14 Jul 2012

News Ltd baulks at regulation of online media

8:59 am on 14 July 2012

News Ltd's chief executive in Australia, Kim Williams, has threatened a High Court challenge if the Australian government pushes ahead with creation of a news media council to regulate radio, television, print and online news organisations.

An independent inquiry by former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein was charged with assessing the effectiveness of media codes of practice and the impact of technological change on traditional media.

In March he proposed that a new statutory body, the News Media Council, be created to set and enforce journalistic standards across all media - including online.

But Mr Williams told the ABC on Friday that the recommendation was seriously flawed and quite unnecessary.

He said he was prepared to mount a legal challenge to stop the creation of the regulator.

"Obviously we'd take the matter as far as we can," he said.

"We'll take it to the High Court.

"I mean, if people intend to have this stoush, one which is wholly avoidable, if they intend to have it, let's have it."

Mr Williams said the body handling media complaints should be based around self-regulation and free from government influence.

He says greater government regulation is a "lazy trap" bureaucrats often fall into.

"When it confronts the changing situation caused by technological or other change, the default reaction of the bureaucratic mind appears to be to reach for more regulation," he said.

"It is positively Pavlovian."

A separate Convergence Review of media regulation has called for the Australian Government to scrap the existing regulatory body, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and replace it with a statutory regulator.

It said the current system of separate regulation for print and broadcast was outdated and recommended content licences be scrapped.