The government has formally announced its independent inquiry into the Australian media, looking at print and online media.
But television and radio were not included in the terms of reference announced by Senator Stephen Conroy. Broadcast regulation is currently under consideration by the Convergence Review.
Media ownership is also not part of the inquiry.
While it will look at strengthening the Australian Press Council, there is no specific mention of the Australian Communications and Media Authority -however ACMA’s role does include internet regulation.
“The Media Inquiry I am announcing today will focus on print media regulation, including online publications, and the operation of the Press Council,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Government believes a separate and distinct examination of the pressures facing newspapers and their newsrooms, including online publications, will enhance our consideration of the policy and regulatory settings Australia needs to ensure that the news media continues to serve the public interest in the digital age,”
The independent inquiry will be led by former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Ray Finkelstein QC, assisted by Dr Matthew Ricketson, Professor of Journalism at Canberra University.
Senator Conroy acknowledged the pressures of digital technologies and the 24 hour news cycle were threatening traditional business models.
“A healthy and robust media is essential to the democratic process,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Australian Government believes it is incumbent upon government to ensure regulatory processes and industry structures are sufficiently strong to support the continuation of a healthy and independent media that is able to fulfil its essential democratic purpose, and to operate in the public interest.”
The Inquiry will provide its findings to the Convergence Review early next year, with the latter due to report at the end of March.
Terms of Reference:
a) 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;
b) 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;
c) Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to on-line publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints;
d) Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public interest.