News Ltd boss slams government media inquiry ‘witch-hunt’

News Limited boss John Hartigan has responded with frustration to the government’s plans to tighten the regulation of the media sector, calling the lead up to the inquiry “political motivated” and a “witch-hunt”.

In a statement, Hartigan began by saying that the company welcomed public scrutiny into the media business, and would “participate fully” in the inquiry. However, he called the way in which the inquiry had been set up “regrettable” and a “politically motivated compromise.”

The statement read:

“This inquiry started life as a witch-hunt by the Greens and has morphed into a fairly narrow look at a mixed bag of issues ostensibly focussed on print journalism.

“Any substantive inquiry into the media should cover all media and all media equally, particularly if it intends to investigate the need for a new overarching regulatory system.”

Communications minister Stephen Conroy yesterday announced the independent inquiry, which has been triggered by concerns in government circles about biased political reporting and privacy issues raised by the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

Print media is currently regulated by the industry-funded body, the Australian Press Council, while online media is regulated by a statutory body, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Conroy described the APC as a “toothless tiger”, backing a push for a single regulator overseeing all media.

Last month, in an interview with Mumbrella’s editor Tim Burrowes, TV producer and media writer Gerald Stone likened the government’s inquiry into media convergence to the Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for Communist sympathisers in the US.

The inquiry is expected to be concluded by the end of February next year.

Update: Fairfax Media issued a statement from CEO Greg Hywood saying: ““Fairfax Media will be an active participant in the inquiry, championing the importance of independent journalism – the likes of which are best able to flourish in a less-regulated environment.”


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