Media companies have condemned the government’s proposed reforms on the sector as an attack on free speech.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Source: The Daily Telegraph
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy channels Joseph Stalin. Source: The Daily Telegraph
A GOVERNMENT-appointed enforcer would oversee press standards and have the power to apply sanctions, which critics said would stifle news reporting, under proposed draconian media changes.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday announced a new proposed statutory position of Public Interest Media Advocate, among a raft of changes the government will attempt to ram through parliament by the end of next week.
The advocate would oversee the Press Council, the main vehicle for complaints about the print media, and could take back exemptions from privacy laws afforded to journalists to report valid news stories if the advocate deemed a breach of standards.
Power to determine if media mergers could proceed would be given to the government-appointed advocate, while the proposed scrapping of a key regional reach rule, which would assist Channel 9 in a proposed $4 billion merger with Southern Cross, was also announced yesterday.
Critics lined up to attack the proposed changes, which hang on whether the government can secure the Greens and the votes of four independents.
Former press council head David Flint compared the government’s appointed advocate to Soviet regimes which he said “chose names which were completely contrary to what was the truth”.
“It is dangerous … it will give the government a power it should never have, the power to determine the content of the press. The press is there as a check and balance against the government,” he said.
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Freedom of the press attacked