Chapter 6
The international perspective


6.1In the pre-digital era, identifying who should adhere to news standards and determining the boundaries of intervention were relatively straightforward matters. However, those issues have now become far more complex as bright line distinctions between media formats and genres, creators, consumers and distributors become increasingly blurred. This has forced reviewers and policy makers to re-examine the fundamental justification for regulatory intervention, whether it be the traditional classification and censorship schemes applied to entertainment, or the imposition of balance and fairness requirements for news media broadcasters.

6.2In the context of this review, we must ask: where should the news media now sit on the regulatory spectrum? What level of accountability is it reasonable and necessary to expect of news providers? If format is no longer a rational basis to determine regulatory strength, what is? In the age of blended media, does the public have different expectations of the standards and accountabilities of the print, broadcast or online media? As posed by one commentator:343

Is the protection of a public sphere of regulated, responsible, ethical public media a 20th century hangover, or is it something that we want to replicate for the new converged environment?

6.3 New Zealand is not alone in grappling with the nature of media oversight in the face of technological convergence, and its implications for the press and the media. There have been a number of significant and pertinent reviews in Australia and the United Kingdom in particular, and we have followed their progress with interest although we remain mindful of New Zealand’s particular market context and circumstances.344
6.4The reviews fall into two main categories: they either have their genesis in concerns about media practices and standards due to demonstrable failings (such as the Leveson and Finkelstein Inquiries);345  or they focus primarily on the challenges posed by convergence (such as this review, the review of the Communications Act 2003 in the United Kingdom, and the Convergence Review in Australia).346
6.5 However, the reviews have largely tackled common issues relating to the news media such as regulatory convergence,347  preferred models for standards bodies (statutory, self-regulatory or independent), voluntary or compulsory membership, incentives for membership, types of powers and remedies, and funding streams to support standards bodies:348

As debate over the future of press regulation in the UK develops through the Leveson Inquiry and beyond, it is surfacing a host of thorny issues such as the very purpose of regulating the press; whether the basis for press regulation should be voluntary or mandatory or some combination; whether compliance should focus on incentives or sanctions; whether a regulatory body should be primarily concerned with complaint-handling or standards auditing, promotion, and enforcement; how it should weigh rights of freedom to impart and receive information on the one hand and privacy and reputation on the other; who can complain; transparency and accountability; the scope of jurisdiction in relation to cross-platform and cross-national providers.

6.6The conclusions of the overseas reviews demonstrate that there is a spectrum of options available for deployment in the design of a converged standards body. In this chapter we outline some of the available options, to provide background for chapter 7 in which we set out our preferred model. We consider that none of the models we have examined from the overseas reviews are entirely suited to New Zealand’s converging media environment; our preferred model therefore is not a carbon copy of what has been proposed overseas, although it has had the benefit of being informed by the extensive analysis that has been undertaken.

6.7In this chapter we outline the main findings of the various reviews on some of the key issues, such as:

  • whether membership of a news standards body should be voluntary or compulsory;
  • the appropriate nature of membership incentives;
  • the appropriate powers for a news standards body and remedies that should be available to complainants;
  • the appropriate funding sources for a news standards body; and
  • the role of statute in creating a backdrop or underpinning for a news standards body.

We begin, however, with a review of responses to the threshold question of whether there should be greater regulatory convergence.

343Damian Tambini, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) “Committee on Convergence Kicks Off with Big Policy Questions” (LSE Media Policy Project, 24 October 2012) <>.
344We have also considered the implications of convergence as outlined in the previous chapter, including the converged regulatory model suggested by Gavin Ellis in his article “Different Strokes for Different Folk: Regulatory Distinctions in New Zealand Media” (2005) 11 Pacific Journalism Review 63. See also Russell Brown and Steven Price The Future of Media Regulation in New Zealand: Is There One? (Report for Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2006); Ministry for Culture and Heritage Broadcasting and New Digital Media: Future of Content Regulation (Consultation Paper, 2008).
345The Rt Hon Lord Justice Leveson Report of An Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press (The Stationery Office, London, 2012) [Leveson Report]; The Hon R Finkelstein QC Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation (Report to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Canberra, 2012) [Finkelstein Report]. See also Press Complaints Commission (UK) The Governance of the Press Complaints Commission: an Independent Review (2010), and the reviews of UK parliamentary committees including the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications The Future of Investigative Journalism (16 February 2012); House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Parliamentary Committee on Privacy and Injunctions First Report (2012). For earlier reviews of the press, see Leveson Report, at Part D, ch 1; Department for Culture, Media and Sport “Press Regulation in the UK: summary” (DCMS submission to the Leveson Inquiry: narrative on Press Regulation, 9 July 2012, afternoon).
346Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State “A Communications Review for the Digital Age” (Open Letter, 16 May 2011) <> [Communications Act Review]; Australian Government Convergence Review (Final Report to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Sydney, 2012) [Convergence Review]. See also House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Media Convergence and its Public Policy Impact (Call for Evidence, 2 August 2012); Australian Communications and Media Authority Converged Legislative Frameworks – International Approaches (Occasional Paper, 2011); and Australian Law Reform Commission Classification – Content Regulation and Convergent Media (ALRC R118, 2012).
347However regulatory convergence did not fall within the scope of the Leveson Inquiry.
348Lara Fielden Regulating the Press: a Comparative Study of International Press Councils (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, 2012) at 94 [Regulating the Press]. Academic work by Lara Fielden has analysed a potential regulatory model for journalism in the United Kingdom: Regulating for Trust in Journalism: Standards Regulation in the Age of Blended Media (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford and City University London, 2011) [Regulating for Trust in Journalism]. See also Nigel Warner “Life After Leveson: The Challenge to Strengthen Britain’s Diverse and Vibrant Media” (Institute for Policy Research, 2012).