What I’ve been up to: Cash for Comment

Cash-for-CommentIt’s almost a month since my last post. Sorry, uni is hectic at the moment. I just finished a research essay on the Cash for Comment incident from 10 years ago and what impact it’s had on codes and ethics now. I thought I’d share the executive summary with you.

In 1999, ABC’s television programme, Media Watch, exposed 2UE presenter, John Laws, for not disclosing commercial agreements giving “sponsors” undeclared advertising on air. The Australian Broadcasting Authority launched an inquiry which was expanded to fellow presenter, Alan Jones and several other commercial radio stations. The inquiry found that the stations had breached the code of practice and Broadcasting Services Act, but the code and Act were insufficient for substantial punishment, or to punish the presenters. The MEAA and PRIA codes of ethics were also ineffective as they are membership-based, and voluntary. Changes were made to the ABA code of practice and the Act, but personal ethics models are more effective in avoiding unethical practices.

Recently journalism has extended to citizen journalism. A new genre that has the general public writing and publishing their own reports, photographs and videos. Concern has arisen as they are generally untrained and cannot be held to any codes. Public relations practitioners have been seen exploiting this and offering payment for undeclared endorsements. As the choice to offer or accept these agreements are personal, it dilutes the effectiveness of the Act and codes, both by the ACMA (replaced the ABA) and industry organisations. However, it does maintain a level of independence by journalists and not a bad thing, as long as personal ethics are upheld. The PRIA does need to work to discourage offering paid reports though.

I hope you enjoy.

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