17 October 2011

Media Issues

Australia's Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation has released a short Issues Paper [PDF].

The Inquiry indicates that "the list of issues is not set out in any order of importance. Nor is the list intended to be comprehensive. The issues are, however, among the important matters that the inquiry will consider."

The issues are -

1.1 One common justification for freedom of the press (nowadays referred to as freedom of the media) is that given by Mr Justice Holmes in his dissenting opinion in Abrams v United States 250 US 616, 624 (1919). He said:
[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the test of truth is the power of thought to get accepted in the competition of the market.
1.2 Does this ’marketplace of ideas’ theory assume that the market is open and readily accessible?

1.3 Are there alternative or preferable justifications for freedom of the media?

1.4 Regardless of the justification, is it appropriate, especially in the search for the ‘truth’ on political issues, that persons holding opposing views have an opportunity to express their views in the media?

2.1 If a substantial attack is made on the honesty, character, integrity or personal qualities of a person or group, is it appropriate for the person or group to have an opportunity to respond?

2.2 What factors should be considered in determining (a) whether there should be an opportunity to respond? (b) how that opportunity should be exercised? Would those factors differ depending on whether the attack is published in the print or the online media?


3 Is it appropriate that media outlets conform to standards of conduct or codes of practice? For example, should standards such as those in the Australian Press Council’s Statements of Principles (1999) apply to the proprietors of print and online media?

4 Is it appropriate that journalists conform to standards of conduct or codes of practice? If it is, are the standards in the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s Code of Ethics (1999) an appropriate model?

5 Do existing standards of conduct or codes of practice such as those mentioned in 3 and 4, as well as those established by individual print and/or online media organisations, fulfil their goals?

6 To what extent, if any, does the increased use of online platforms affect the applicability or usefulness of existing standards of conduct or codes of practice?

7 Can and should the standards of conduct or codes of practice that apply to the traditional print media also apply to the online media?


8 Is self-regulation via standards of conduct or codes of practice necessary to maintain the independence of the media?

9.1 Is there effective self-regulation of (a) print media and (b) online media by the Australian Press Council?

9.2 What are the Australian Press Council’s strengths and limitations as a regulator of those two forms of publication?

9.3 Is it necessary to adopt new, and if so what, measures to strengthen the effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in the handling of complaints from members of the public (for example, additional resourcing, statutory powers)?

9.4 As an alternative to strengthening the effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, would it be preferable to establish a statutory body to take over its functions?

9.5 Concerning any proposed new measures, which are specific to the print media and which the online media?

10 If self-regulation is not an effective means of regulation, what alternative models of regulation could be adopted that would appropriately maintain freedom of the media?

11 Would it be appropriate for such a model to include rules that would:
(a) prohibit the publication of deliberately inaccurate statements
(b) require a publisher to distinguish between comment and fact
(c) prevent the unreasonable intrusion into an individual’s private life
(d) prohibit the gathering of information by unfair means (for example, by subterfuge or harassment)
(e) require disclosure of payment or offers of payment for stories
(f) deal with other topics such as those currently covered in the Australian Press Council advisory guidelines?
12 If an alternative model was to be a statutory complaints tribunal, is it appropriate for that tribunal to have power to:
(a) obtain information necessary to resolve a complaint
(b) require a publisher to do an act (for example, publish a correction of unfair or misleading reporting)
(c) impose sanctions for a failure to do that act?
13 Is there any reason why the regulation of the print media should be different from the regulation of broadcast or online media?

New media and business models

14 To what extent has the development of digital and online platforms had an impact on the traditional business model for media organisations, and to what extent is the further development of these platforms likely to affect the business model/s for media organisations over the medium to long term?

15 What are the other key factors that have an impact on the business models of media organisations, what is the magnitude of their impact to date, and to what extent are they likely to be significant over the medium to long term?

16 What is the impact to date on the level of investment in quality journalism and the production of news and what is the expected impact over the medium to long term?


17 Is there need for additional support to:
(a) assist independent journalism
(b) assist the media to cater for minority audiences
(c) remove obstacles that may hinder small-scale publications
(d) promote ease of entry to the media market
(e) foster other aspect of the media’s operations?
18 What are the best methods for providing that support?