The current media environment, including fake news, the rise of clickbait and impact of digital giants Facebook and Google on established masthead revenues, will be the basis of a new parliamentary inquiry into the future of journalism in Australia.
The Senate voted for the establishment of a select committee, with strong support from Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team. The motion passed 34 votes to 29, with opposition from Liberal and One Nation senators.
Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam, Labor’s Sam Dastyari, independent Jacqui Lambie and NXT leader Nick Xenophon will be committee members, along with three other senators.
The focus will be on the current state of consumer and competition law and its future implications, and the impact of search engines and social media and content aggregators on media organisations. There also will be assessments on public interest in light of the heightening role of clickbait, fake news and disinformation.
Mr Ludlam said that his support came from concerns that commercial interests of media organisations were overtaking public interest.
However, he made clear that it was not the government’s goal to intervene in the editorial independence and freedoms of news organisations.
Facebook and Google were accused of “cannibalising Australian content” by Senator Xenophon, who believes that the little amount of regulation that exists surrounding the online publishers was a huge risk to the jobs of Australian journalists.
The inquiry was passed one day after Fairfax employees returned to work after a week long industrial action following the announcement that newsrooms would shrink by one quarter.
The committee will report to parliament in December.