News Limited's editorial chief Campbell Reid argued that the current Australian media regulation system has enough power and doesn't need to be strengthened, Crikey reported. News Limited is the Australian arm of News Corp.
Reid is quoted as saying at a June 6 forum:
"All the people who say the Press Council is a toothless tiger haven’t been bitten by it...An editor and a newspaper absolutely hate to devote space to somebody else’s opinion and assessment that the newspaper has done the wrong thing. It is a very public and prominent and painful procedure to go through—and we’ve signed up to it."
Reid also called for the government to stay out of media regulation and claimed that it's "putting the Murdoch empire on trial for crimes committed overseas."
Crikey noted that News Limited's Daily Telegraph had to print "two critical Press Council rulings this week."
In one of those complaints, published June 5 on the press council's website, the council concluded that the Daily Telegraph was inaccurate in its November 26, 2011 report on "asylum seekers."
The Telegraph's report, "Open the Floodgates -- Exclusive: Thousands of boat people to invade NSW" was "inaccurate" in its use of language, according to the press council's ruling. For example, the council found the Telegraph's saying people would "invade" was "gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive because of its clear connotations of forceful occupation." And, the terminology "open the floodgates" was also "inaccurate and unfair." See that full adjudication here.
Another complaint, published the next day, found that the Daily Telegraph mixed news and opinion in its "17 articles during 2011" on "cycle lanes." The press council didn't uphold all aspects of the complaint, filed by state parliament member and Lord Mayor Clover Moore who was behind the addition of bike lanes, but did find that some headlines "breached these principles because they expressed the newspaper's opinions rather than being a summary of facts reported in the accompanying news story." Also, some news reports used phrases like "diva-like list of demands," which the council said blurred news and opinion.
We have written to the Australian Press Council asking if it has any response to Reid's comments. We will update with any response.
Hat Tip: Roy Greenslade
UPDATE: 6/12/2012 10:11 AM EST: The Australian Press Council's standards director Derek Wilding responded to iMediaEthics' inquiry about Reid's comments. Wilding told us that "The Council has not made any response to the comments, but the attached document sets out some some key progress made by the Council, key goals and distinctive characteristics. This was the background against which the comments were made."
That document details "key progress achieved in the 18 months since the Council's Strengthening Program commenced." For example:
"any publisher wishing to leave the Council must now give at least four years’ notice;
"publishers’ obligations to the Council (eg funding and commitment to Council Standards) are now contractually enforceable;" and
"funding from publishers has doubled and three senior staff positions have been created."
Also, the council has four online publishers in its jurisdiction and the council gets final approval on how news outlets run adjudications.