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MEAA announces intention to withdraw from Australian Press Council

Australia’s union for journalists, the MEAA (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance), has announced its intention to withdraw from the Australian Press Council (APC).

The MEAA said its decision follows feedback and consultation from members of its Media section that was overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the APC, and revealed its members believe the council has “lost credibility” and has failed to keep up with media convergence.

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom, vice-president Karen Percy

Withdrawal from the council requires four years’ notice, and the MEAA confirmed today it will notify the APC of its intention to withdraw. The decision follows a meeting the MEAA’s governing committee, made up of rank-and-file members: the National Media Section Committee of the MEAA.

The MEAA will, over the next four years, work towards an alternative model of media self-regulation by establishing a committee of members, academics and other stakeholders to explore various options.

MEAA Media federal president Marcus Strom revealed the union contributed $1 million in fees to the APC over the past ten years, but said members were dissatisfied by the council and that it has failed to update regulatory framework to keep up with media convergence.

Strom said: “We want our notice to leave the Press Council to spark a serious discussion about media regulation. Currently our members are more concerned being hauled over the coals on Media Watch than being called before the Press Council. That’s obviously not an acceptable situation.

“Arbitrations have been inconsistent, slow and are increasingly out of touch with community expectations,” he said.

“The Press Council has lost credibility with journalists and even with the publishers who make up its membership. There have been too many cases in recent years where adjudications have been mocked or ignored.”

The MEAA currently represented over 5,000 journalists across Australia.

MEAA Media federal vice-president Karen Percy said ultimately the press council is no longer “fit-for-purpose for the modern, cross-platform industry.

“In order to maintain trust in journalism in Australia, a credible regulator – with the ability to impose real sanctions – is critical.

“The industry needs a single system of self-regulation that is consistent across all platforms and organisations, upholds the standards of public interest journalism, and serves the needs of members and the public who want ethical practices and accountability.”

She added that the MEAA will draw on past enquiries and research, recent ideas and best practice overseas as it works towards a new model for industry regulation.

“It will not be an easy process but it has to be done because the status quo is serving no-one – not the industry, nor the public.

“We also see a growing role for the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics to show the way for ethical journalistic practice.

“Established in 1944, the Code of Ethics is the most enduring and best-known set of guidelines for journalists and has an important role to play in the future.”

Mumbrella has requested comment from the Australian Press Council.

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