Australian PM ‘serious’ about media reforms
SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday she was serious about media reforms, but failed to confirm a report that she was considering stricter press self-regulation over a new watchdog.
Gillard wrote to seven media bosses seeking a “truce” on reforms proposed in the wake of Britain’s phone-hacking scandal, by suggesting tougher self-regulation rather than a new statutory body, The Australian newspaper said.
The report came after Kim Williams, the head of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian arm News Limited, said there was no role for government in adjudicating whether a story was fair and balanced.
Murdoch is the dominant player in Australia’s media market, holding about 70 percent of the nation’s newspapers. “Of course we seek to talk to people in media as we work out the government response. But no one should assume that we are not serious about the reform agenda,” Gillard told reporters. In March the government-commissioned Finkelstein report into media regulation called for a new watchdog to oversee the profession.
Gillard said the government was yet to make a decision on how to respond to the report, or to a broader convergence review which examined regulatory issues across the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors. “I value freedom of the press certainly, but also quality and diversity, and we are working on the reform agenda flowing from Finkelstein and the convergence review,” she said.
The Australian newspaper said Gillard had made no commitments in her letter to the media chiefs but was under pressure from some within her Labor Party to reach a compromise ahead of 2013 national elections. “The last thing we need is a war with the media,” a senior government source told the Murdoch-owned newspaper. In his regulation report, retired Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein said while there were avenues through which the public could complain about upsetting press coverage, these were currently underfunded and inadequate.
He recommended that a new statutory authority, a News Media Council, be established to set journalistic standards in consultation with the industry, and handle complaints made by the public. afp