Media: Is it too Late for Self Regulation?


The News International Scandal has ignited questions about media controls in Australia. What started as a question of ethics and invasions of privacy, seems to have turned to a question of power.

News Limited controls 70 percent of the press in Australia; does that mean the company has too large a share of voice? Perhaps not — if all these newspapers were editorially independent, but are they?

Stephen Mayne, journalist, board member of the Australian Shareholders Association and founder of Crikey, says the one-sided approach to the climate debate by the Daily Telegraph (Sydney) and The Australian are examples of how Murdoch’s empire is too dominant.

Has size meant Murdoch’s organisation saw itself beyond the law? Mr Murdoch argued in the UK parliamentary inquiry that this wasn’t the case, rather he was let down by people who worked from him. He’s clearly arguing that media misdemeanours should be blamed on the journalists, not the owners.

That’s why Professor Julian Disney, chair of the Australian Press Council, is working on tighter standards, addressing issues such as privacy. If journalists knew how to behave perhaps the industry could do a better job of self-regulation.

It’s a tough industry to control, though, because the boundaries of what is permissible are difficult to define. For example, I ask Professor Disney whether it as acceptable for a journalist to break the law? Listen to today’s BTalk to hear what he was to say on that.

Part of the answer might be for media organisations to have stronger internal controls, to ensure that any contentious areas of activity by a journalist, such as paying for information, are endorsed by others higher up the tree. That would be like a journalist at the News of the World asking Rebekah Brooks if she minded a bit of phone tapping. I wonder if that ever happened?

Today on BTalk I look at whether tighter self regulation is the answer, or do we need to further limit the extent of media ownership?

First published on CBS News 

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