18 Nov 2003

PNG's Post Courier's MD surprised by proposal to control media

11:57 am on 18 November 2003

The managing director of Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier newspaper says he still doesn't' know if a proposal to control foreign-owned media is government policy.

Bob Howarth says he was surprised at the comments by deputy prime minister, Andrew Baing, that he's considering passing a law to force foreign-owned media to sell their controlling interests to PNG shareholders.

Mr Howarth says he is adopting a wait and see attitude after Mr Baing made the statement at a dinner attended by most media chiefs.

"We were both gobsmacked, this came totally out of the blue. However, we are not running around panicking at present because we still have no confirmation that this is official government policy and the new deputy prime minister has only been in the job for a matter of days. And quite frankly, a number of government ministers have had trackrecord of saying that something is policy and 48 hours later the government says it's not policy."

The prime minister's office is yet to make a formal statement although the PNG media council says they've been informed by third parties in the office that it isn't policy.

PNG's only tv station is wholly-owned by Kerry Packer while the Post-Courier is majority-owned by Rupert Murdoch and the National paper is owned by a Malaysian company.