Democracy cannot exist without a free, open, and competitive media. Media diversity underpins our democracy and the Senate is always right to inquire into it.
Unfortunately, the Report of the Inquiry into Media Diversity, released by the Senate References Committee on Environment and Communications, is a shameless political stunt which should not be taken seriously.
The Report proposes a judicial inquiry with the powers of a Royal Commission into the concentration of media ownership. The report does not tell us why this inquiry would be necessary, or what it would achieve.
The recommendations are aimed at one particular organisation which has a large exposure to newspapers. Assessing media concentration by looking at the ownership of newspapers in the digital age is a deeply embarrassing and totally inappropriate measurement.
It would be like conducting an assessment on the prospects of Kodak film without considering digital cameras and iPhones.
Calling for a Royal Commission without compelling reasons is lazy and irresponsible. The Inquiry has opted for intentions over results, performance over process, and opinion over substance.
Australia has had nine Royal Commissions in the past ten years. They should only be deployed when there is a serious question which can’t be answered through other means. They should not be used to outsource policy at the public expense.
The Committee has called for this inquiry two weeks after the Senate collapsed an inquiry into the ABC complaints process. The Report recommends private media organisations should be subjected to the intrusions of a judicial inquiry. At the same time, the ABC should not be subjected to Senate scrutiny. That is absurd.
The Committee is abusing one of the strongest tools of our democracy - the Senate Committee process - for naked political ends.
To that end, I have dissented from the Report, and made three opposing recommendations:
- That there should be no inquiry into a private media organisation.
- The Press Council should be reformed by its members to be more responsive and adopt stronger powers of self-regulation.
- Any outlet which publishes consumer media should consider having an independent ombudsman.
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