Media diversity, the ABC, digital security and local content: what the key parties are offering this election

With just a few short days to go until the big day, and the election ad blackout finally underway, Mumbrella's Kalila Welch took a look at how the parties compare on the key policy issues affecting the media and marketing industries.

We’re coming to the end of what has been a gruelling six weeks for those out on the campaign trail and for those who continue to watch along at home, and while climate, cost-of-living and the economy have been the biggest policy issues of this election cycle, the outcome of the election could also have some effect on the broader media industry.

Though communications policies have been for the most part, typically sparse, media diversity, funding for the ABC, the regulation of big tech, and local content production have each evolved into policy issues that have been addressed, at least in some capacity, by most parties over the course of this election campaign.

Funding for the national broadcaster has become a key policy issue for the major parties this election campaign, with both Labor and Liberal promising increased funding for the ABC and SBS.

Liberal Party of Australia

At the start of this month the Morrison Government announced plans to enhance eSafety capabilities in schools with a $23 million eSafety Schools package, strengthen parental controls on devices with a binding industry code under the Online Safety Act and implement “tough anti-trolling laws”.

Of the policy, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher said: “The online world should not be an ungoverned space.”

“The internet has brought incredible benefits for us all, but we will continue to remain vigilant to protect our children from some of the toxic harms they can confront when online.”

Minister for Communications and Liberal member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher

The Government has also has loosely outlined plans for stronger laws to “combat harmful disinformation and misinformation online” and describes itself as having “stood up” to the tech giants.

While the Liberal party has historically made significant cuts to the budget of the national broadcasters, with the Guardian reporting the ABC’s budget had been cut by $526 million since the Coalition’s first budget in 2014, the party promised increased funding for the ABC over the next three years.

In February the Morrison government committed to return the ABC’s funding to 2018 levels, with the public broadcaster set to receive $3.3 billion for the next three years, as well as $953.7 million in funding for SBS.

The Greens

The Greens has identified media diversity is a key policy issue, with the party outlining plans to protect Australia from ‘the Murdoch Monopoly’ and ‘strengthen media diversity’ to ‘protect our democracy and our community’.

The party’s policy document says the “ABC is under attack by powerful government ministers and unelected media moguls, and their fossil fuel mates set the agenda through the Murdoch media monopoly. This leads to climate denialism, racist attacks and character assassinations.”

The document outlines five steps the Greens plan to undertake to strengthen media diversity, with the protection of the independence of the public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, at the helm of its strategy.

Green’s communication policy spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young speaking at an ABC Friends event over the weekend.

In a release published by the Greens on Monday, the party’s communications spokesperson senator Sarah Hanson-Young confirmed that the Greens plan to push for the ABC’s funding to be legislated in five-year funding cycles, as opposed to being in the hands of politicians.

“ABC funding shouldn’t be in the hands of politicians. It shouldn’t be up to politicians or the minister whether the ABC is properly funded or not,” said Hanson-Young.

“Minister Fletcher argues he doesn’t want the ABC to be ideological yet it is he who dictates how much funding they get. If the Minister was truly committed to an independent ABC, he would stop controlling the purse strings and drop the threat of further funding cuts.”

She added: “The Greens will fight to ensure the independence of the ABC is upheld so that our national broadcaster can continue to provide Australians all across the country with critical emergency information, independent journalism and quality Australian content.”

The remaining components of the party’s five step plan include the establishment of a Royal Commission into the Murdoch media ‘monopoly’, the introduction of measures to protect media diversity, stopping the spread of misinformation by strengthening the powers of ACMA, as well as protecting press freedom with a Media Freedom Act.

In addition, late last month Hanson-Young announced the party’s commitment to establish a $1 billion Australia Stories Fund and impose local content quotas on the global streaming giants. Hanson-Young said: “The Greens plan also ensures a sub-quota of 20 percent of the streaming giants’ local content quota to be made for children. It is so important for children to see themselves and their communities reflected on their screens.”

