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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23743

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 18 August 2003:

(1) Further to the answer to part (2) of question No. 2115 (Hansard, 12 August 2003, page 18191), is he able to say why a uniform editorial policy was embraced by the editors of News Corporation newspapers in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom in relation to the war in Iraq which was entirely consistent with Mr Rupert Murdoch's support for the war.

(2) Can he explain how, under the proposed Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2002, newsrooms would be truly independent of their owners.

Mr Williams (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The premise of the question is not accepted.

(2) The proposed Bill relating to cross-media reform does not seek to make Australian newsrooms `truly independent' of their owners. In this context, it is noted that neither do the United States' proposals for cross-media reform, nor the new cross-media rules recently established in the United Kingdom.

However, the Bill requires that, for each of the media operations covered by an exemption certificate, applicants will need to regularly demonstrate the existence of separate and publicly available editorial policies and organisational charts, and separate news management, news compilation processes, and news gathering and interpretation capabilities.

There are further safeguards on diversity of opinion provided by:

compulsory disclosure of cross-media relationships in certain circumstances;

national `2 out of 3' rule which limits exemption certificate holders to controlling two of the three types of media (commercial television, radio and associated newspapers) covered by the rules in the same market;

the inclusion of small local newspapers in the `2 out of 3' test in regional areas;

a `minimum number of media groups' test (which will require a minimum of 5 independently owned commercial media outlets (commercial television, radio and associated newspaper) in metropolitan areas, and 4 in regional markets, remain in the market after cross-media acquisition);

limit of one associated newspaper, per exemption certificate holder, per market; and

local content requirements on regional radio broadcasters subject to a cross-media exemption certificate, and television broadcasters in some markets.

Reference is made to part (2) of the answer given to the member's question on notice No. 2115 (Hansard, 12 August 2003, page 18191) for further information.