Earlier this month the government’s media inquiry released the first of its findings from former Federal Court justice Ray Finkelstein QC. Front and centre were two, obvious realisations;
- The public has lost all trust in the media.
- Current regulation is not working.
Set up to look at the conduct of print media in Australia the review went wider and examined radio, television and online journalism. Finding print’s self regulation is not working and ACMA’s complaint process too long Finkelstein recommended a government body be established to monitor journalism in all media.
Immediately this recommendation was met with much resistance, especially from the press who cried out “it was an infringement on their freedom of speech” and that more power should be given to the Press Council.
While I agree that a government based body to oversee the media is fraught with danger, yet claiming self-regulation is working is a farce. Media Watch is full of examples of how print media continue to defame, denounce and distort news and current affairs.
In an open letter to The Australian, media teachers took newspapers to task over their lack of balance in reporting the review’s findings and for the amount of distrust they have created with the public, their key stakeholders.
The fact the public cannot rely on the media to adequately or accurately report the review or its findings lies at the heart of the problem. The media has become an un-wielding beast that the government nor itself can control.
Worst of all the power it has over public opinion and debate trickles down to some journalists and editors, who at the coalface treat the public with contempt. Recently I wrote about a family’s intrusion by the media and when asked that it stop they were allegedly laughed at by newsroom producers. The story they ran proved to be non-eventful and according to witnesses inaccurate.
Yet the journalist or network did not apologise for their actions nor broadcast any retraction. It was all in a day’s work.
While I am skeptical Finkelstein’s findings will do much for the media in Australia I do remain hopeful that with our ever expanding world, traditional media will become the old media. There is still hope as audiences continue to embrace new technology and new ways of finding information.