Every other publication has had its say on Stephen Conroy’s “so-called” media reforms, so here’s ours: everybody calm the hell down.
The package of regulatory reforms and other proposals announced by the government is neither very good nor very bad. It goes too far and not far enough. It is, like most government reform, a deeply flawed compromise.
As Margaret Simons writes today, much of the thrust of reform — a digital agnosticism — has stalled:
“The saddest thing about the package Conroy announced is the opportunity to make news media regulation or self-regulation uniform across platforms has been lost, for the moment at least. Both Finkelstein and the Convergence Review, and almost every industry body consulted, recommended the approach be platform neutral. This would have represented a liberalisation of regulation for broadcast media.”
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So regulations remain split between broadcast and text-based news (with a whole lot of grey in between), membership of self-regulatory bodies remains voluntary and the carrots set out to join — exemption from the Privacy Act — aren’t particularly compelling. The only layer of new regulation — a “Public Interest Media Advocate” to watch over self-regulatory bodies like the Australian Press Council and judge mergers and acquisitions for the public good — is a government-appointed, one-person office that can’t protect smaller newsrooms. Media companies are right to be cynical about that.
This isn’t an attack on freedom of speech, no matter how hysterical the coverage by some media might suggest …
And so this is where we’re at: after more than a year of careful consideration, caught between bullying media barons and their bogus claims of censorship, and a harried minister demanding a take-it-or-leave-it, now-or-never approach.
It’s not bloody good enough.
“At the end of 2011, Essential Research asked voters if they thought the quality of newspaper regulation was good or poor. Only 20% of voters thought it was good, 25% thought it was poor. In July 2011, it found 48% of voters thought there needed to be more regulation of the media.”
They don’t trust us. If this is how we handle reform, nor should they.