Conroy orders surveillance on Whirlpool

Last week he was narked at Whirlpool for its small role in leaking the planned blacklist of allegedly offensive Web sites (which turned out to include a raft of legit sites among them a Queensland dentist and a school tuckshop service) to be banned under the federal government’s contentious Internet filtering scheme.

This week Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy paid the high-rating community of tech enthusiasts a backhanded compliment when he advised that Whirlpool would be included among the print and electronic media which the Government would be tracking under its new media monitoring strategy.

“Media monitoring is double plus good…”

But don’t be alarmed – this isn’t a further step in Big Brother looking over your shoulder. Media monitoring is part of the modern PR process employed by governments and private companies alike to keep abreast of ‘the buzz’ – to see who’s saying what about them their competitors and related industry issues.

It’s one way to tap into the general mood and ‘the vibe’. Staff employees and outside agencies scour through transcripts and clippings for relevant articles which are collated and distributed to their clients.

Media monitoring has traditionally been restricted to TV and radio stations and print publications both in the form of mainstream newspapers and magazines as well as more niche titles. But in its tender for the provision of a new media monitoring service Conroy’s Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy has has expanded this list to include Web sites and ‘blogs’.

A report in The Age cites the department as confirming that “blogs such as Whirlpool” will be among the media watched and read. This puts Whirlpool already among Australia’s most popular Web sites up there among the ranks of the influencers.

“Whirlpool … covers a wide range of topics across the telecommunications sector. It and other web sites provide valuable insight into the industries in which we work” said a spokesman for Senator Conroy.

Ever looking to score points Opposition communications spokesman Nick Minchin has been quick to trumpet that it was “extreme” to expand media monitoring activities to blogs. Blogs such as Whirlpool provide an open forum … and play an important role in our democracy. Moves to monitor this space seem an unacceptable use of taxpayers’ money.”

Conroy recently congratulated the Singapore government for scaling back its intrusive government surveillance of blogs.