KENTUCKY — A bill to establish a publicly appointed mediation council to hear complaints about the news media was killed in the state House of Representatives in mid- March.
The council would have been set up at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism, cost $1 million to get started and would have been funded by the state contingent upon an equal amount from private sources. The council would have heard citizen complaints against the news media and disseminated findings that were non-binding on the parties. It would have also conducted public forums, programs and seminars on media ethics.
The council would have consisted of 11 members, including former judges, legislators, former owners, managers or employees of broadcast and print media along with members of the community.
The House State Government Committee voted 9-4 against the bill. The bill was passed in the Senate in early March. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. David Karem (D- Louisville), told the Associated Press before the House vote, “I really think it’s a nice opportunity for us to make a statement … it creates a situation where folks can be heard.”
The AP reports that Tim Kelly, editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, opposed the bill as did the Kentucky Press Association.
“We cannot object more strongly to the concept of a publicly funded, publicly appointed council passing judgment on the workings of the free press. It is an unconscionable attempt to encroach on the news and editorial process,” Kelly said.
However the editor of the Courier-Journal, David Hawpe, told the AP that he favored the bill. “I think this concept is worth a try. Those who are opposing it have honest concerns, I just don’t share them,” he said.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.