Call for Judicial Inquiry into media diversity

Senate report calls for inquiry into media diversity, ownership & regulation, to consider a single regulator across all platforms.

A Senate inquiry has recommended a judicial inquiry into media diversity, ownership and regulation.

A report tabled in the Senate recommended an inquiry with the powers of a royal commission, including to compel witnesses to give evidence.

It found the current regulatory framework not fit-for-purpose claiming significant changes are required, noting that more than a decade ago the Finkelstein Inquiry and Convergence Review found a clear need for a new approach. Yet in the decade since the Finkelstein Inquiry, no progress had been made, while further technological changes have impacted the media landscape.

The committee heard extensive evidence that the complaints processes for traditional media are insufficient and slow, both in print media (Australian Press Council) and broadcast (Australian Communication and Media Authority’s) -the latter being “slow, complex, onerous for complainants and often inconclusive.”

The committee said technological change has greatly strengthened the argument in favour a single regulator across all platforms.

It recommended the ABC and SBS, be sustainably and adequately funded, while ABC’s Enhanced Newsgathering funding should be renewed in its upcoming budget.

It also recommended the Government release its final proposals for reform developed through the Media Reform Green Paper consultation process, and the establishment of an independent and permanent trust to assist emerging news ventures, especially in regional areas.

The inquiry chaired by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young gained support following Kevin Rudd’s petition for a royal commission into Murdoch media, which drew over 500,000 signatures.

But Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who was also Deputy Chair, described the report as “a shameless political stunt which should not be taken seriously.”

“The report does not tell us why this inquiry would be necessary, or what it would achieve,” he said.

“The recommendations are aimed at one particular organisation which has a large exposure to newspapers. Assessing media concentration by looking at the ownership of newspapers in the digital age is a deeply embarrassing and totally inappropriate measurement.”

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