|Australia brings public interest factor into media laws
Australia's center-left Labor government unveiled a shake-up of media laws, introducing a public interest test for mergers but stopping short of press regulation.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the reforms were aimed at modernizing the industry and guarding fairness and diversity, AFP reports.
If passed into law, the changes would bring a public interest test to “nationally significant’’ mergers and acquisitions.
It would be monitored by a new statutory authority called the Public Interest Media Advocate, which would oversee a robust self-regulation model, he said, stressing that the government would have no role.
“The government will not fund or oversee press standards bodies, they will be run, funded and operated by the print media themselves,'' he said.
Proprietors, most vocally Rupert Murdoch's dominant local arm News Limited, had feared official regulation of the press, but Conroy said the present model of self-regulation would continue, although it would be tightened.
“In Australia there is a real risk that over time there will be fewer and fewer organizations owning and controlling sources of news and commentary,'' Conroy said. “There are two existing mechanisms that address this risk: competition law and foreign ownership restrictions. But these alone do not reflect the full question of public interest in media diversity.''