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Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation

Report of the independent Inquiry in to the Media

Commentary

Finkelstein media report and media regulation – two views. In this podcast The Sydney Institute's Gail Hambly and Matthew Ricketson provide insight and opinion on the latest media regulation reforms and the Finkelstein media report.

Report Overview

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy announced on 14 September 2011 that he had appointed The Hon Raymond Finkelstein QC to conduct an inquiry into certain aspects of the media and media regulation. The terms of reference required the authors to investigate:

  • The effectiveness of the current media codes of practice in Australia, particularly in light of technological change that is leading to the migration of print media to digital and online platforms.
  • The impact of this technological change on the business model that has supported the investment by traditional media organisations in quality journalism and the production of news, and how such activities can be supported, and diversity enhanced, in the changed media environment.
  • Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to online publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints.
  • Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public  interest.

The report was delivered to the Minister on 28 February 2012.

Background

On 13 July 2011 the British Prime Minister David Cameron established an inquiry (under the chair of Lord Justice Leveson) to investigate the culture, practices and ethics of the British press and whether employees of News International and other media organisations had engaged in unlawful and improper conduct. This provoked calls in Australia for the establishment of a wide-ranging investigation into the media. It was not suggested that News Limited, the Australian subsidiary of News Corporation, had engaged in similar practices. But the leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, called for a general inquiry into the newspaper industry. He suggested that the inquiry should canvass whether: 

  • Publishers should be licensed
  • A 'fit and proper person' test should be applied
  • There should be limits on foreign ownership of the press
  • The newspaper industry is too concentrated
  • There is a need for independent regulation of the press.

Selected Recommendations

The report found that the current mechanisms of self-regulation are not sufficient to achieve the degree of accountability desirable in a democracy:

  • Of the existing self-regulation measures, only one or two newspapers have appointed an ombudsman.
  • Online news publications are not covered.
  • The Australian Press Council suffers from serious structural constraints. It does not have the necessary powers or the required funds to carry out its designated functions.
  • If legal proceedings against the media are called for, they are protracted, expensive and adversarial, and offer redress only for legal wrongs, not for more frequent complaints about inaccuracy or unfairness.

The report recommended that a News Media Council be established to set journalistic standards for the news media in consultation with industry, and handle complaints made by the public when those standards are breached. The News Media Council should chart trends in the industry, and particularly to see whether there will be a serious decline in the production of quality journalism. The report found that an area requiring especially careful monitoring is the adequacy of news services in regional areas.

UC Research Team

Upon appointing former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia Mr Ray Finkelstein QC to lead the inquiry, Senator Conroy announced that he had also appointed Professor Matthew Ricketson, N&MRC Professor of Journalism to assist in the preparation of the report.
At Mr Finkelstein's request, N&MRC Adjunct Professor Franco Papandrea was appointed to the team to assist in the report's preparation. Dr Papandrea was the principal adviser to the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Print Media and played a major role in the preparation of the Committee's report.

Download the report

The Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation is available to download in full from Australian Policy Online.