Media Release 6 June 2017

 

australian press council
For Immediate Release | 6 June 2017
Further statement from Australian Press Council on the Appointment of Carla McGrath
The Australian Press Council wishes to clarify some issues involving its processes and how it adjudicates complaints and handles perceived or actual conflicts of interest. These issues have arisen in the reporting and commentary on the recent appointment of Ms Carla McGrath as a public member.
Upon receipt of a complaint, Press Council staff undertake a triage process, making an initial assessment and analysis of each complaint received. The vast majority of complaints are resolved without formal adjudication, such as through a correction or agreement to publish a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece. Decisions at this stage are made by the Executive Director exercising powers conferred on him by the Council—there is no involvement of Council members. For example, in 2015-16, only six per cent of complaints (30 cases) resulted in referral to the Press Council's Adjudication Panel for formal determination involving an Adjudication Panel.
An Adjudication Panel usually comprises the Chair (or one of the two Vice-Chairs), two public members and two independent journalists. It is important to note that publisher members never sit on Adjudication Panels.
Ms McGrath is now one of 10 public members. In any given year, a public member could expect to be asked to sit on one or two Adjudication Panels, subject to availability, and the absence of any conflicts of interest.
It is routine for the Press Council to consider any actual or perceived conflicts of interest that may arise.
For example, in recent times, the Press Council identified a perceived conflict of interest involving a Council member. A news organisation that had previously expressed concern about his appointment was the subject of a complaint; the member did not sit on this adjudication.
In another instance, a public member who had previously published an op-ed piece on an issue that involved broadly the same subject matter declared this conflict and, erring on the side of caution, stood down from consideration of that complaint.
The Press Council will apply the same rigorous principles in future to any Adjudication Panels on which Ms McGrath might be available to serve in future. That is, she will not sit if the Press Council or Ms McGrath considers there is a real or perceived conflict of interest involving the complainant or the publisher, the subject matter of the complaint, or the activities of the numerous organisations with which she is or has been associated.
As previously noted, in the normal course of events, Ms McGrath would not be asked to sit on an Adjudication Panel for at least the next 6-12 months.
Ms McGrath's duties as public member will also require her to attend quarterly meetings of the Press Council. She is one of 26 members of the Press Council and, therefore, her voice will be one of 26 around the table. The Press Council has deliberately sought to add diversity to its membership, representing a wide range of viewpoints and backgrounds. It should go without saying that the Council does not apply any litmus test in relation to a potential member's religious, political or other views.
The Press Council notes its previous statement that, in relation to the appointment of Ms McGrath as a public member, Australian Press Council Chair Professor David Weisbrot specifically flagged the issue of perceived or actual conflicts of interest as a result of her multiple Board and leadership roles and her long history of community engagement and advocacy on a range of issues, including Indigenous and youth affairs.
The issue was canvassed at length at the May meeting of Council. The date of the May meeting of Council was set last year. The Agenda Papers are sent to all members of Council about one week before the meeting. Any Council member not able to attend a meeting in person is able to appoint a proxy.
Following discussion at the May meeting of Council, the overwhelming majority of the Council Members were satisfied that Ms McGrath was eminently appointable and that any potential conflicts of interest would be successfully managed. The Press Council can confirm that after a full and frank discussion, the Council voted to appoint Ms McGrath by 14-1, with one abstention. The Council confirms public statements already made by representatives of Fairfax Media and the MEAA that they voted in favour of appointing Ms McGrath. We note that the MEAA has since publicly reversed the position expressed in the Council meeting. The Council confirms statements made by News Corp that its representative voted against the appointment of Ms McGrath. The Council makes no further comment on the Council vote.
    
Australian Press Council
Address: Level 6, 309 Kent St, Sydney, 2000    Phone: (02) 9261 1930 or 1800 025 712    Fax: (02) 9267 6826
Email: [email protected]    Web: http://www.jxdcao.live
 
 
 
 
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