Australian politician wants media fined or suspended for ‘publishing blatant untruths’

Much like the Leveson Inquiry in Britain, Australia recently held its own independent review of that country’s news media.

Led by former Federal Court justice Ray Finkelstein, the review called for the establishment of a new national press council to replace the existing Australian Press Council.

In response, Australian Parliament Member Steve Gibbons recently floated an idea of his own: fine and/or suspend news organizations that publish “blatant untruths.”

“Fines such as these for publishing blatant untruths or misleading news reports, or temporary suspensions of the right to publish or broadcast, would lead to a major improvement in the accuracy and fairness of our media,” he said, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

His idea is to apply this penalty to journalists and news outlets that knowingly publish inaccurate information.

“When a media outlet, journalist or redneck shock jock deliberately broadcasts or publishes a statement that they know is factually wrong, and it is subsequently proven that they knew it was factually wrong, they ought to be subject to an appropriate penalty,” he said.  

The ABC report quotes a politician from an opposition party suggesting Gibbons’ idea is a trial balloon meant to “test the mood of the public to greater media control.”

I checked with Australian journalism professor Lawrie Zion, who also writes a blog about best practices in journalism, to see what he thinks of Gibbons’ idea and its chance of gaining support.

Zion said the government has yet to issue a response to the inquiry’s recommendations, “but many observers believe it is not likely to create a News Media Council, but instead to support a better resourced Australian Press Council.”

“Given that the Government appears to be focusing on how self-regulation can be improved rather than opting for a statutory regulator,” Zion said, “the comments of Steve Gibbons that you refer to are unlikely to attract much support from his party.”

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  • http://twitter.com/barryhollander Barry Hollander

    Funny, I’d like to see the same thing happen to politicians and Super PACs.