Note: The Australian Press Council has kept this response within what it understands to be the very limited scope of comment sought by the Committee at this stage on the principles and policy considerations proposed in the Framing Paper. Its substantive views on specific aspects of regulation of convergent media will be provided in accordance with the Committee’s subsequent processes.
A proposal for an additional Principle
The principles should give specific attention to the importance of providing Australians with ready access to sources of news and opinion which comply with adequate core standards of accuracy, fairness, balance, integrity, civility and responsibility.
These core standards are of such fundamental importance to the general public interest, including the maintenance of democratic governance, that they should be included specifically in the principles. It is not sufficient to rely on them being partially implied, perhaps, in the references to “diversity” (Principle 1) and “community standards and the views and expectations of the Australian public” (Principle 5). Indeed, they can be jeopardised by undue emphasis on those considerations.
Explicit mention at this high level of policy development is also necessary because the opportunities and challenges of convergence are already having profound impacts on the observance of the core standards by new entrants as well as longer-established participants. Appropriately adjusted regulation will be essential to maximise the future benefits and minimise the adverse impacts.
Accordingly the Press Council proposes inclusion of the following principle after the current principle 6:
In particular, the provision of news and opinion through these services should be subject to adequate standards of accuracy, fairness, balance, integrity, civility and responsibility.
In particular, the provision of news and opinion through these services should be subject to standards which adequately reflect the public interest in accuracy, fairness, balance, integrity, civility and responsibility.
Issues arising from the current Principles
Compliance with these principles will require ready availability of a wide range of news and opinion from international, national and local sources which is not unduly constrained by governments or other powerful interests.
Compliance with this principle must strike an appropriate balance between the needs of highly specialised and well-resourced consumers and the preservation of ready access to core services for people of modest means or broader interests.
Comments on the “other policy considerations”
Issue: The impact of legislative and regulatory frameworks outside the Minister’s portfolio that may impact on issues within the scope of the review:
The Council notes, in particular, its own system of developing and promulgating standards for publication of news and opinion, and of mediating and adjudicating on complaints about alleged breaches of those standards. Its non-statutory jurisdiction embraces all major print outlets in Australia and their associated websites.
Issues: Appropriate ways to treat content sourced from outside Australia; International approaches and Australia’s international obligations:
In principle, standards of reporting should not vary according to the geographical source. Difficulties of enforcement should not be regarded as necessarily precluding worthwhile regulation, especially in light of possible advances in technology and international cooperation.