Tuesday, September 20, 2011

AUSTRALIAN MEDIA POLICY

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In this essay I will discuss the main forms of media regulation in Australia and explain why regulation is necessary. I have categorised all the regulations into to five main regulations in Australia media. I will briefly elaborated on the five forms which I have defined as ownership, content, copyright, accuracy and truthfulness, and overall standards for the industry. I will also answer the question of, was government policy a factor in the commercial downtown of the television industry and whether they contributed to it?


There has been growing concern, about the effects and freedom that the media has in society. Therefore media has to have certain codes of regulation by which it needs to inform, stimulate and influence the public community as a whole. “Accuracy and truthfulness”(Study Guide p) are very important aspects of the media that need to be regulated by our democratic government. Australia has no firm regulation that affect what journalist can and can’t report. The Australian Journalist Association has a” code of guidelines for journalist”(Readings 1, ). This is an example of self-regulation and it does work well in our democratic society. It would be a great concern if the government did regulate, restrict or censor the information that is presented by our media. The down side of this though is if journalist of media institution transgress and engage in unethical practises, there is no legal governing body that the public has recourse to go to. However when it comes to defamation or inaccurate reporting on a person or institution, the party involved can use the court system to get retribution and the complaints tribunal. There are a few Complaints Tribunals that the public can complain to. They are, “The Australian Press Council, The Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters is another and also the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations” (Readings1, 1). A problem with the Australian Press Council is that the major newspaper owners sponsor it. There is no real action that can be taken against a journalist, as they are just disciplined. The only enforcement against a journalist is through legal channels.


Copyright laws is a regulation that “guarantee personal ownership of original work”(Study Guide p). There is a copyright Act 168 that is a “form of media law” (Study Guide p4). It is important to have such a law as the media is a business too and the ownership of material needs to be regulated as copying would be financial viable for the media business. Without this law you would see media jobs reduced because they would just duplicate other journalist’s material. We would also loose the grass roots development of the Arts in Australia.


Media ownership is another regulation in Australia. “The 180’s saw major media regulations change in ownership laws”(Supplementary Reading, p xix). There was and still continues to be public concern about foreign ownership which is reflected in the government decisions to safeguard ownership laws. Traditionally Australian media ownership has been owned by four families, that being Murdoch, Packer, Syme and Fairfax. There are now three pieces of legislation that govern media ownership, they are; the Broadcasting Services Act, Trade Practises Act, Cross-media ownership laws and Foreign Acquisitions and Take-overs Act. These laws effect the structure of the industry and the terms ownership and licensing.


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Television is a powerful media - “Australians watch aprx hours 1min of television per day” (ABA May 1 p) and ”only 6% of Australians do not feel strong attachment to Australia “(Down, 000 p44). There has been growing concern, about the effects that the media has on our society. With this in mind it is then important to maintain high standards of Australian culture in what we watch, read and hear in our media as a nation. The Australian Broadcasting Authority has a “regulation quota of 55% Australian content quota to be maintained” (ABA May 1 p) so as to communicate our cultural identity. They believe that social identities reflect patterns of social bonds and therefore the content of media should reflect Australian society. Just think for a minute how different as a nation we would be if there was no such cultural content regulation, we as a nation would have a fragmented image of our Australian identity. There is another factor in the regulation of content, which has extended its’ self to children’s’ programming. The ABA has deemed it necessary to extended “content control over the amount of violence and pornography in children’s programmes”(ABA p17). Not only does it regulate children’s’ programme content but it extends its’ powers to the level of offensive communication across the board. It is necessary to have regulations that are enforced by the Australian Broadcasting Authority to maintain certain standards in programming content, so as to maintain social standards of behaviour and social identity.


