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Privacy, Regulation and the Public Interest

 

Damien Carrick from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has written a very clear and readable study of the issues behind the Leveson inquiry and what lessons it may hold for the regulation of the media in Australia.


In his study, ‘Privacy, Regulation and the Public Interest: The UK experience and the lessons it might hold for Australia’,  Damien interviews ten leading UK media lawyers, journalists and academics on the best way of addressing breaches of privacy by the media – through the courts or via the regulatory framework.

Everyone agrees on the need to strike the right balance between the right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression.  But as Damien points out, the differences of opinion often lie with defining “the public interest”.  And as regards regulatory reform, he summarises the debate around whether there should be self-regulation, statutory regulation or independent regulation with a statutory underpinning.  

Damien concludes that both the UK and Australia could gain from observing what is taking place in the other country:  Australia could draw on ideas about how to create a voluntary scheme, while the UK could start to consider a blue sky approach to the challenges of convergence.


He also is attracted to the ideas of RISJ author Lara Fielden who has put forward a three tier regulatory model.  Her model recognises that the traditional divisions between media platforms are collapsing and in the future newspapers and TV stations will more and more resemble each other. It also recognises that compelling participation is an increasingly difficult proposition.

A better approach is to allow news organisations to choose their own level and form of regulation and educate the public to distinguish between these different forms. Each of the three tiers of regulation will be accompanied by a different set of legal and regulatory obligations.

Damien recognises that

the model presupposes that the public will be able to distinguish between the three tiers. This is a big assumption.

But he argues that what is interesting about this model is ‘that it lets go of control. It acknowledges a world of uncertainties and fluidity.’

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