The media diversity inquiry that may never be

By AdNews | 10 December 2021

A parliamentary inquiry, established after more than half a million signed a petition started by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, has called for a judicial inquiry into media diversity, ownership and regulation in Australian media.

The recommendations include: "A comprehensive reform of media regulation is required, both to foster increased diversity in the sources of public interest journalism and to ensure that ethical standards are upheld."

However, dissenting reports by members of the parilaimentary inquiry indicate that such a royal commisison-like inquiry may not get bipartisan support. 

The deputy chair of the parlaimentary inquiry, Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, says it is not the role of the government to interfere in private media organisations. "None of the recommendations are worthy of consideration," he says. 

And Michelle Rowland, Labor's opposition communications spokeswoman, says her party doesn't support a judicial inquiry.

The parliamentary inquiry noted evidence by News Corp global CEO Robert Thomson who, speaking on whether a commission of inquiry is necessary, said: "It depends what the remit of any commission would be. What I’m looking at more is how to regulate for the future, not, frankly, focusing on the past." 

Michael Miller, News Corp Australasia executive chairman: “This report’s calls for yet another expensive media inquiry and even more regulation lack justification. Neither are warranted.”

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young setup the prliamentary inquiry within the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee.

"It’s clear the regulatory system for media in this country is broken," she said.

"Monopolies have been allowed to flourish in both traditional media and through online platforms.

"We need a framework that is fit for purpose with a single regulator that upholds standards in the public interest." 

Among the recommendations from the parliamentary inquiry:

  • That public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, be sustainably and adequately funded. The ABC’s Enhanced Newsgathering funding should be renewed in its upcoming budget.
  • Long-term funding of Australia’s only independent newswire, Australian Associated Press.
  • Establish an independent trust to assist emerging news ventures, especially in regional areas. The trust’s responsibilities should include funding journalism traineeships.
  • That the National Broadband Network remain in public ownership and be upgraded to a fit-for-purpose standard as originally intended
  • Concessional rates of taxation, modelled on the existing Research and Development Tax Incentive, be made available to new ventures investing in public interest journalism. 
  • Deductible Gift Recipient status be extended for appropriate ventures in public interest journalism.

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