Interview - Derek Wilding

Interview: Derek Wilding, Director, Communications and Law Centre:
July 2003

Derek Wilding, Director of the Communications Law Centre speaks with Media Man Australia's Greg Tingle, on topics such as the role of the CLC, achievements, "cash-for"comment" in Australian broadcasting, and how the CLC communicates with the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA).

This interesting, revealing interview will be available in full transcribed format as soon as possible.

Listen to the interview

The following is some of the key parts and quotes of the interview: (this is currently being alligned with the actual conversation, and in the process of transcript)

This is Greg Tingle from Media Man Australia reporting. We're speaking with Derek Wilding, Director of the Communications Law Centre. Welcome to the program Derek.

Thanks Greg.

Please tell me. What is the actual role of the Communications Law Centre.

Interest, research and we specialize in media, and communications and online services and we try to bring some informed comments to major policy work.

What would you say are some of your key achievements to date have included?

We have produced some policy submissions that have made contributions to some of the debate that have been fairly 1988...a couple of areas are in relation to media ownership, media diversity, and also ethical issues in relation to the media, whether that's to do with say editorial independence or disclosure of commercial for comment, type issues.

I remember attending one of the forums where there were a number of people on the panel including Channel 10's chief censor and there were discussing things like freedom of the press and that kind of thing.

For the general public out there may not be sure of how yourselves work in with the Australian Broadcasting Authority. Would you explain that process please?

We tend to be interested in major policies issues and the broadcasting authority has been made regulated, so that might been the Communications Law Centre making a response, or it could be that we think that a particular perceptive, should look at...for a particular incident.

The main area for the last few years with our involvement with the ABA has been in related to the cash-for-comment.

The first round of cash-for-comment was in 1999-2000. Then there was another round of that last year, the end of 2002. Then there is a review that is on the way at the moment, so in those areas we make submissions to the ABA. In relation to the cash-for-comment inquiry, we made appearances at the public hearing.

For the lay-person out there, what is cash-for-comment, and how does that actually different from payola?

There are quite a few differences. In Australia, we've taken the view that say, a presenter, if they have some sort of commercial interest in what's being discussed, then some sort of disclosure should be made..

In the case of 2UE and 2GB, which has been subject to some review by the broadcasting authority. We've had prominent presenters like John Laws or Alan Jones who have at various points have received or have had various contracts with third parties, in order to promote those parties. In the ordinary course of events, that's fine, of course.

The issue is whether or not listeners are aware of those commercial agreements. We've taken the view, and the ABA has certainly taken the view that listeners should be aware those presenters are receiving some payment for that...that there's not pretense that there's any degree of objectivity there, in fact listeners are able to make their own minds up about the quality of the information or the nature of the comments, provided that they know there is a commercial arrangement there, so that's the situation in Australia. Largely based upon why the presenters make web disclosures.

In the U.S. the legislation is quite stronger..applies not just in relation to presenters, there is a serious...record companies, DJ's might have and so on.

In Australia, some people would be aware that some disclosures are made on one or two of the radio broadcasting websites or sometimes you hear an announcer say on the air that their got "x" amount of sponsors, but do you feel that their should be more than what there currently is, as far as disclosures on the web and on the air?

We certainly say that....websites, are quite separate from the experience of listening to an announcer, yes, they needs to be announcements form the presenter saying what sort of arrangements are in place, on part requires that an announcement is made... an announcer is made for a certain period of time...if an announcer is actually promoting..they mention that...

What sort of ethical obligations do you feel that radio announcers should have?

There are ethical that have not been followed. One of the stations has found a way that....doesnt appear to contravene. Appears to undermine the sprit of them...there is in fact a series of obligation on journalists, via the industry codes of practice...but also the Press Council, and the Journalists Association, the MEAA?

Cash for comment, back to 1999. The Association of Banks, what example in history?

Back to cash-for-comment. There were a few examples..FOXTEL, Telstra. One of the cases involved the ABA, John Laws, tell the minister that...regulary issues involving , so that's a good example, of where these arrangements can go.

Recently a couple of sponsors, Telstra is certainly top of the list, NRMA...waiting from the ABC.

Do you think they are being more careful?

I don't think that the radio stations themselves set out an agenda where were' going to be completely one-sided about this...

Do you think the general public is becoming less for-comment, Jayson Blair..New York Times thing coming out...?

Listener's have always had a kind of awareness that commercial radio does come....let's take Telstra...Telstra privatization for on the pubic agenda.

If one of those announcers does have a commercial agreement with Telstra...

What do you see as the idea outcome?

Its not like the "sky is falling"....the first is that there needs to be some improvements ...there is a "loop hole"...the regulations need to

there are some issues than should be self regulated .. .large corporate sponsors...

What's being coming out of ministers Senators Alston's office?

The ABA has lots of experience with these kinds of issues....comments have been made on the

ABA report that....busy with media ownership, pay TV, the public and parliamentary issues.

Do you think there will be more nterest...internet censorship and internet broadcasting?

We don't regard internet streaming being a far as TV, but there is a content system...

There is not a really cohesive policy..its not terribly surprising

In the next 12 months your looking to achieve?

We hope the ABA acts on the matter we discussed this morning ...the cash-for-comment....we like to not see the media ownership bill passed - that's something that deregulates..we have some work to do there...some large issues ACCC pay television and the connections between Pay TV, analogue, and ACCC Telstra divesting its ownership

It appears to be complicated .. you have the Telstra infrastructres, the FOXTEL network runing ove the Tesltra network

The ACCC, its not just priviatasion of pay tv...very much intertwined...its presents quite a few challenges.

It's been a pleasure, very insightful, I look forward to future contact. Thank you. Bye.



Communications Law Centre

Australian Broadcasting Authority

OzNet Law

CLC Media Ownership

CLC Journalism & Media Ethics (including cash-for-comment)

CLC Broadcasting

Radio 2GB: commercial agreements on their website

Radio 2UE: commercial agreements of John Laws on their website

Commercial Radio Australia

ASTRA: Australian Subscription and Television Radio Association


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