Standards of Practice

The Press Council endeavours to ensure that its standards promote excellence in journalistic practice and reflect the realities of journalism and the media industry in Australia. Council members – representing the general public, the publishers and independent journalists – regularly review the Standards of Practice to ensure their continuing relevance and effectiveness.

Under the Council’s Constitution, the Standards of Practice are binding on all member publications, and are applied in the resolution of all complaints (whether or not the publisher is a Council member).The Council's Standards of Practice relating to print and online publishing are contained in:

  • the Statement of General Principles; 
  • the Specific Standards developed to apply to particular situations; and
  • the Statement of Privacy Principles.

In addition, the Press Council has developed and published a variety of Advisory Guidelines for editors and journalists, to help guide them in producing high quality news coverage. The latest one, issued in 2016, concerns reporting of family and domestic violence. The Council has an ongoing project to review and revise the existing Guidelines and to develop new ones where appropriate. In many cases, the Council hopes to reinforce these Guidelines with education and training initiatives for the industry.

The Council regularly organises Round Table discussions and other meetings with journalists, editors, members of the community and representatives of peak bodies in order to determine concerns, controversies and uncertainties about ethical reporting on issues of importance, which helps guide the Council’s work program and priorities in this area.


Revision of General Principles

In 2014, the Press Council released its revised Statement of General Principles, which sets out the basic standards of practice applied by the Council when handling complaints and when Adjudication Panels determine whether or not a breach of standards has occurred.

The current Statement of General Principles was adopted unanimously by the Council and applies to all print and online material published from 1 August 2014. It does not seek to change substantially the general approach taken previously by the Council, but rather to ensure that the Principles accurately reflect that approach, are as clear and succinct as possible.

Amongst other things, the revised Statement of General Principles clarifies

  • the principle that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that factual material is accurate and not misleading applies to material of that kind in all types of article;
  • the principle of reasonable fairness and balance applies to presentation of facts (including presentation of other people’s opinions) but not to writers’ expressions of their own opinion.


The Principles focus on four sets of key values:

  • accuracy and clarity;
  • fairness and balance;
  • privacy and avoidance of harm;
  • integrity and transparency.


Click here
for a printable copy of the revised Statement of General Principles.


Development of Specific Standards

The General Principles are deliberately expressed in broad terms, and are meant to be applied flexibly and sensibly. On the other hand, it is important that media practitioners and the general public also have some indication of how they will be applied in specific situations.

The Press Council has therefore issued two Specific Standards of Practice to complement the General Principles. These relate to:


The Council may in future decide to develop further such Specific Standards when this is considered necessary and appropriate. 


Revision of the Advisory Guidelines

The Press Council has also published a variety of Advisory Guidelines for editors and journalists over a number of years. The earliest Advisory Guideline that is still public was adopted in 1977.  Note that a number of these documents are now clearly out of date and so a process is underway to review all of them, with a view to retiring some and bringing the remainder up to date in terms of language, technology and contemporary  journalistic practice. 

Click here to see the existing Advisory Guidelines.

 
 
 
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