Today,
we deal with massive media corporations that pursue their business
interests on a multinational scale. In many of Australia’s media
markets, one single company dominates. Accurate reporting and the
public interest struggle to compete with the imperative for advertising
sales and pursuing the corporate agenda. Media proprietors use the best
marketing techniques to shape public opinion in the guise of news.

For
thirty years, no government of any political persuasion has done enough
to ensure diversity, although media diversity is the greatest
protection of the media’s vital role in scrutinising and informing our
democracy. Neither the Press Council in its present form nor industry
watchdogs like the ABC’s Media Watch can force our media outlets to be
honest and accurate, and neither provide remedies strong enough to
discourage huge corporations from putting their own interests ahead of
the public interest.

The media’s freedom to publish was once a
safeguard for our democracy. Today, as trash tabloids and
opinion-for-hire commentators destroy any semblance of a debate of
ideas, the principle of informed decision-making at the heart of the
ideal of democracy drowns beneath racy headlines and print-now,
retract-later coverage. Radio shock-jocks and shallow television
infotainment do the same.

If our Australian democracy is to
recover its health, one essential step is for standards of accuracy and
responsibility to be set for all media outlets – print, radio and
television – and enforced with meaningful remedies. For one thing,
retractions ought to receive the same coverage and the same emphasis as
the original incorrect reporting. Putting the lie on page one and
burying the retraction inside makes a mockery of press responsibility.

Extending
the role of the Press Council to cover all forms of media and ensuring
it has adequate staff and resources would be steps in the right
direction. We are entitled to insist that the media’s self-regulation
mechanisms are strong and effective, and that any self-regulatory body
is vigorous and independent.

CRIKEY: Faulkner’s proposal for
correcting mistakes with equal prominence to the original errors is a
good one and it mirrors the policy we’ve adopted at Crikey. But we
wouldn’t hold our breath for a stampede of media outlets rushing to
adopt his ideas. Correcting your mistakes requires a big dollop of
humility – a pretty scarce commodity in the media world.

Read Faulkner’s full speech here.