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In the internet's early rising tide days of the early 1990s, I recall someone saying that the internet is about "freedom". It's been a word that has had me thinking about the meaning of media and communications freedom ever since.

It seems obvious. The internet allows more people to communicate and do things, with more ease, than ever before.

But it's so much more than that. It's about a transformational shift in thinking from what I think of as a 'power-and-control' model, to a new one based on open, collaborative thinking.

But while the landscape has changed, I think many are still struggling to catch up with this new way to think.

A couple of examples can be seen from recent news. TVNZ and TV3 are claiming that the Broadcasting Standards Authority is becoming too conservative in their rulings – they're taking the authority to court to get sex scenes allowed. Of course, what the BSA forget is that people have the freedom now to find what they like anyway, whether of not traditional broadcasters are restricted or not.

The BSA actually has a guideline saying "Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency." In other words, what most of us think and like. I very much doubt that the BSA has any idea what the current norms of good taste and decency are.

Another example from news stories going back some years is the dilemma facing civil defence authorities during tsunami warnings. Our own authorities came in for criticism a couple of years ago when they decided to issue no warning on the basis that an unnecessary warning would spook people and that it was simply better to keep them in the dark. What was not factored in is the ability of people to access information from the world-wide-web and mobile, irrespective of what the authorities here might have wanted us to know, or not.

It is difficult for those of us who are so familiar with the notion that information can be controlled in the traditional sense. Those who say that they reject online media because of its precocious freedoms forget that it's a fact of life whether they like it or not. It's really a matter of saying, "if you can't beat it, you might as well join it".

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About the author

Fraser Carson is a respected communications and social media consultant, and commentator. He has particular experience and interest in community building, the not-for-profit sector and business development.

Communicate for freedom

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