The Report of the Independent Media Inquiry has recommended the establishment of a statutory News Media Council that would set journalistic standards and handle complaints for news reporting on all media, including online.


The Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation was undertaken by Former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, Mr Ray Finkelstein QC, with the assistance of Dr Matthew Ricketson, Professor of Journalism at Canberra University.


The proposed new authority would take over ACMA functions for standards and complaints concerning news and current affairs and would replace the voluntary Australian Press Council.


The report argued that “In an era of media convergence, the mandate of regulatory agencies should be defined by function rather than by medium.”


“Where many publishers transmit the same story on different platforms it is logical that there be one regulatory regime covering them all.”


The new council would be comprised of community, industry and professional representatives and should adopt complaint-handling procedures which are “timely, efficient and inexpensive”.


It should have power to require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply.  Another function should be to chart trends in the industry, and particularly to see whether there will be a serious decline in the production and delivery of quality journalism.


The report recommended that within the next two years or so the Productivity Commission be issued with a reference to conduct an inquiry into the health of the news industry and make recommendations on whether there is a need for government support to sustain its role.


The report has coincided with the finalisation of the Federal Government’s Convergence Review, which was established last year to review the operation of media and communications regulation in Australia, and is due to report to government this month.


The Finkelstein report is available here.


Information about the Convergence Review is here.