Today’s announcement by the Turnbull government that it will recall parliament early for the Federal Budget, and potentially look at a July 2 double dissolution, has raised concerns about the future of the government’s proposed media reforms.
Earlier this month, the government proposed new laws that would abolish both the ‘reach’ rule and ‘two out of three’ ownership rule but those laws are set to fall by the wayside if an early election is called.
Some media executives this morning noted that if the laws, which are scheduled to be debated by the Senate in June, are not passed then it will lead to another round of tense negotiations between the major metropolitan TV Networks and their affiliates, similar to what was seen in December when Nine threatened to send WIN to black.
Comment is being sought from the various regional TV Networks but the Nine Network said this morning that its priority was getting a licence fee reduction in the Federal Budget.
“The most immediate and pressing issue in media reform is adjusting the unfair and onerous licence fees to bring them in line with global benchmarks,” said Hugh Marks, CEO of Nine Entertainment, in a statement. “This will ensure Australians continue to enjoy a competitive and healthy free-to-air television sector.”
Marks would not be drawn on the impact of the media reforms being pushed to a new term of parliament.
Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, signalled previously that the government had been won over by a campaign from the TV Networks for cuts to the licence fees of TV and radio operators but that this would be handled in the budget.
“In relation to licence fees we have indicated that free-to-air TV and commercial radio licence fees will be looked at in the context of the budget,” he said, earlier this month.
“We have recognised the arguments of the free-to-airs and commercial radio that these licence fees were established when TV and radio essentially had a monopoly… the second reading speech used words to the effect of, ‘this is a super-profits tax’.
“Obviously the environment has changed dramatically.”