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Senate committee backs judicial inquiry into media regulation in Australia

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 9 Dec 2021

The Senate Inquiry into Media Diversity has today recommended that a judicial inquiry with the powers of a royal commission be established to examine whether the existing system of media regulation is fit‐for‐purpose and to investigate the concentration of media ownership in Australia.

The majority report of the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee further recommended a number of measures to be implemented in the meantime to ensure a diverse news media landscape and to protect public interest journalism and our democracy. 

The inquiry was established by Greens Senator Hanson-Young in response to more than half a million Australians signing a petition started by former PM Kevin Rudd calling for the establishment of a royal commission into the Murdoch media dominance in Australia.

Today’s report is the culmination of almost 13 months of investigation by the senate inquiry which held five public hearings and received close to 10,000 submissions from members of the public, news organisations, businesses and corporations, experts and other stakeholders. 

Committee Chair and Greens Media Spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:

“More than a year ago, half a million Australians urged the parliament to establish a royal commission into the dominance of the Murdoch-media empire. In response, the Senate supported the Greens move to establish an inquiry and today we have a report that has concluded the call by more than half a million Aussies was warranted.

“The majority of the committee which undertook this 13-month-long inquiry, has recommended the establishment of a judicial inquiry with the powers and weight of royal commission into the state of media diversity and dominance in Australia. This is a move the parliament itself can make. 

“It’s clear the regulatory system for media in this country is broken. Monopolies have been allowed to flourish in both traditional media and through online platforms. Mechanisms that should ensure accountability and responsible reporting are slow and ineffective and we are seeing a rise in misinformation that is causing serious harm in our community.

“During the course of this inquiry, the problems with the system became increasingly apparent with the dangerous rise in the spread of misinformation both through traditional media and online platforms. This simply cannot go unchecked and unregulated, the health of our communities and our democracy is at stake. 

“The evidence that the Murdoch media empire is indeed a dangerous monopoly was heard loud and clear. From climate-denialism to gendered, partisan attacks, and providing a platform for racism and for covid disinformation, the impact of both concentration of media ownership and a failing regulatory system was obvious.

“Throughout the inquiry we heard about the many Australian journalists that produce high-quality, in-depth reporting with integrity and professionalism. It is those hard-working journalists that are being let down by a broken regulatory system and corporate culture inside news organisations that allows poor behaviour to flourish. 

“Only an inquiry with the powers and weight of a royal commission can truly do this issue, so vital to our democracy, justice. The majority report also recommends a number of measures the government of the day should get on with implementing immediately to maintain public interest journalism and prevent a further decline of media diversity in Australia. 

“The Greens moved for this inquiry and have long advocated for public interest journalism to be better protected. Today we are also releasing our election commitment to measures to strengthen media diversity in Australia. Further information on the policy can be found here.

“From providing emergency information about bushfires, health information during the pandemic and asking the tough questions about government integrity, quality journalism is at the heart of a functioning democracy. 

“The Greens’ policies to properly fund our public broadcasters and save the ABC from attacks by the Morrison-Joyce Government, ensure stable funding for the independent newswire, and for the introduction of a Media Freedom Act, will go a long way to protecting public interest journalism and the fourth pillar of our democracy.”

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