Communications Minister Mitch Fifield: All Australian media companies are operating in a very challenging environment

The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has refused to be drawn on whether the proposed media reform package announced today will be able to save troubled Network Ten.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield: All Australian media companies are operating in a very challenging environment

This morning, the Turnbull Government revealed the package which is set to abolish broadcasting licence fees, further restrict gambling advertising in live sporting events across all platforms and repeal the two out of three and 75% audience reach media ownership rules.

Network Ten has welcomed the proposed changes after it warned its future was in doubt unless it got licence fee relief from the federal government after reporting a net first half loss of $232.2m.

When asked in a press conference today how hopeful he was if the changes to the licence fee structure could save a company like Network Ten, Fifield said: “All Australian media companies are operating in a very challenging environment. Whether it be print. Whether it be TV. There are a range of competitors who weren’t on the scene five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

“This package has been warmly welcomed by Channel 10. Channel 10 welcome the licence fee reductions. Channel 10 are also very keen to have the abolition of the 75% audience reach rule and the two out of three rule,” he said.

“And indeed every media organisation in the country is now on board with that and on board with this package as a whole. As you all know, that’s not something that happens terribly often. So I think it’s a moment of some significance.”

Speaking to press, Fifield said the government wants “an Australian media that will survive and prosper”.

“While we might not always like what you write, what you print, what you broadcast or what you stream. What you do is an important underpinning for the diversity and health of Australian democracy,” he said.

“Can I emphasise that this is a comprehensive package. It enjoys the support of the whole media industry. And it’s designed to support and ensure that the Australian media industry continues to prosper.

“I should take this opportunity to encourage and to urge the Opposition to support this package. There are many issues which can and should be beyond partisanship. So I urge the Opposition to support this package. A package that enjoys the unanimous support of the whole media industry.”

When pushed on the changes to gambling advertisements during live sport and the “8.30pm bubble”, Fifield said the timing of the ban is due to 8.30pm being recognised “as the time point where there are a range of activities available on screen that cannot happen before 8:30″.

“It’s the point where alcohol advertising can be more readily done. It’s also the point that MA restrictions come into programming,” he said.

When questioned on why the Government had not banned all gambling advertising from all live spot, Fifield said it was about maintaining a balance between commercial media revenue requirements and protecting families.

“The balance I think was tipped too far away from families and what we’re endeavouring to do with what we’re announcing today is to tip the balance back in favour of families and children,” he said.

Fifield explained the ban will not be legislated but rather it has asked subscription TV and Free-toAir TV to apply to amend the broadcasting code to make the changes.

“The codes are registered with ACMA and once registered with ACMA they have the force of law,” he said.

“ACMA do periodically review the codes. The codes aren’t in place for ever. And when ACMA review the codes there’s a period of public consultation.”

He added the government does “maintain the right” to legislate the restrictions if they’re not brought about by variations to the code.

“But I want to give credit to subscription TV and to FreeTV and their members who have embraced this and who will willingly present the request to modify the code. So in terms of those platforms legislation will not be needed. But of course we’re always prepared to do that if it was required,” he said.

Fifield would not be drawn on if the cut to the licence fees was a comprise to push through the gambling ban.

“We have already cut licence fees. In the last budget I cut Free-To-Air licence fees by 25%. My predecessors have also cut licence fees,” he said.

“So it’s been something that both sides of politics have recognised, that the licence fees are really something from a bygone era. But what we’ve done is taken the opportunity to not only provide a shot in the arm for free to air broadcasters but we’ve taken this opportunity to provide a community dividend in the form of further gambling advertising restrictions.”


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