We seem to have the debate about media regulation around the wrong way. While the Federal Government is examining ways to extend the reach of Government into online media via Internet filtering — filtering to be based on the sort of inaccurate and easily-evaded approach revealed by the leaking of ACMA’s blacklist — far more serious issues are being played out in the mainstream media with News Ltd’s publication of alleged photos of Pauline Hanson.
News Ltd’s John Hartigan has been a vocal leader of the mainstream media’s Right To Know campaign in favour of more open government. There has always been more than a whiff of hypocrisy in one of Australia’s least transparent and most self-interested media companies pressing such a campaign. But that hypocrisy was brought into stark relief in the juxtaposition of Hartigan’s campaign against the Australian Law Reform Commission’s proposal for a right to privacy in media law in the same week his papers published the photos, in the absence of any possible public interest — thereby demonstrating the case for the Government to consider the ALRC’s proposals.
The Federal Government should consider trying to ensure our existing media regulatory framework is working effectively and appropriately before it thinks about trying to extend it to engage in the smoke-wrestling of online filtering. The mass media can still inflict far more damage on individuals than virtually any website can.