The recently released Independent Media Inquiry report proposes a statutory watchdog and regulation of all media in Australia, including the internet.
There has been a lot of commentary around the proposed inclusion of news blogs and websites with more than 15,000 hits per year.
This site has that many hits per month, but from my reading of the report, it won’t be captured under the proposed regulations.
The report defines news media as “those that gather, analyse and disseminate news, often with their own opinions added”.
I think the inquiry, led by Ray Finkelstein QC (pictured), set the number too low however, in seeking to include websites. A better benchmark might have been 10,000 unique visitors per month.
The report also suggests applying the powers of the News Media Council only to publishers distributing more than 3000 copies of print per issue.
This would exclude almost half of the country newspapers in South Australia.
I would argue that a monopoly newspaper with a circulation of 2500 in a town like Ceduna, for example, is the dominant source of news for most local residents and should be captured by any regulations that may be imposed across the rest of the industry.
Enshrining the right of reply is a good thing, but why shouldn’t an aggrieved Ceduna resident have the same right as someone in a larger town?
The report suggests allowing non-news entities, like this blog and small newspapers I suppose, to opt into the system. That’s a positive recommendation.
I endorse the proposed remedial powers:
- To require publication of a correction;
- To require withdrawal of a particular article from continued publication (via the internet or otherwise);
- To require a media outlet to publish a reply by a complainant or other relevant person;
- To require publication of the News Media Council’s decision or determination;
- To direct when and where publications should appear, and
“When a media outlet publishes a correction, apology, reply or determination as required by the News Media Council both it and the News Media Council should be protected from legal proceedings based on the publication; in other words, a form of privilege should attach to the publication.”
Undeniably, the current system of self-regulation by a toothless press council doesn’t work.
The Finkelstein report goes a long way towards setting in place a system that offers fairness within a transparent structure.
We just need to get the detail right.