Part 1. Who are the news media and how should they be regulated?

1. As a society, do we still depend on the news media to provide a reliable and authoritative source of news and information about what is going on in our country? (chapter 4: What distinguishes “news media”-  and why it matters)

2. Currently our law gives the “news media” special privileges and exemptions in recognition of the important role it plays in a democracy. Is it still in the public interest to treat the news media as a special class of publisher, afforded special legal privileges? (chapter 3: The news media’s special legal status)

3. Few of the Acts which give the news media special legal status actually define what is meant by “news media.” Do you agree with the following definition we have proposed? (chapter 4 at para 4.102)

  • a significant proportion of their publishing activities must involve the generation and / or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value, for the;
  • purpose of dissemination to a public audience;
  • publication must be regular;
  • the publisher must be accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process.

4. Because the news media depends on public trust, and can exercise considerable power in society, it has traditionally been held accountable to higher ethical standards than other types of publishers. In the web environment, with its facility for public participation, instant feedback and moderation, is it still necessary to hold the news media accountable to some external regulator? (chapter 6: Regulation of the news media at 6.41).

5. If you think it is in the public interest for the news media to continue to be subject to some form of external accountability, what is the most appropriate form of regulation? (chapter 6).

  • Is there still a case for treating broadcasters differently from other publishers, continuing to make all broadcasters subject to Government imposed regulation, as is the case at present?
  • If you think that media convergence means there is no longer a strong case for treating newspaper publishers and broadcasters differently, then what is the most appropriate form of regulation for the news media?

State regulation, with standards and sanctions set out in legislation?

Some form of independent regulation such as we propose where neither the government nor the news industry controls the regulator?

If you support the independent model we propose, should membership be entirely voluntary or compulsory for some publishers?

6.Traditionally, the standards to which the news media have been held accountable have dealt with the following matters: (chapter 4 at 4.30)

  • Accuracy;
  • Fairness and balance – ensuring for example that news is not deliberately distorted through the omission of important facts or view-points;
  • Respect for individuals’ rights to privacy;
  • A commitment to public interest rather than self-interested publishing;
  • Transparency; ensuring conflicts of interest are declared;
  • Good taste and decency; ensuring the general public is not offended by the gratuitous publication of offensive content.

Do you think these standards are still important?

7. Do the internet and the facility for others to comment and participate in the news process change any of these standards?  (chapter 6 at 6.41)

8. Should all news media be accountable to the same standards irrespective of the medium in which they publish?  Or is there a distinction to be made between content which is broadcast to mass audiences simultaneously and content which is accessed by individuals on demand? (chapter 6 at 6.92)

9.Is there a case for extending the news media’s legal privileges to non-traditional publishers, such as bloggers, who wish to undertake news reporting and commentary on public affairs? (chapter 4 at 4.80)

10. If so, is it reasonable to expect those non-traditional publishers wising to access these legal privileges reserved for the news media to be also be accountable to standards and an external body? (chapter 4)


Part 2 Speech harms: The adequacy of the current legal sanctions and remedies

11. How serious a problem do you think speech abuses are on the internet? eg cyber-bullying and harassment, harms to reputation or invasions of privacy. (chapter 7)

12. How effective are the non-legislative remedies that operate within online communities, including the systems of online reporting employed by social media sites such as Facebook? (chapter 7 at 7.144)

13. Do you think the law is currently able to deal adequately with these sorts of damaging speech when it occurs on the internet? (chapter 7.60)

14. Do you support the idea of an alternative tribunal able to provide speedy and efficient remedies for those who have been harmed by a criminal offence on line? (chapter 8 at 8.43)

15. Do you have any other comments on the proposals in this Issues Paper, or on its contents?