Senate inquiry into future of public interest journalism: AUDIO

Four independent Senators have combined to initiate an inquiry into public interest journalism, fake news and the impact of new media.

The proposal  to form the Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism has been drafted today by Labor Senator Sam Dastyari (pictured), Greens Scott Ludlam and independents Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie.

It will examine the impact of the “market power and practices of search engines, social media aggregators and content aggregators, and their impact on the Australian media landscape,” and will also look into the role of government in ensuring a diverse media landscape in the light of promised changes to Australia’s media ownership laws.

At a media conference this afternoon, Senator Ludlam told our Canberra reporter: “We are looking for solutions, we are not looking to give anyone a kicking. We want to know what is the business model that allows [media] entities to keep well resourced journalists in the field… serving up the information that we need to maintain a healthy democracy.”

Speaking at the media conference, Senator Xenophon said: “This goes to the heart of our democracy, if we want the fourth estate to be vibrant and diverse, we need to deal with these issues… I have a particular interest in changing our competition laws so that we have an ability for every media organisation to be able to take on those content aggregators and search engines that are cannibalising their content.”

Listen to our audio of the full media conference below.

The Senators have given notice of motion to form a seven member Committee, with the following terms of reference. The Senators said they are “optimistic” that they have the numbers to pass the motion to set up the inquiry.

To establish a committee to inquire into and report on:

  1. the current state of public interest journalism in Australia and around the world, including the role of government in ensuring a viable, independent and diverse service;
  2. the adequacy of current competition and consumer laws to deal with the market power and practices of search engines, social media aggregators and content aggregators, and their impact on the Australian media landscape;
  3. the impact on public interest journalism of search engines and social media internet service providers circulating fake news, and an examination of counter measures directed at online advertisers, ‘click-bait’ generators and other parties who benefit from disinformation;
  4. the future of public and community broadcasters in delivering public interest journalism, particularly in underserviced markets like regional Australia, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
  5. examination of ‘fake news’, propaganda, and public disinformation, including sources and motivation of fake news in Australia, overseas, and the international response; and
  6. any related matters.

The committee will report by 7 December 2017.


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