The commitment forms part of the party’s creative Australia policy, which outlines commitments to investing in Australian stories “on our screens” and “regulating the global streaming giants”.

Australian Labor Party

The ALP have provided similar policy assurances regarding the future of the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, outlining a five-year funding commitment in addition to the parties promise to reverse the Morrison Government’s $83.7 million cut to the ABC.

The ALP have also told Mumbrella that the ‘health and diversity of Australia’s media sector’ is a key issue for the party, pointing to instances in which the party has opposed moves by the Government that they argue would ‘undermine’ media diversity. The party’s positions here include the opposition of two of three of the Coalition’s cross-media control rules, which the ALP holds permitted Nine’s takeover of Fairfax. As well as opposing budget cuts to the public broadcaster and the ALP has also been critical of the Government’s Public Interest News Gathering program, which initially failed to include the AAP, and have also pointed to the Coalition’s slow response to the recommendations of the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry.

In addition to its stance on media diversity, the Labor party also made promises earlier this month that it would review the anti-siphoning scheme to ensure major sporting and cultural events will be available on free-to-air television. At the same time, the party also outline plans to legislate a prominence regime that would ensure that Australian TV services are easy to find on connected TV platforms.

Of the policy,  Michelle Rowland, shadow minister for communications, said: “Labor is committed to a sustainable media industry that can get major cultural and sporting events into every Australian lounge room.

“An Albanese Government will give the industry the certainty it needs to continue to deliver for Australian families.”

Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton described Labor’s announcement as a “positive step in supporting Australian audiences and the local free-to-air media industry.”

“In a growing digital environment, our services are becoming increasingly hard to find on the home page of the TV screen as deep-pocketed multi-national streaming companies strike global deals with TV manufactures to buy prominent visibility.

“We want to invest our resources into producing Australian content, not staving off invisibility and bidding against cash-rich conglomerates that want to divert viewers away from free Australian news, sport, drama and entertainment services,” said Warburton.

United Australia Party

For a party that runs on the platform of ‘freedom forever’, it is not entirely surprising that the UAP lacks when it comes to any meaningful policy lines relating to the media and marketing industries. The party did not respond to Mumbrella’s questions surrounding their policy, nor does there website list any policy of explicit relevance to the industry.

Key Independents

This election, a record number of key federal seats are threatened by independent candidates, many running on similar policy platforms that are highly critical of the major party’s lackluster approach to climate change. While there are too many independents to look at each policy separately, Mumbrella looked into the policies of some of the better known candidates to get an idea of where these independents sit on issues affecting the media and marketing industries.

Zali Steggall

The current member for Warringah has promised to stand up for integrity in Australia politics, a platform which includes a policy to “support a strong, safe and independent media environment” including “increasing funding to the ABC and supporting factual, unbiased reporting and Australian content” as well as  “updating regulatory frameworks to evolve with the media landscape.”

Kylea Tink

The independent candidate for North Sydney has a similar platform of ‘integrity in federal politics’, and has outlined a policy for “legislative reform to ensure truth in political advertising”. While not mentioned in the policy section of her website, in a FAQs page, Tink clarifies her position on the ABC, which seems to be in broad support of the Labor party’s policy for funding the ABC.

Allegra Spender

The teal independent running for Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s Sydney seat of Wentworth has championed ‘honest politics’ in her policy lineup, and similarly to Tink, has prioritised reforms to “political donations, election and advertising rules”. While Spender does list the preservation of the ABC and and championing of “independent, unbiased reporting” in her policy summary on her website, there are no further details available on these issues in her policy documents.

Monique Ryan

Dr Monique Ryan is considered a serious contender for treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong, and again, upholds policy priorities consistent with other teal independents. According to her website, she will fight for “truth in political advertising” and will support “media diversity and a well-funded ABC and SBS.


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