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Democrats release Media Bill amendments.



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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Communications Spokesperson

June 24, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/454

Democrats release Media Bill amendments The Australian Democrats have today released amendments to the Media Ownership Bill to enhance the quality of independent and fair reporting, by strengthening the Government’s editorial separation model and increasing the powers to the Australian Broadcasting Authority, to require apologies and retractions by all broadcasters.

Democrats’ Communications spokesperson Senator John Cherry said the amendments filled major gaps in the Government’s legislation in promoting more diversity of media viewpoints.

“These amendments ensure that if a media ownership bill passes the Senate, it contains stronger protections for editorial independence and journalistic standards,” Senator Cherry said.

“The Democrats want to ensure that if a proprietor is allowed to own a television and a newspaper, editorial separation is expanded to include an independent editorial board for the television newsroom.

“This board would make all editorial decisions for the television newsroom, putting into law what proprietors claim happens in practice about their ‘non-interference’ in editorial decisions.

“The Democrats will move to give the Australian Broadcasting Authority the power to instruct commercial broadcasters to publish apologies and retractions for stories which breach broadcasting standards, the power it currently has over public broadcasters.

“In the past three years, there have been 25 findings of breaches of broadcasting standards by the ABA against commercial television stations, and just 3 against public broadcasters.

“The Democrats will oppose the removal of foreign ownership restrictions on media ownership. Foreign control of Australian media is not in Australia’s best interests.

“We will also be supporting Senator Harradine’s amendments preventing ownership of newspapers and television stations in metropolitan markets, although we would prefer to see this prohibition extended to all markets.

“This amendment reflects the official position released by the Democrats last September, supporting some deregulation of cross-media laws regarding radio stations, while opposing joint ownership of television and newspapers.

“This approach reflects the importance of television and newspapers to news and current affairs, and the threat to the diversity of viewpoints that consolidation of ownership could take,” Senator Cherry concluded.

The Democrats have called on the Independent senators to release their amendments publicly so that the Senate and the public can fully scrutinise them ahead of the debate.

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