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Senate Committee to investigate the future of journalism

Following the week-long Fairfax journalist strike over mass redundancies which severely hampered the publisher’s coverage of the Federal Budget a Senate select committee will launch an inquiry into the future of journalism.

The motion, moved by Senators Sam Dastyari, Scott Ludlam, Nick Xenophon and Jacquie Lambie will see the select committee look into the current state of public interest journalism in Australia.

Along with a broad range of issues facing the future of journalism, the inquiry will look specifically at the adequacy of competition and consumer laws in dealing with the “market power and practices of search engines, social media aggregators and content aggregators, and their impact on the Australian media landscape”.

The inquiry will also address the rise of fake news and propaganda and look at the motivation for its dissemination in both Australia and overseas.

Paul Murphy, CEO of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said the announcement of the Select Committee was timely coming in the wake of the strike by Fairfax journalists and recent cuts announced at News Corp.

Murphy said the union had long been calling for a deeper investigation into the future of journalism in Australia.

“The proposed restructure at Fairfax Media, where the company proposes to cut one-in-four journalists resulting in the company abandoning reporting of key areas of Australian life, indicates just how serious the crisis in public interest journalism has become. Fewer journalists means fewer stories,” Murphy said.

“Public interest journalism is vital for a healthy democracy. The last week has shown there is great community concern at the potential loss of so much journalistic talent, so it is great to see the Senate will now examine the issues.”

The select committee will hand its final report down by December 7.

The full motion reads:

  1. That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism, be established to inquire into and report on:
    1. the current state of public interest journalism in Australia and around the world, including the role of government in ensuring a viable, independent and diverse service;
    2. the adequacy of current competition and consumer laws to deal with the market power and practices of search engines, social media aggregators and content aggregators, and their impact on the Australian media landscape;
    3. the impact on public interest journalism of search engines and social media internet service providers circulating fake news, and an examination of counter measures directed at online advertisers, ‘click-bait’ generators and other parties who benefit from disinformation;
    4. the future of public and community broadcasters in delivering public interest journalism, particularly in underserviced markets like regional Australia, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
    5. examination of ‘fake news’, propaganda, and public disinformation, including sources and motivation of fake news in Australia, overseas, and the international response; and
    6. any related matters.
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