Australian Press Council
The Australian Press Council (APC) is the self-regulatory body for some of the Australian print media. It was established in 1976 and is a private organisation. Its aims are to help preserve the traditional freedom of the press within Australia and to ensure that the free press acts responsibly and ethically. In its attempts to preserve the freedom of the press, it keeps a watching brief on developments which might threaten such freedoms. Regulation of broadcast media in Australia is conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The APC was only established after the Federal Government began preparation of legislation to create a government authority to ensure accountability in 1975. A long-term campaigner for the establishment of the Australian Press Council was George Godfrey.
The Council is funded by the newspaper and magazine industries. It relies on publishers and editors to respect the Council's views, to adhere voluntarily to ethical standards and to publicly admit mistakes. It has no legal or legislative power to discipline the press  and has no ability to detect and act on breaches independently.
The APC takes the position that a newspaper may take sides on an issue, including favouring one political party over others in elections. At the same time, it is expected that newspapers be fair and balanced and to make opinion pieces distinguishable.
On 2 August 2011, the APC released new suicide reporting guidelines. The standards stress the importance of the discussion of suicide may help to improve public understanding of the causes and warning signs of suicide and act as a deterrent.
The Council consists of 15 members, representing the publishers, journalists, members of the public and is chaired by an independent Chairman. It meets monthly, in Sydney and is headed by an Executive Secretary.
The current chairman is Julian Disney. The inaugural chairman of the Australian Press Council was Frank Kitto. He was followed by Geoffrey Sawer, Hal Wootten, David Flint, and Ken McKinnon. The chairman has always been a judge or university professor. Former members include Michael Vernon, Frank Moorhouse and Adrian Deamer.
The APC has been criticised for being unwilling to censor its members in anything more than a minor manner when guidelines are breached by its members. The chairman of Australian Consolidated Press, Kerry Packer described the Council as "window dressing" at a 1991 parliamentary inquiry into the print media.
Former chair of the Council, Professor Dennis Pearce, told the Finkelstein Media Inquiry that the authority was overly influenced by concerns of losing its sponsors and that the industry was reluctant to fund its own watchdog. Another former chairman, Ken McKinnon supported calls for the APC to have a stronger role and be better resourced, instead of statutory regulation. The Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown has described the APC as a "hollow vessel" and supports reform towards a statutory body with better funding.
To carry out its latter function, it serves as a forum to which the public may take a complaint concerning the press. Complaints are dealt with by a Complaints Committee which conducts hearings on complaints through a procedure which is free and accessible. Rulings can be subject to appeal.
The APC accepts complaints about magazines, newspapers or periodicals which are printed or published in Australia, regardless of whether or not that organisation is affiliated with the Council.
The Council regularly deals with complaints regarding racially offensive material against Aboriginals. In their 1996 Annual Report the Council reaffirmed its belief that although some editorials may give offence, newspapers have a right to express forthright opinions.
In 1979, during the run-up to the South Australian state election, the Murdoch owned The News campaigned against the Australian Labor Party in South Australia. A successful complaint was heard by the APC which News Limited representatives alleged contained irregular procedures, leading the News to withdraw from the Council.
- About the Council, Australian Press Council website
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