In January 2020, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a discussion paper on impartiality and commercial influence in broadcast news.
The issues raised in the Discussion Paper are not new. Notions such as the ‘death of journalism’, the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and the nefarious influence of ‘powerful voices in the media’ have been prominent in the public debate – both in Australia and internationally – for many years. However, for reasons explained in the next section, such concerns are at best exaggerated and at worst simply wrong.
ACMA’s discussion paper is a particularly flawed contribution to the debate over the future of journalism. The ‘problem’ that AMCA has outlined does not appear to be supported by much evidence other than a series of polls with questionable methodology and focus groups with leading questions.
Accordingly, it is at the very least short-sighted that ACMA is contemplating another layer of regulation for the one segment of the news landscape that is within its jurisdiction. If ACMA does in fact implement whatever proposals emerge from this inquiry, it will further add to the lopsided regulatory environment and disadvantage commercial broadcasters, which are being undercut by unprecedented competition as it is.
In light of the issues presented by ACMA’s inquiry and the debate around news and the media more broadly, the Institute of Public Affairs has released this research report, which outlines the case against further regulation of broadcasting, as well as several recommendations on the way in which policy-makers can create a stronger news landscape.