Australia's Media Self Regulatory System Essay

1424 words - 6 pages

Australia's aspirations for freedom of speech, democratic choice and accountability are the foundations of media's social role. However, is this rhetoric now perceived as having fallen into disrepair as a serious agenda for evaluating media performance? Just how well does media self-regulation work in Australia? These are the main issues this essay will address.Possibly more so than in any other industry the media have been divided by debate about role and responsibility. While profit was never the sole criteria on which the media were judged, as media profits continue to grow, tensions between serving the public and high finances have escalated. Meanwhile the public, which the media purports to represent, grows ever more cynical of media's motives.Australia has several sources of journalism regulation, with some authorities stemming more from professional than legal obligations. The main distinction is between regulation of the broadcast media and print media, although the professional code administered by the Australian Journalists Association (AJA) applies to members in their work across all media (Communications Law Centre).The Communications Law Centre states that with broadcasting, the Codes of Practice are registered with the Australian Broadcasting Association (ABA). The two most prominent forms of broadcasting are the Commercial Television Code of Practice and the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice.All codes require news and current affairs programs to be accurate, impartial and balanced. The National Broadcasters (ABC and SBS) have their own similar codes of practice.Commercial radio requires disclosures when a sponsor's name is mentioned on air, or material used to promote the sponsor. A register of commercial agreements is required to be kept and disclosure of payment of production costs is to be announced on air at least once an hour throughout a current affairs program.The Australian Press Council (APC) acts as an industry self-regulatory body with its primary tasks to defend freedom of press and handle complaints against press. It is a voluntary body, mainly consisting of press representatives, which adjudicates on complaints against newspapers and magazines.The APC has established a Statement of Principles and represents the press on an array of topics such as defamation, freedom of information, privacy and contempt of court (APC News, 1996).The Statement of Principles is not enforceable by law as the council does not lay down rules by which publications should govern themselves.According to the APC, "First, the freedom of the press to publish is the freedom of the people to be informed". The APC website also states that the degree of independence of a self-regulatory body is a problematical issue, as by its very definition, a self-regulating body will have a connection with the industry it regulates. In this case it depends solely on the newspaper industry for funding.The APC receives about 400 formal complaints every year (APC...

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