Publishers aim to bolster APC for better regulation

AS INDUSTRY opposition to a recommended new statutory News Media Council mounts, publishers met yesterday to discuss bolstering the Australian Press Council.

AS INDUSTRY opposition to a recommended new statutory News Media Council mounts, publishers met yesterday to discuss bolstering the Australian Press Council.

In a review of press standards released to the federal government last week, former federal judge Ray Finkelstein declared self-regulation a failure and called for the APC to be scrapped in favour of a statutory government-funded watchdog, which would also cover broadcast and online media over a certain size.

Traditional and news media organisations have slammed the recommendations, and the APC yesterday met senior executives from Fairfax Media (publisher of The Age/Sydney Morning Herald), News Ltd, APN and West Australian News.

In its submission to the review, the APC, which is funded by publishers, said it had insufficient funding to quickly deal with complaints. The council currently has annual funding of about $1 million a year.

Facing the threat of an alternative complaints body, the APC meeting failed to come to a final conclusion yesterday on how to strengthen the council, in part by boosting its funding, but also in its operating structure. But talks were said to be "productive".

The APC wants publishers to stop asking complainants to waive their rights to sue if they want the council to adjudicate a complaint.

APC chairman, Professor Julian Disney, described it as a "useful discussion", while industry body Newspaper Works said: "the group expressed its commitment to strong self-regulation of the industry by the Press Council."

"We will continue these discussions on how best to substantially strengthen the Press Council to meet the expectations of the public and the industry," it added.

The APC is working on a new fee structure for online media groups.

The government is expected to respond to the Finkelstein review after it gets a report on media convergence, due at the end of this month.