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Law Commission proposes new media watchdog

Monday 12 Dec 2011 5:23a.m.

Law Commission proposes new media watchdog

The Law Commission says malicious use of the internet as a publishing platform is causing harm and a new regulator for media and Communications Tribunal may fix it.

The commission released an issues paper on Monday which floats the idea of a new Communications Tribunal and a new regulator to replace the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council.

The regulator will be independent of Government and the news media, while the tribunal will operate at a lower level to courts and can grant takedown orders when content breaches the law and causes serious harm.

Commissioner John Burrows told NZ Newswire that the 217-page paper, titled The News Media Meets New Media, traverses a complicated topic of fundamental importance.

The report says young people are particularly vulnerable given the all-pervasive nature of social networking in their lives but problems such as cyber harassment are not confined to them.

"What we're doing is floating ideas. Sometimes there are alternative options. We want to know in the next few months what the users of the media or the public think of it," Professor Burrows said.

Submissions are due by March 12 and a final report next year will make recommendations.

The paper is not a response to bad behaviour and it was initiated before media inquiries in the UK and Australia.

Instead, it is seen as a response to "a general query really on all the new media and how it relates to the traditional media and how in this day and age you define what the news media really is", Prof Burrows said.

In general the New Zealand media behaves better than overseas counterparts, he said.

Publishers themselves will be responsible for trying to resolve complaints in the first instance. The regulator will adjudicate only complaints not satisfactorily resolved between the complainant and the publisher.

The report floats an option of compulsory membership for some categories of news publishers.

NZN

 
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