FOI and media accountability: research projects 2012

My research will follow two paths in 2012.

The first project is connected to journalism and media ethics. In the wake of the News of the World debacle last year that has severely dented the credibility of the Murdoch media sphere, both in the UK and in Australia, an interdisciplinary group of colleagues and I thought it was time to convene a media accountability work shop.

The work shop has been scheduled for March 14 in Melbourne. Its aim is to provide a discussion forum under Chatham House rules (open discussions where each participant represents him or herself rather than their organisation). 50 plus invitations have been sent to industry members, policy makers, politicians and academics.

I will prepare a paper based on a content analysis of the submissions made by media companies and industry organisations to the Independent Media Inquiry. The aim is to trace what concrete suggestions, if any, the industry is putting forward regarding reforming the current media ethics self-regulation system in Australia. It will be very interesting to see how many of the invitees will attend. This in itself is an indication of the level of engagement in the media and journalism industry regarding ethics regulation.

The second project is starting the complete assessment of the Australian Freedom of Information systems, FOI (at times referred to as Right to Information, RTI). Since my last FOI project, that tested the federal regime in 2006, major reforms have been implemented in Queensland, NSW, Tasmania and the Commonwealth. There are some indications that this is translating into greater and easier access to government held information – but no comprehensive study has been done. It is also important to determine if the ‘updated’ FOI systems deliver better information access compared to the first generation ones in Victoria, SA, WA, ACT and NT.

I am currently seeking industry partners for an Australia Research Council linkage grant application. Thus far I’ve secured one Australian partner. The project will have an international dimension. A partner at Gothenburg University will replicate the studies in Sweden and I am hoping to find a partner investigator in New Zealand as well. Benchmarking Australian FOI practice internationally is important to acquire a more complete picture of where FOI/RTI is going.

I will post updates on both projects as they develop.