This inquiry was established in the wake of more than half a million Australians signing a petition started by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling for the establishment of a royal commission into Australian media. This was the biggest electronic petition ever presented to an Australian parliament, and a clear indication that many Australians believe the system of media regulation in this country is not fit-for-purpose.
It is the Parliament’s responsibility to ensure that the nation’s news media are sufficiently diverse, in ownership and in opinion, to maintain a vigorous democracy. As many submitters and witnesses to this committee noted, this is not the first inquiry into the concentration of media ownership and the convergence of media platforms in Australia and their consequences for democracy.
Through the evidence presented to the inquiry, the committee found that the current regulatory environment for news media is weak, fragmented, and inconsistent. As a result, large media organisations have become so powerful and unchecked that they have developed corporate cultures that consider themselves beyond the existing accountability framework.
This report consists of seven chapters:
- The introductory chapter provides details on the referral and the administration of the inquiry;
- Chapter 2 provides the contextual background to the inquiry;
- Chapter 3 summarises some relevant government media policies and legislation, and outlines the framework of oversight and regulation for media in Australia;
- Chapter 4 considers the failures of the current regulatory approach to news media standards and complaints processes for print media and broadcasters;
- Chapter 5 considers the lack of regulation for digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, the emerging tension over content generated by traditional media appearing on these platforms (including the YouTube suspension of Sky News), and the consistent calls for the Commonwealth to undertake reform in this area;
- Chapter 6 considers the consequences of concentrated ownership and weak regulation, including considering evidence received by the committee regarding News Corp;
- Finally, chapter 7 looks at various policies that the Commonwealth could consider in the near term to build a healthy and diverse Australian news media by supporting existing outlets across all platforms, and encouraging new entrants into the market.