It is important for the government and the governing bodies it has set-up, to maintain and continue to watch the overall standards of the media in Australia. With the advancement of new technology, they must keep abreast with regulations for changes in the media. Government policies of other countries could also effect our media industry as well. An example of this was very close to Australian shores, when the “Blue Sky debate went to court in 18” (ABA, 1). It was argued that New Zealand content should be included as Australian content. This had major ramifications on our industry as a whole. It meant loss of jobs, loss of national identity, loss of arts development and the far more reaching ramifications as well. “Australia and New Zealand have a Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement”(ABA, May 1). In terms relating to Australian media the agreement means that New Zealand content should be recognised as Australian content. However at present there seems to be no effects on commercial programming. In a press release by the ABA 7th June 001 it states, “the results for 000 demonstrate that networks continue to provide audiences with high levels of Australian content. There was only 8. hours of New Zealand programming broadcasted in 000” (ABA 7th June 001 p1.) The effects of Blue Sky has demonstrated, overwhelmingly the responsibility that the media feels, as it is compelled to listen to what the audience wants. Australia has reached and is continuing to reach great patriotic heights as a nation. So therefore this works both ways for the country and also the media as a business. Because as a business they want to give the customer what they want to buy, it is the ultimate supply to customer demand. The audience watching, listen, and reading their media product. Even though the media industry is still a business I would hasten to think just how much New Zealand content we would have if we were not so patriot to our culture. This is a good example of self-regulation at which the government policy and laws let the protection of the media industry down. So it has then led the industry to regulate itself so far by the New Zealand content it sends to air. Only time and production costs will tell if this self- regulation continues to benefit our national identity.


By the end of the 180’s the Australian television industry was in a poor financial standing due to government policy and the economic environment. The crossmedia ownership laws had “forced Murdoch to sell his interests in television, and Frank Lowy, owner of the Westfield shopping centre chain, bought the Ten network, while Christopher Skase’s Qintex group bought the Seven Network for $1.05 billion” (Study Guide p11). The large and exorbitant costs of the take-over bids eventually lead to large debts in the industry and then to the inevitable bankruptcies. The cross-ownership “restrictions created separate regime of ownership for the press, radio, and television” (supplementary reading p5). There were upheavals that were created to the industry because of the new ownership laws. The economic downturn was unforeseen by the government of that time, when these new changes were implemented. So one could say that the government is ultimately to blame for the occurrence of what happened after the crossmedia ownership laws, where implemented because in their wisdom they did not take into account the economic factors at the time and whether the factors would playa part in their implementation.


Media is a business as well as an informative medium. There are two sides to a newspaper, a radio station, a television station etc ” it is an institution that reflects and influences the life of a whole community; it may even effect wider destinies.” (P16 readings 1). We must remember that these media institution are also there to make money. With this in mind it is necessary for the Australian government to have certain laws and regulatory bodies such as The Australian Broadcasting Authority to control ownership, content, copyright, accuracy and truthfulness and overall standards in the media industry. It is also important and very necessary for the government to consider what public opinion is saying and what economic climate Australia is in as to their implementation of regulation in the media industry.


List of References


ABA, 000, Compliance with the Australian Content Standard 000,


http//www.aba.gov.au/what/program/compl_00.htm





ABA, 7th June 001, News Release, NR 6/001 New Zealand programs have little impact, ABA finds, http//www.aba.gov.au/about/public_relations/newrel_01/6nr01.htm





ABA, 1, Review of Australian Content Standard, Regulatory Impact Statement, http//www.aba.gov.au/wfl/ViewHtlm.asp?Item=5&X=10116&Summ=no&X=1.





ABA, May 1, Australian Broadcasting Authority Submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs And Trade, Public Consultations On Australia’s Approach To Further Multilateral Trade Negotiations, http//www.aba.gov.au/wfl/ViewHtml.asp?Item=&X=1047&Summ=no&X=1.


Campbell W.J., 16, Television And The Australian Adolescent, Angus and Robertson, Sydney .


Cowdery R and Selby Keith, 15, How To Study Television, Macmillan, Sydney.


Down J, February 000, Social Identity, The Australian Journal Of Social Issues , Volume 5 Number 1, Acoss, Canberra.


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