Crikey! The exclamation of Free Speech

Jen Seyderhelm comments


Evelyn Hall, writing under the male pseudonym of Stephen Tallentyre, wrote in a biography of Voltaire,

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This quote has become a describing principle of freedom of speech, also evident in the ongoing popularity of genuine talkback radio and incredible popularity of podcasts as a sort of audio Encyclopaedia Britannica.

This month two instances of freedom of speech vs wealth played out in public and on social media.

Firstly, Crikey is an independent, private and digital media company based (unsurprisingly) here in Australia.

In June Crikey’s Political Editor Bernard Keane wrote an article about Donald Trump’s involvement in the insurrection attempt at the US Capitol. This commentary article was taken down the next day after a legal threat from Lachlan Murdoch, the Executive Chairman of Fox News, whose last name was mentioned in the piece.

Instead of avoiding a David vs Goliath stoush, Crikey instead chose to republish the article and bite back against Murdoch. The company paid advertising costs to print an open letter challenging him. Certain publications turned this down, but the New York Times and my local Canberra Times eventually printed it.

I’ll make no further comment except that it reminds me of an Eric Clapton incident.

Those of us working in the broadcast or print media know we are governed by codes, practices and regulations like this. Podcasts affiliated with a radio station or, in the instance of Teacher’s Pet, print media, are covered by these rules.

But what about independent podcasts?

What I love and what I teach about podcasts is that they are a safe and private space to explore topics, ideas and beliefs that both make you feel like you aren’t alone in your experience and to open your mind to others beyond that scope.

When you click on an episode, you aren’t inundated with carefully curated images or savage twitter backlash.

It’s just you and the person/people you are listening to.

Afterwards, of course, you might search for more information about Brené BrownJoe Rogan or Ben Shapiro. If their views stir something in you, perhaps you’ll subscribe, buy their books or see them live at a location near you.

I must admit I’d not heard of Ben Shapiro till this week.

Ben is a US radio announcer, podcaster, author and conservative political commentator. Aged 17 he was the youngest nationally syndicated columnist in America and by 21 had published two of his 11 books. He founded the news website and media company The Daily Wire. His daily political podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show, in 2019 was ranked the second most popular in the US and in 2021 the 9th most listened to on Apple Podcasts.

I should write his promotional material.

No, seriously, he doesn’t need me.

He’s had the most unexpected publicity boost this week from an angle so left field that if he’d speculated about it in an episode of his show his fans would have thought he was delusional.

Last Wednesday a group called the Podcast Movement (described as the world’s largest community of podcasters) was in the third day of a podcast expo in Dallas Texas. The Daily Wire had paid for a booth for the first time and, because of their “large presence in podcasting”, the Podcast Movement had accepted their money and allowed the set up.

Ben Shapiro decided to drop into the Expo and his booth. He meets and greets some fans, gets some pictures taken and mingles in the crowd.

Word gets around about this unexpected visit by this owner/founder to his booth.

The Podcast Movement then issues an apology so obsequious that it’s astonishing that they allowed anyone at all to attend who wasn’t vetted to be 100% impartial on everything.

I wonder if Shapiro is considered suing the Podcast Movement for criticising and causing harm?

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending where you sit on Shapiro and his views) Ben has largely seen the humour in the situation and moved on.

Both incidents, and the legal battle between Crikey and Murdoch, leave me dumbfounded.

That’s probably for the best.

Were I to comment freely on the utter waste of money, legal fees and social media space on either of these matters then perhaps I may also be hauled over the coals by media regulators for disagreeing, contributing or inflaming the situation.

I’ll just keep those opinions to myself.



About the Author
Jen Seyderhelm is a Breakfast Announcer at Forever Classic 2CA, a Podcast and Voiceover educator, and she is currently counting down the greatest one hit wonders of all time in Australia.

Contact: LinkedIn