THE Australian Press Council has defended its decision to appoint an advisory panel with no media experience to help develop standards of practice for members.
The panel of five consists of recently retired South Australian Supreme Court chief justice John Doyle, former Australian Treasury secretary Ken Henry, former Defence Minister and UN ambassador Robert Hill, former Australian Democrat senator Andrew Murray, and former Australian Industry Group chief executive and Reserve Bank of Australia board member Heather Ridout.
Australian Press Council chairman Julian Disney stressed the group was not the panel for the standards project, but a panel to support the project.
“The fact is, you can’t just pick such a small group of people and expect them to have the time for the project,” Mr Disney told News Now.
“If you want people at that level to give their thoughts and expertise to you need to set up a structure and framework in which they can do that.”
Mr Disney has said that the panel’s advice will be considered with equal merit to that of editors, journalists and community leaders who will participate in round table consultations year round.
“We held four round table discussions last year involving about 100 community people and 70 journalists and plan to hold at least four again this year on issues affecting standards of practice.”
Mr Disney also rejects claims that the appointments are a political move to place a more independent council ahead of other groups that could be awarded statutory power over news organisations under Finkelstein recommendations.
“We don’t think statutory power and the ability to fine the media is the way to go. The panel actually strengthens our ability to reflect a range of views as part of a much broader range of initiatives. The principles will not be decided by the panel. They will be decided by the council.”
Mr Disney suggests that some independence from the media is necessary.
“I don’t like getting into the self-regulation debate because I don’t think the media has helped itself by suggesting we are self-regulation. We’re not and we’re not meant to be. We are a body to provide a link between the media and the community.”
The press council last year released its standards of practice for reporting suicide. Over the next few months it will turn its attention to completing standards for media access to patients in hospitals and nursing homes and standards for online.