18 October 2017
The Turnbull Government will today introduce legislative reforms to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Act to enhance the ABC’s commitment to rural and regional Australia and require its news services to be fair and balanced.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Measures) Bill 2017 will implement reforms championed by Senator Bridget McKenzie to enshrine a formal commitment to rural and regional Australia in the ABC’s Charter. The Bill also requires the ABC to consult on changes affecting rural and regional audiences, through the establishment of a Regional Advisory Council.
The Bill will also require there be at least two members of the ABC board with a substantial connection to, or substantial experience in, a regional area through business, industry or community involvement. The Government would already satisfy this obligation through its appointments to date. The Bill also introduces greater transparency by requiring a number of additional particulars to be included in its Annual Report.
These amendments will ensure the ABC has an even greater focus on, and regard for, the needs of rural and regional communities.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Fair and Balanced) Bill 2017 will require news and information to be ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’, in addition to the already legislated requirement to be ‘accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism’.
The Bill seeks to legislate what the ABC already expects of itself. The ABC’s own Editorial Policies already cover “fair treatment”, as well as requiring ‘a balance that follows the weight of evidence’. And the MEAA’s Journalistic Code of Ethics refers to ‘fairness’ no less than six times.
The amendments will cement the standards expected by Australian taxpayers.