The international perspective
6.40The question of how a media standards body should be funded is closely connected to the theme of independence. There are concerns that any public funding potentially carries the risk of increased government control, while industry funding may create the perception that a self-regulatory body is not sufficiently independent of the media industry and, where membership is voluntary, may carry the risk that funding could shrink should membership reduce.
6.41Broadcasting regulation is usually partly publicly funded, while Press Councils are generally entirely industry funded. In her comparative review of Press Council models, Lara Fielden noted that two Press Councils (Germany and Finland) receive state funding but on a “no strings” basis. In Germany, the independence of the Press Council from state-funding contributions is guaranteed in law. Fielden’s proposed reformed model for a standards body would be industry funded, with the independence of decision-making being assured through the composition of the board and by procedural requirements.
6.42Responding to concerns about under-funding of the Australian Press Council, the Finkelstein Report concluded that funding of the new regulatory body should be by the government out of the consolidated fund, rather than by levy (the administration cost of which could exceed the levy itself) or industry funding. The report also recommended a review by the Productivity Commission into the health of the news industry within the next two years or so to see if there is a need for government support.
6.43Conversely, the Convergence Review recommended that funding for its proposed news standards body be majority funded by members rather than being fully funded by government. It was recommended that the government make a financial contribution but this would be limited to specific purposes such as a funding shortfall or to provide project-based funding.
6.44The Leveson Report concluded that the new self-regulatory body should be industry funded. The report recommended that funding be settled in agreement between the industry and the board of the self-regulatory body, with the board certifying the adequacy of the indicative budget. It is suggested that funding settlements should cover a four to five year period and be negotiated well in advance.