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Fifield: Ten’s voluntary administration a ‘wake-up call’ to opponents of proposed media reforms

Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield has called on Bill Shorten and Labor to “show they care about the Australian media industry” and support the proposed media reforms, following the news of Ten’s voluntary administration this morning.

In a statement, Fifield said Ten’s announcement of voluntary administration was a “wake-up call to the opponents” of the new media reform package.

“This is a difficult and stressful time for Ten’s staff and their families who are facing an uncertain future. That a major Australian media organisation is in such difficulty should be a matter of concern,” he said.

Ten announced it would go into voluntary administration morning, two months after the network posted a $232.2m loss in its half-year results in April. 

According to Fifield, the media reforms package – which includes abolishing licence fees and data-casting charges, amending the anti-siphoning scheme and repealing the two-out-of-three and 75% audience reach media ownership rules – contains “vital measures” which will “unshackle Australia’s media industry from redundant laws”.

“The Turnbull government and industry leaders have been warning for some time that Australia’s media industry is under pressure and needs reform. While the government has sought to progress important reforms such as the abolition of the two-out-of-three rule since March 2016, Labor’s response has been to frustrate and delay their passage.

“They have displayed a callous disregard for the impact their actions are having on an industry that desperately needs reform. Labor’s gamesmanship has limited the options for organisations like Ten.

“Today I call on Bill Shorten and Labor to abandon their politically motivated opposition and show they care about the Australian media industry and the men and women whose livelihoods depend on it.

“The government’s reforms are vital measures that will unshackle Australia’s media industry from redundant laws and allow it to respond to increasing international competition,” he added.

“The reforms support Australian jobs, will strengthen local content obligations, and bring our media laws into the digital age.

Last month, Fifield refused to be drawn on whether the media reform packaged would be able to save Ten, saying: “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, 10, 15, 20 years ago.

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

Today he said: “Just last month, Network Ten CEO Paul Anderson warned that the media sector was under extreme competitive pressure from ‘foreign-owned tech media giants’.

“Mr Anderson has repeatedly pointed out that the current media rules, particularly the two-out-of-three rule, are stifling growth and threatening jobs.”

He said now was the time for the parliament to unite, and support the package to give “Australian media organisations a fighting chance”.

“There is a lot of talk about media diversity, but the greatest threat to diversity in Australian media would be the failure of Australian media organisations.

“The strength and viability of Australian media voices can only be enhanced by allowing the industry more options as to how it configures itself. Legislation to give effect to the government’s comprehensive reform package will be introduced tomorrow.

“It is now time for the Pparliament to come together, support the package as a whole and give Australian media organisations a fighting chance.”

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are sitting until 22 June, before taking a break until 8 August.

Two weeks ago, the chief executives from Australia’s major commercial and subscription TV, newspaper and radio companies united in Canberra in support of the package.

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