Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has used an address to the National Press Club today to increase pressure on the Labor Party and crossbench Senators to pass the government’s proposed media reforms.
Fifield: “We shouldn’t retain rules that pretend the internet doesn’t exist”
In his address, Fifield noted the political concerns about the abolition of the ‘2 out of 3’ rule – which limits anyone from controlling more than 2 out of 3 media platforms – but argued that the rules were created in a pre-digital era before the internet and the wave of global competition that has followed.
“There is hesitation in some quarters about removal of the 2 out of 3 rule on the grounds that it remains an important diversity protection,” said Fifield. “I find this a difficult argument to understand.
“What is the justification for keeping a rule that pretends there are only three media platforms? Why retain a rule that pretends the internet doesn’t exist?
“We must give our Australian media companies the chance to compete against the global media giants they are now up against.”
Fifield argued the challenges facing Australian media in a global environment were “daunting”.
“It is absolutely critical that we offer Australian media companies the opportunity to build scale,” he told the room.
The Communications Minister also restated previous declarations that the government would not remove the 2 out of 3 rule from the package.
“My firm belief is that this entire package is important. It is not the Government’s intention to split it,” he said. “It should pass in its entirety.”
The media reform package is currently before the Senate where it will go off to committee and will likely require either Labor or the Senate crossbench’s support to pass.
Fifield used the speech to urge the Senate to pass the proposed reforms, which would abolish restrictions on reaching more than 75% of the population, the 2-out-of-3 rule and impose new local content restrictions.
“I was heartened to see my counterpart (Labor) Jason Clare recently say: ‘If you make decisions based on one media company or another then you’re not doing your job properly.'”
“I hope the Senate follows his advice. Reform is not an exercise in doing everything all at once, and then not touching it for years; it is an ongoing and incremental process.”