42.1 Acts done and practices engaged in by media organisations in the course of journalism are exempt from the operation of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), provided the organisation meets certain requirements, including being publicly committed to standards that deal with privacy. This exemption promotes the public interest in freedom of expression and the free flow of information critical to the maintenance of a democratic society. Some concerns have been raised, however, about the nature and operation of the exemption, including the:

  • broad scope of the exemption;

  • lack of criteria and independent assessment of media privacy standards;

  • adequacy of the regulatory model; and

  • lack of strong enforcement mechanisms in some media sectors.[1]

42.2 The ALRC has identified an ongoing need for an exemption for acts and practices of media organisations in the course of journalism. It recommends a number of improvements to the application of this exemption, however, including a definition of ‘journalism’ and a requirement that privacy standards developed and published by media organisations are ‘adequate’.

[1] See, eg, M Neilsen, Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Bill 2000: Bills Digest No 193 1999–2000 (2000) Parliament of Australia—Parliamentary Library, 13; N Waters, ‘Can the Media and Privacy Ever Get On?’ (2002) 9 Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 149; N Waters, ‘Commonwealth Wheels Turn Again—A Cautious Welcome’ (1999) 5 Privacy Law & Policy Reporter 127, 128. A similar view was expressed in submissions to the OPC Review: Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Getting in on the Act: The Review of the Private Sector Provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 (2005), 196–197.