Australian Govt. Inquiry into Press Calls for Govt Funded, Independent Regulator

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The Australian Press Council issued a March2 press release in response to the Finkelstein Inquiry into the Australian press. (Credit: Australian Press Council, screenshot, highlight added)

The Australian government published an “independent report” analyzing media regulation called for a new “News Media Council” with regulatory powers over media outlets, UK “financial information” website London South East reported.

‘The News Media Council should have power to require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply. This is in line with the ideals contained in existing ethical codes but in practice often difficult to obtain,” the report said, according to LSE.

According to the Associated Press, “The inquiry’s main criticism of the Press Council is that it does not have the necessary funding or power to carry out its functions. The Sydney Morning Herald noted that the inquiry has lasted about six months.

Bloomberg reported that the proposed News Media Council would handle all forms of media, and “be funded by the government, yet remain independent.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the proposed council would “replace the voluntary” Australian Press Council.

The proposal was made by the Finkelstein inquiry, the Fairfax Media-owned Canberra Times reported.  The inquiry’s report was published Feb. 28. It can be read here.  The next step for the proposal is the “government’s convergence review…due to report to Senator Conroy by March 30,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

We asked the Australian Press Council’s standards director, Derek Wilding, if the press council had any comment about the inquiry’s recommendations.  He told iMediaEthics by e-mail:

“While the Press Council has welcomed some of the recommendations of the Inquiry, our view is that the regulator should be an Independent Council, not a government body. The Press Council’s response to the recommendations is set out in our media release:

In that March 2 press release, the council wrote that it “welcomes many elements of the report by Mr. Finkelstein,” but that “some proposals are not the best response to the problems he identifies.”  The press council’s chairperson Julian Disney is quoted as saying that Australian outlets opposed to Finkelstein’s proposed government-backed regulation should help “strengthen the Council’s resources” so regulation is by the press.

See the full press release here.

In an opinion piece, the Canberra Times called  Finkelstein’s analysis “thoughtful, and thought-provoking,” however concluded that, “while well-intentioned,” the regulation is “ill-conceived.”

Likewise, News Corp’s Australian arm, News Limited, disagreed with the recommendations.  Its CEO, Kim Williams, is quoted as saying that media “must remain self-regulated entirely independent of government.”

Australian website The Conversation collected a list of other responses to the inquiry’s report here.

The Associated Press noted, “There have been no allegations made in Australia of the type of phone hacking that led to the News of the World scandal in Britain.”  As we have written, News Corp’s News Limited owns 70% of the print media in Australia.

We wrote in November when Finkelstein’s inquiry published an issues paper that touched on some of the same issues the Inquiry’s report addressed – like a council that addresses all forms of media.  See our  report here.  We asked the Press Council’s Wilding what the difference is between the issues paper late last year and this new published report. Wilding explained that the 2011 paper “didn’t include any recommendations — just issues to consider” and that “various groups, including the Australian Press Council, made submissions” to the inquiry at the time.

We also wrote in September  when Australia’s government announced the inquiry to Australian media.

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Australian Govt. Inquiry into Press Calls for Govt Funded, Independent Regulator

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