ACMA given regulatory boost

MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS:

The Morrison Government has boosted the ability of the nation’s electronic and online media regulator to respond to misinformation of the type that recently saw Sky News suspended from the global You Tube platform.

Several videos by Sky News Australia hosts including Alan Jones, Rowan Dean and Rita Panahi were removed from the You Tube website in late July reportedly for advocating hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as treatments for COVID-19.

The News Corp Australia-owned Sky News was banned by the US-based You Tube from uploading any new content or live streaming for seven days for violating the social media site’s policies designed to block or prevent the distribution of medical misinformation.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has rejected widespread criticisms that it should have acted against Sky News before You Tube imposed its own ban.

“The fact is that the legislation under which ACMA operates does not give us the ability to respond in the same way as You Tube did,” said ACMA’s director of enforcement, Pat Hetic.

“But we certainly took immediate and decisive action to enhance our ability to respond.

“ACMA sought an urgent meeting with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher which needed to be held online because of the pandemic lockdown affecting major capitals at the moment.

“Unfortunately none of us here at ACMA could work out how to set up the Zoom meeting, but we did put in a call to the Minister’s office.

“We got through to his office’s answering machine and left a message and one of his staffers did get back to us a few days later.”

Mr Hetic said as a result the Minister had approved ACMA’s use of much bigger feathers to discipline errant broadcasters or online players.

“You should see them,” Mr Hetic enthused. “They’re huge. We’re keeping them in a special vault in the basement with a security guard engaged to ensure nobody gets near them and harms themself. (main picture)

“These huge new feathers should be seen by those in the media industry as a major deterrent to misbehaviour of the type we saw with Sky News.

“Like any major weapon of deterrence we can only hope we don’t have to use them.

“In fact we pretty sure we won’t. Ever,” Mr Hetic said.