Saturday, July 16, 2011

Australia PM open to review amid News Corp scandal (AFP)

SYDNEY (AFP) ? Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would be open to an inquiry into media regulation and ownership after the "disgusting" scandal engulfing News Corporation.

Australia's Greens party has called for a parliamentary review of the nation's media, in which News Corporation's boss Rupert Murdoch is a dominant player, adding to the pressure on his beleaguered global empire.

"I'm not surprised to see that in parliament or amongst parliamentarians a conversation is starting about the need for a review, and I will be happy to sit down with parliamentarians and discuss that review," Gillard said.

"I anticipate that we'll have a discussion amongst parliamentarians about this, about the best review and way of dealing with all of this," she told the National Press Club.

Gillard said she had been "shocked and disgusted" at the extent to which Murdoch interests in Britain had intruded on the privacy of grieving families.

"I've truly been disgusted to see it (and) I'm not surprised that that's causing in our national conversation consideration about the role of the media in our democracy and the media's role generally," she said.

Greens leader Bob Brown has called for a full inquiry into media practices and ownership as the scandal over telephone hacking and payments to police officers by News Corp's British newspapers reached fever pitch.

"The fact is that we do have less choice in Australia when you go to buy a newspaper," he told public broadcaster ABC. "In fact, you can't avoid Murdoch-owned newspapers in a number of Australian cities."

Brown has accused papers belonging to News Limited, Murdoch's Australian unit, of running campaigns against him and his party, and said parliament had to protect citizens' privacy.

"There is a great deal of concern here in Australia as there is elsewhere in the world, particularly as we move into a more electronic age, of the infringements of people's privacy.

"And if the parliament, the elected representatives are not going to look at that, who will?," he said.

The call came as Murdoch dramatically dropped his bid for control of British pay-TV giant BSkyB after the phone-hacking firestorm unleashed a massive wave of pressure against his empire from British and US lawmakers.


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