The media play a crucial role in a modern democracy in informing the people. To do this they must be free. The media agree that there is an ethical requirement that fact and comment should be distinguishable, and that the news should be as truthful as is reasonably possible.
As the editor of the Manchester Guardian famously declared in 1921, " Comment is free, but facts are sacred."
But while the private media are entitled to editorialise, this is not a luxury which the taxpayer funded public media, the ABC and SBS, can properly have.
In the 1999 referendum, the media were mainly and strongly in favour of change. What became clear was that this seriously affected the presentation of the news..
As the international authority, and in his earlier career a highly respected editor, Lord Deedes, wrote in the London Daily Telegraph :
"I have rarely attended elections in any country, certainly not a democratic one, in which the newspapers have displayed more shameless bias. One and all, they determined that Australians should have a republic and they used every device towards that end."
Dr Nancy Stone undertook a survey for The Samuel Griffith Society of two outlets at the time, The Age and The Australian. Her research confirms Lord Deedes’ conclusion.