Right now Senator Stephen Conroy is working hard to push through his media reforms. On a strict timeline of 8 days from introducing the legislation he is pushing forward with some of the biggest changes the media has seen in a long time.
Of course any change to the status quo is bound to cause a bit of uncertainty – or ruckus. Most notably mainstream media are very vocal on the Government’s suggestion that a new, government led body be established to monitor all media.
This recommendation came out of the Finkelstein enquiry and the Convergence Review. Right now we have Press Council and Australian Communications and Media Authority to deal with complaints against the press and broadcasters, so what would a new regulatory body achieve they already don’t?
Well firstly, the Press Council is a self-regulatory body often referred to as a ‘toothless tiger’. Meaning it has the authority to act, but does so in a very passive manner.
Quite often it is argued this is because it is an industry led body and therefore not harsh enough on themselves. However when you look at the rulings of ACMA you could say the same. But the difference here is they are government led and not industry.
I wrote here last year about ACMA ruling on the mis-reporting of a homebirth. But what came out of this, a slap on the wrist and some retraining is hardly punishment for invading a family’s privacy and airing an inaccurate story.
With examples like this it is hard to argue the Press Council is the only toothless tiger in the media landscape.
So if the government is going to bring a new body in to replace this mix, what guarantee do we have it will work any better?
It already has a government body that does no more than a slap on the wrist.
While mainstream media can cry Stalinism, they should take a step back and actually ask what will this model offer the current ones don’t.
When journalism is one of the most under respected professions, anything that makes us more accountable and professional should surely be a good thing.