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Australia – (E6) Content monitoring instrument

Score in short:

Australia has a number of monitoring instruments, but largely of a self-regulatory nature.

Score in detail:

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which has the task to regulate broadcasting, radio communications and telecommunications and mostly looks after adequate reach, licences and technical industry performance, also steps in when transgressions occur with regard to compliance with licence conditions, codes and standards. This also extends to online content. The government has been severely criticised for using the regulator in this capacity.

A high profile case, commonly referred to as ‘cash for comment’, prompted ACMA’s predecessor, the Australian Broadcast Authority, to inquire into industry standards in commercial radio in 1999. As a result of the inquiry and the finding of systemic failure to ensure the effective operation of the industry’s self-regulatory codes of practice, the Australian Broadcasting Authority determined three program standards for commercial radio licensees in 2000 (ACMA 2010).

The public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, have boards which consist of the managing director and five to seven directors, appointed by the government of the day, which has resulted in criticism of the appointees’ political affiliation, background, and relative merit. The ABC board is also responsible for ensuring that the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate and impartial, according to recognised standards of journalism, and that the ABC complies with legislative and legal requirements (ABC 2008).

The Australian Press Council is the self-regulatory body of the print media. It was established in 1976 with two main aims, to help preserve the traditional freedom of the press within Australia and ensure that the free press acts responsibly and ethically, and provides accurate and balanced reporting (Australian Press Council 2010a). While it only deals with complaints received, it does play an active role in promoting freedom of speech and access to information, and in ensuring high journalistic and editorial standards. Its adjudications are available on its website, as are its yearly publications on the state of the press.