The Australian Press Council has renewed its campaign to attract new members and to reassure the public of the credibility of news organisations under its umbrella with the aid of a captioned image, known as a meme.
The meme reads “Sick of fake news? Only Press Council members commit to independent scrutiny”, superimposed over newspaper front pages with fake headlines.
Press Council chairman Prof David Weisbrot said that non-members were affecting the effectiveness of the council.
“Non-members are, in effect, shirking their responsibility to contribute to the industry’s self-regulatory regime and in doing so they inevitably weaken it,” he said.
“Worse still, this freeloading on the system creates space for those who would impose unwanted government regulation on the sector” he said.
Online publications such as The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Junkee and Mamamia, are the focus of the campaign.
News Corp Australia’s executive editor of policy and insights Glenn Stanaway supported the move.
“The public will always trust media brands they know are committed to the principles of journalism and providing communities with real news and opinions,” he said.
“When we have unscrupulous operators circulating fake news and malicious rumour often to achieve financial profit, it is important the public knows who they can trust for their news and community debates” Mr Stanaway said.
Brett McCarthy, editor of The West Australian, did not agree with the assertion that the Press Council was the only effective independent body in the country.
“We are not freeloading on any system. We have our own system that was set up in 2012 when we left [the council]. It’s now well established. We have the Independent Media Council that oversees all the publications that are under Seven West Media and we believe that that council works” Mr McCarthy said.
In regard to the issue of stopping fake news, Mr McCarthy was more cynical.
“Those who are out there in the fake news space and peddling fake news, I think it is pretty unlikely that any of them are going to sign up to the Press Council and want to be regulated in any way.”
The Press Council hopes that the meme will remind consumers that there is a body regulating publications and fielding complaints.
I worked as a professional journalist for over three decades. I began as a sub-editor with Pune’s daily Sakaal (1969-70) and worked with United News of India (1971-87), The Indian Post (1987-90) and The Observer of Business and Politics (1991-2000). I shifted to academics in 2001 as Professor and Head, Department of Communication and Journalism (DoCJ), University of Pune. My doctoral thesis and later UGC-funded study was on web editions of Indian Newspapers. After retirement in 2007, I was at the Mudra Institute of Communications Research, Ahmedabad, for a year. Here we studied viewers of Aastha channel’s live telecast of Swami Ramdev Baba, Use of Internet for Loksabha elections, and features of mobile handsets. I have been associated also with University of Mumbai, University of Calcutta, North Maharashtra University, and Indira Gandhi National Open University. I became Adjunct Faculty and Research Co-coordinator at FLAME School of Communication, Pune, in December 2009. I am an adjunct faculty also at DoCJ, University of Mumbai. Here I am Principal Investigator of UGC-funded Major Research Project on Language of English Newspapers of India.