Call to extend press watchdog to broadcasting and online

The Australian Press Council should attempt to massively expand its remit to TV, radio and online news sites, an influential member of the self-regulation watchdog has today proposed.  

Writing on the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance website, Alan Kennedy – a former president of the journalists’ union and a current member of the Australian Press Council warns:

“The Internet has seen an explosion of online media, from serious to frivolous and something in between. Most of it is unregulated. All newspapers have an online presence which we assume to be part of our remit, but it is not guaranteed.

“Television stations have online websites which look like a newspaper website but which we may or may not have some authority over. Television journalism is policed by the broadcasting authority (ACMA) using prescribed and clunky procedures which lack the speed that the Press Council can bring to complaints. Much of this is because a complaint to ACMA over some piece of journalism can put a network’s licence in play So the networks approach complaints seriously. Lawyers become involved and a simple complaint that we could deal with in a single meeting can go on for months, sometimes years.

“The ABC and SBS have internal complaint mechanisms, which most would agree satisfy no-one. They can’t escape from the prevailing view that the police are policing themselves.

He also warns that the funding of the Press Council is “rapidly falling apart”. This week, The Australian reported that its members were threatening to cut its budget by a third.

Kennedy suggests that a way to bridge the funding gap would be to invite news websites and other organisation to come under its remit.

He said: “For online publications, which don’t have a high traffic flow, we could come up with a system similar to the Standards Association tick which is keenly sought by companies wanting to give their products credibility. We have ‘street cred’, built up over the past decade. For a fee, we could offer a Press Council tick, logo etc to online companies which subscribe to our principles and agree to be part of the complaints procedure. The selling attraction is that, as online news sites become more prevalent, they will be seeking some way to establish a point of difference between a credible site (, for example) and one drummed up in the garage of a bunch of anarchists.”


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