Thursday, March 21, 2013

Proposed Aussie Media Laws Go Down Under

English: Ambassador Bleich with Prime Minister...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Australia's Parliament today dealt an embarrassing blow to Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard by striking down the lion's share of strict media law reforms proposed by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, according to reports in The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Gillard, the country's first female PM elected three years ago, was unable to rally lawmakers to support the proposals, which included creating a Public Interest Media Advocate to oversee news outlets' (particularly print and online media) self-regulatory bodies and to approve media mergers.

The reforms were a response both to the Murdoch publications phone hacking scandal that sullied the U.K. and recommendations from a panel helmed by retired federal judge Ray Finkelstein that reviewed Australian media practices that concluded government oversight of print and online media, including the power to prosecute media companies, was warranted.

Predictably, the heads of many Australian media conglomerates condemned the proposals as unconstitutional and an affront to democratic principles. Among those who testified before the Senate were the top honchos from Fairfax Media, Seven Media Group, News Limited, Nine Entertainment and Ten Network.

Lesser aspects of Conroy's reform package gained solons' approval, including license fee rebates for commercial tv broadcasters who satisfy increased local content requirements. The Times article quoted a Griffith University journalism prof who said the derailed media law proposal was fairly watered-down and not at all a threat to press freedom in Australia.

The defeat ensures that Thursday will not be a G'day for Prime Minister Gillard.
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