This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Federal government’s amendments to media ownership and press standards laws have received severe criticism. News Limited chief executive Kim Williams called the move a political attempt to choke the freedom of speech.
Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the new reforms on Tuesday, which include the formation of a Public Interest Media Advocate to keep an eye on activities in the sector.
“This government will go down in history as the first Australian government outside of wartime to attack freedom of speech by seeking to introduce a regime which effectively institutes government-sanctioned journalism,” Mr Williams said.
According to Senator Conroy, the advocate is likely to control all the media industry mergers and acquisitions. It will also authorize self-regulatory media industry bodies, such as the Press Council, to ensure that media companies live up to their own standards.
The chairman of the Press Council, Professor Julian Disney, says the body has made momentous changes over recent years to improve standards. He says that could be put at risk by government interference.
“Unless these benchmarks are rigorous, this will be a step backwards not forwards. And it seems rather odd incidentally, at a time when we’re meant to be talking about convergence, to talk about having more than one regulator in the same platform – in other words, for print,” said Disney.
Furthermore, opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull accused the Gillard’s government of trying to intimidate the Parliament and stealing the right to speak their mind.
“Freedom’s at stake, liberty is at stake, democracy is at stake,” Mr Turnbull said.