Introduction: The proposed News Media Council recommended by the Finkelstein Report into the Media and Media Regulation represents a significant threat to freedom of speech.
- The Council would be a de facto licensing scheme for printed and online media. Licensing over the printed press ended in the English-speaking world in 1695.
- The Council would enable state censorship of controversial content.
- The Council represents a reversal of democratic accountability: rather than state being accountable to the opinions of citizens, it would make citizens’ opinions accountable to the state.
- The Council would not only regulate the speech of newspapers and television broadcasters, but it would regulate the activities of virtually every citizen who expresses opinions online or in print. Nearly every website, magazine, journal, and newsletter published in Australia would come under the News Media Council’s jurisdiction.
The extraordinary breadth of the proposed News Media Council’s jurisdiction suggests that, despite the Finkelstein report’s 400 pages of philosophy, history, economics, and public opinion research, it has not been properly thought through.