Not-so-new commentary on news from head of News Ltd
The CEO of News Ltd, Kim Williams, gave the keynote address at this year’s Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association conference but he didn’t share much that you hadn’t read or heard about before. Brendan Wong reports.
The Federal Government’s proposed media reforms threatened Australia’s press freedom and media ownership, said News Limited’s (Australia) Chief Executive Kim Williams.
In his keynote address at the 2012 Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association Future Forum yesterday, Mr Williams said journalists could be fined and jailed under the “draconian” regulations proposed by the Finkelstein review.
“I find it … deeply concerning we have reached a place where words like ‘government’, ‘journalist’ and ‘jailing’ can all appear in the same sentence when describing a report by a retired judge,” he said.
According to Mr Williams, the Finkelstein Review was the result of political parties’ opposition to reporting from some of News Limited’s journalists and papers.
He said the new regulator would not need to publish reasons for its decisions, nor would those decisions be appealable. In addition, the recommendation that the regulator should be funded by the Government would mean “inevitable Government control”.
“The very principle of a free press demands that any press complaints body be free of government pressure, and that means it must be based on the principle of self-regulation with agreed public standards.”
Mr Williams acknowledged that the Australian press’ self-regulation could have been improved in the past and given more resources.
“We in the press are not above criticism and it is in our own interests to be as tough on ourselves as we are on others,” he said.
Mr Williams also spoke of his objections to the Convergence Review, which supported a public interest test on media ownership in order to preserve media diversity.
The review claimed that many of the top-ten news websites in Australia were controlled by major Australian media companies. However, Mr Williams said this ignored the fact that Australians were accessing news from a range of Australian and international websites.
“Australians don’t need dangerous new laws to give them greater media diversity, they just need a mobile device, or a television or a laptop.
“In our view the case for a public interest test on media ownership to preserve diversity does not exist — the market and invention is delivering diversity in spades.”
During his speech, Mr Williams also detailed the transformation of News Limited’s business model, which focused firmly on readers and advertisers.
To maintain and grow these relationships, he said the organisation had reshaped their editorial systems by implementing a “one city, one newsroom” strategy. Under the new editorial strategy, content would be produced and shared locally and nationally, and instantly delivered to all devices. Mr Williams said this would improve workplace flexibility and efficiency.
He added that News Limited remained strongly committed to print as part of its product mix. “Each week, the papers that News Limited prints are read by more than half the population of Australia. It’s not a trivial number.”
Mr Williams cited the success of the Wall Street Journal’s bundled print and digital offerings, which lifted customer satisfaction, reduced subscriber churn, and increased paid digital subscriptions.
“The world has much to teach us and we are always eager to learn.”