News

Criticism continues for proposed changes to media regulation

SENIOR Labor figures say the Federal Government's handling of the controversial changes to media regulation has been flawed.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the proposed changes last week, setting a strict two-week deadline to get the legislation through the Parliament.

This move has drawn intense criticism from the media industry, which also fears the changes would be an attack on press freedom, as well as Coalition and crossbench MPs.

The fate of the reform package, which is being viewed as another test of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's leadership, remained in doubt on Tuesday as the government continued to negotiate with crossbench MPs, most of whom have indicated they would vote against the bills.

As a parliamentary inquiry examining the bills continued to take evidence, Ms Gillard fielded questions about the matter in a tense Labor caucus meeting.

One of those to raise concerns was government whip Joel Fitzgibbon, a supporter of media reform, who told his colleagues the government had failed to sell the proposal.

He said too much emphasis had been placed on issues of media diversity, rather than providing an avenue for recourse for victims of inaccurate reporting.

Ms Gillard was also asked by Page MP Janelle Saffin if the proposed reforms would remain Labor policy if they failed to pass the Parliament.

The Prime Minister said the focus was on getting the bills through both houses.

Earlier she told the meeting the fight the media proposals had sparked was "inevitable".

She also revealed the component of the bill dealing with a reduction in broadcast licensing fees was likely to gain crossbench support.

The much-criticised timeframe for ramming the legislation through the Parliament would also remain, she said.

Later, Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean told reporters in Canberra in the process "could have been handled better".

But he was confident there was widespread support among caucus and the community for the media reforms.

"If you ask the members of the caucus whether they support rules that encourage greater media diversity, not only would all of them say yes, I think the vast majority of Australian people would say yes," Mr Crean said.

"But I also say you won't get the right outcome unless you go through proper process, and I hope it is another lesson to all of us about the right way to do things."

Topics:  federal government, julia gillard, simon crean, stephen conroy


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