Australia’s media regulatory framework inadequate, Senate investigation finds

The Senate committee responsible for this year’s survey of media diversity in Australia produced its report, recommending that the current regulatory framework is “not fit for purpose.”

The report says the committee heard “significant evidence that Australia’s media regulatory system is not effective, citing weak mechanisms, inconsistent governance arrangements and standards across platforms, and lack of oversight of media. digital media ”.

The majority report also recommends that the proposed judicial inquiry with the powers of the Royal Commission to determine whether the current system of media regulation is adequate and to investigate the concentration of media ownership in the country, be dismissed.

Rudd testifying before the committee earlier this year

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The majority report recommended a number of additional measures to be implemented “in the interim to ensure a diverse media landscape and to protect public service journalism and our democracy”.

The report said spending “tens of millions of taxpayer dollars” on such an investigation would be an “abject waste of public money,” and that reform can be achieved without “such an expensive vehicle that will turn into a chase. to the political witches aimed at stifling a free press ”.

“There is a distinct balance between regulatory reform and press censorship and a judicial inquiry will not help that balance,” the report said.

The inquest first took place in February this year, after a petition from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, calling for a royal commission on News Corp, owned by the Murdoch family, gathered more half a million signatures.

It also recommended that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) be given a greater role in regulating the ABC and SBS, as well as the ability to apply sanctions to media organizations that violate the coded.

ACMA has come under fire this year, after Google’s affiliate YouTube temporarily banned the Sky News Australia page for violating its disinformation policy.

The hearing was recalled after Sky News Australia’s YouTube account was given a seven-day ban.

In a previous Senate hearing, Rudd called the regulator “unnecessary”, questioning ACMA’s role as he said a private company was doing its job, calling for its abolition .

Chair of the Committee, Sarah Hanson-Young

The case at hand was used as an example, according to the report, which exposed the pitfalls of self-regulation “and illustrates the gulf between digital platforms which are not responsible for any external standard or regulatory framework, and companies. traditional media that are increasingly converged between platforms while remaining subject to a confusing patchwork of regulatory oversight ”.

Committee chair Sarah Hanson-YoungHanson-Young said: “Over a year ago, half a million Australians urged parliament to establish a royal commission on the domination of the media empire. Murdoch. In response, the Senate supported the Greens’ decision to establish an investigation and today we have a report which concluded that the appeal of more than half a million Australians was justified.

“The majority of the committee that undertook this 13-month investigation recommended the establishment of a judicial inquiry with the powers and weight of a royal commission on the state of media diversity and dominance in Australia. . It is a decision that the parliament itself can make. “

Yesterday on her Twitter account she wrote: “It is clear that the system of media regulation in this country is broken. Monopolies have been allowed to flourish in traditional media and through online platforms. We need a purpose-fit framework with a single regulator that meets standards in the public interest. “

Following the year-long investigation, the report surmised that the evidence presented to the committee “demonstrated the failure of existing regulators to ensure that standards of fairness and accuracy are maintained and to prevent the spread of disinformation ”.

According to an article in The Guardian yesterday, “Dangerous monopoly”: Labor, Greens back judicial inquiry into media diversity and News Corp, “a judicial inquiry could be launched without government support, but for” a project of law to be adopted in the House of Representatives, a member of the government would have to speak ”.

Rudd, the former prime minister, told the committee in February that he had never ceased to be afraid of News Corp and Murdoch after stepping down from Australia’s top office.

News Corp global director Robert Thomson appeared at the hearing in October, becoming the fourth News Corp executive to do so.

During his appearance, Thomson argued for digital platforms to be local jurisdiction.

“We clearly make mistakes, and we should be responsible for the mistakes […] There are ways to hold publishers to account. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case for large digital platforms.

“I think if someone is operating in Australia and playing a role of a content provider and wanting to make money, they should be subject to Australian jurisdiction.”

Norman D. Briggs