Media outlets have hailed government’s decision to shelve the Media Council Act as a joint victory for islanders and freedom of expression.
Premier Dr. Ewart Brown announced in the House of Assembly on Monday that government would not proceed with the bill. Media organizations, meanwhile, are setting up the independent Media Council of Bermuda.
The bill called for substantial government representation on its council and sparked concerns about the prospect of political interference with news reporting.
As a result local media outlets were spurred into action and drew up plans for self-regulation.
The Media Working Group, which consists of Thaao Dill, programme director at Inter-Island Communications, Chris Lodge, news director at DeFontes Broadcasting Co., Tracey Neale, news director at Bermuda Broadcasting Co., Tony McWilliam, editor of the Bermuda Sun, and Bill Zuill, editor of The Royal Gazette, has also established a common Code of Conduct, which 12 outlets have signed up to so far.
A joint statement released by the Media Working Group, which is chaired by Sun editor Mr. McWilliam, read: “We’re delighted with government’s decision not to proceed with the Media Council Act 2010.
“We’re putting a lot of time and energy into establishing our own, voluntary media council and we see government’s decision as an endorsement of that effort.”
It continued: “The two biggest winners are freedom of expression and the Bermudian public. The Media Council of Bermuda will protect the former and serve the latter by helping to raise the standards by which information is disseminated in Bermuda.”
On Monday Dr. Brown told the House he was pleased that government had “ignited the flame for improved media standards”.
He added: “While I remain sceptical about the commitment of many in the media to practice what they now preach, the steps taken thus far are positive ones and must be encouraged.
“It is too soon to say that this bill is no longer required and as such, while it may not be taken up in this session, it remains at the disposal of legislators in the next.”
Dr. Brown told the House: “Ownership of the Code of Practice must now be fostered through ease of access and a committed PR campaign to ensure that the public is well informed of its rights.”