KATHARINE MURPHY July 04, 2012
With media proprietors tense and on the warpath, Cabinet must roll from the current carbon price controversy to the prickly subject of charting future media regulation over the next couple of weeks.
A new public interest test to govern media ownership looks to be one building block of the new policy regime, whatever the current industry objections.
But the Gillard government appears disinclined at this point to proceed with the deeply controversial idea of a ''super regulator'' for the Australian media along the lines recommended by Ray Finkelstein — the former Federal Court judge who ran the recent print media inquiry.
The final decision is yet to be made, but right now, the smart money in Canberra is on an enhanced Australian Press Council emerging as the regulator of choice under Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's brave new regulatory world.
The question to be resolved through collective discussion among ministers and their advisers is precisely how ''enhanced'' (meaning powerful) are we talking?
This will be a critical issue for determination over the coming weeks.
The government will be weighing carefully its ambition to impose tougher sanctions on media outlets who fail to live up to their own avowed professional standards; with the Opposition's threat of making free speech a wedge political issue, and the peevishness of an industry under enormous pressure.
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