Communications Minister Mitch Fifield concedes media reform bill won’t be voted on until next year

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has conceded media ownership reforms probably won’t by voted on by parliament until next year.

Speaking with media in Canberra this morning, Fifield said: “Because of the number of limited number of sitting days left…it may well be and probably will be next year before we can conclude that legislation.”

Mitch Fifield

Mitch Fifield has conceded media reform won’t pass parliament before the end of the year

The comments follow on from the Labor party deciding to oppose the plans to remove regulation from legacy media companies in Australia as they vie to stay competitive with the likes of Google and Facebook.

Labor is opposing the package because while it supports lifting the 75% reach rule, which prevents a media company broadcasting to more than 75% of the population, it opposes getting rid of the two-out-of-three rule – which prevents companies from owning each of a TV network, radio network and newspapers.

The concession by Fifield follows on from comments made yesterday by Prime Media Group chairman, John Haritgan.


Hartigan: No significant reform in 2016 is disappointing and frustrating

Speaking at the Prime AGM, Hartigan said: “We continue to focus energy on advocating for changes to Australia’s out-dated media ownership and control laws. It appears, however, that we have been caught in a political log jam.

“While both sides of politics acknowledge that the policy arguments stack up to implement media reform, the remaining question is: how much reform and when will it happen?

“The Turnbull Government has indicated it is determined to try and push through its current Media Reform Bill. It looks very unlikely that the Bill will pass this year, and in order to get through the Senate, it appears the Government will be reliant on the cross bench because the Shorten opposition does not support the Bill in its current form.

“And the upshot is that, unfortunately, it looks like we are concluding another calendar year without any significant reform – which is disappointing and frustrating.”

Hartigan’s comments were followed by Prime Media CEO, Ian Audsley, who said the existing regulations “are keeping Australia’s regional media companies sub-scale” and if those regulations do not change, Audsley argues “the unique voice of regional Australia will be lost”.

Ian Audsley

Ian Audsley: The path to health regional media industry is through reform

“Our view is that the only path to a healthy, viable “regional media industry” is for it to be reshaped through reform that takes account of the issues unique to regional media, and in our case, regional television,” he said.

“That can only start if the current Media Reform Bill before the Senate is introduced as a first step to broader reform. To deny regional media companies the framework to reinvent themselves in a manner that is aligned to a new, and totally different looking regional media market is tantamount to contributing to our challenges.”

A Ten spokesperson said the delay was “frustrating”.

“It’s frustrating that this is going to drag into another year but our most urgent priority is securing a fair licence fee. The big tech media companies are growing at astonishing rates in this market while Australian broadcasters are struggling under a punishing licence fee regime that was abandoned years ago in other countries,” they said.

“The Government said in May that it would look at further reductions in 2016 and that is what we are focussed on.”

Earlier this month the government approved that licence fee drop, although many broadcasters would like to see the fee abolished altogether.


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