BBC site is powered by Apache webserver running on Linux operating system [1]. All of these are Free software, provided to them by an almost laissez-faire industry of Free and Open Source[2] software.

- The hardware and software that you are using to access this site and BBC site are provided to you by freemarket.

Given that there is no industry in the world where there is no regulation, the computer industry (both software and hardware) is probably the least regulated industry of all. It is also probably the only industry where the products (hardware and software) becomes cheaper while quality and features improve day by day, despite the massive devaluation of currency by central banks.

However, this industry is also coming under attack from regulations and also powerful corporations seeking special privileges in the form of patents, draconian copyrights, stupid internet regulations and others. All of these stifle innovation and reduce competition in the industry.

So maybe, just maybe, the deregulated nature of the computer industry is what makes it highly competitive and innovative, which results in better and cheaper products.

Not to mention that BBC itself is funded by mandatory TV licensing fees taken from the public! Whether you watch BBC or not is irrelevant, if you own a TV, you must pay BBC.[3]

[1] Technically, Linux is just the kernel, but the word 'Linux' is also used to refer to various distros.

[2] Yes, Free and Open Source software are very much a free-market phenomenon. The profit in this industry is largely non-monetary, though most software companies have jumped on the open-source mantra. It is clearly laissez-faire, because anyone can start a FOSS software project to scratch their own itch. There is absolutely no artificial barrier to entry, no prior permission or license from government, no restriction on price or features or what you can call your software, no regulatory requirement to meet a standard (infact, its all self-regulated via de-facto and other voluntary standards as set by IETF, IEEE, W3C, OSI and others).

[3] Yes BBC does produce good quality documentaries, and news coverage is very good.