ASTRA chair calls for ‘handbrake’ of media regulation to be removed

ASTRA chair Tony Shepherd

ASTRA chair Tony Shepherd

The chair of subscription television industry body ASTRA has called on the Minister for Communications to move media reform up the agenda and not wait for greater consensus among the various media players.

During his welcome to the Astra 2014 conference Tony Shepherd told the audience that media reform was a “regulatory handbrake” on the pay-TV sector and that were the government to reform regulation it would help build growth and innovation in the sector.

“This sector makes a significant contribution to our economy and media reform represents an opportunity to unleash this sector so it can contribute even more,” said Shepherd.

“Today I renew our call on the Federal Government, one that believes in free markets, to seize this historic opportunity to unleash a wave of growth and innovation by releasing the regulatory handbrake.”

His comments come a fortnight after Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had stalled the media reforms because there was not enough consensus in the industry, despite many of the major players backing changes which could see widespread consolidation.

Shepherd who was a key adviser to the Federal Government in its recent Commission of Audit report, released before the budget, said that many of the current media laws did not reflect the digital media environment.

“I use the word unleash quite deliberately. After all the laws regulating this industry were written 20 years ago before any of us used the internet,” said Shepherd.

“Despite the internet the laws have doubled in length in the past ten years alone and they now comprise over 1,000 pages of legislation and more than four inches high.”

The chair of ASTRA said despite Malcolm Turnbull’s recent statements that the government would not pursue changes to the much-debated media ownership rules until “more consensus is achieved”, he believed the Minister would need to act. 

“I have a confidence that a Minister with as much competence and experience as the incumbent will understand the opportunity that lies before him and deliver those reforms that are so long overdue,” he said.

Shepherd’s call comes just a week after Nine Entertainment CEO David Gyngell made similar statements slamming the stalling of media reform by the government.

Nic Christensen 


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