Freedom of the press appears to be under attack today wherever and whenever people are brave enough to express their unbiased opinions, or to expose corruption and crime. Often, the muzzling is ordered at the highest levels, particularly when the scandals appear to involve our political leaders.
Our Constitution should recognise the important role the Mass Media plays in shaping the values of our society and informing the public.
Commercial Mass Media outlets are also recognised as an important “check and balance” in our democratic society given their ability to expose government and bureaucratic excesses and to give wide publicity to views other than those proposed by governments.
In view of the influence commercial Mass Media has on our society, it is appropriate that our Constitution ensures that media influence is not abused by individuals or corporations and that “the public interest” is predominant in the decision-making process on what to publish and in the balance that is displayed in all coverage.
Public Owned Mass Media
The Parliament shall establish statutory authorities accountable to the Parliament to operate impartial, non-profit, public radio, television, internet and print media outlets. These media shall be funded from the public purse and shall conduct no commercial activities.The role of public media is to inform, to educate, to promote Australian culture and the arts, and to balance commercial media influence.
Mass Media Obligations
While enshrining “freedom of the press” and refraining from any tendency towards censorship, this Constitution places the following obligations on the mass media:
- In deciding what to make prominent, media outlets, editors and journalists shall put first the need to eliminate misinformation and shall always act in the best interests of the society.
- Mass Media outlets shall be fair and equitable and present more than one side of any topic.
- Mass Media outlets shall devote a significant proportion of output to publicise what our Parliament and Regional Assemblies are planning to achieve so as to promote informed debate.
- Mass Media outlets shall declare their interest in cases where it is the intention of that particular outlet to promote a particular point of view.
- Mass Media outlets shall provide for a right of reply in cases where individuals or institutions are maligned.
The Australian Media Commission
- To promote and oversee these obligations on the media there is established by this Constitution the Australian Media Commission.
- The Australian Media Commission is to:
- Evaluate and license media outlets
- Promote balanced media coverage
- Promote media coverage that “is in the public’s best interest”
- Investigate complaints
- Impose sanctions on any media outlet that contravenes this Constitution.
- The Australian Media Commission is a full-time public body established by this Constitution and is to consist of a Chairman and 11 eminent Australians. Namely:
- A chairman appointed by the Parliament
- A person appointed by an association of commercial print media
- A Person appointed by an association of commercial radio and television stations
- A person appointed by an association of non-commercial radio and television stations
- A person appointed by a non-commercial print media association
- A person appointed by the Information Technology and Internet Industries
- Six persons from society not connected with the media industry appointed by ‘non-party-political’ Non Government Organisations (NGO) identified by the Chairman.
- Appointments are to be for a period of not more than three years.
Media Commission Procedures:
- The Commission is to sit in plenary session at least once per month.
- A quorum shall be not less than eight persons.
- Issues shall be decided by a majority vote. The Chairman shall have an extra vote in the event of a tied vote.
- Complaints are to be investigated promptly but shall not be the only basis for investigation and action by the commission.
- Because ownership and management of media are largely in commercial hands, the commission shall have the power to impose sanctions. Fines, cancellation of licenses and bans on the import of printing equipment, broadcast equipment, etc and the laying of charges of “unconstitutional behaviour” against the owners, editors and journalists are all within the powers of the Australian Media Commission.
- Community Media Watchdogs
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