Industry consolidations finally set to begin as media reforms pass last Parliamentary hurdle

The House of Representatives today passed the amendments to the Federal government’s broadcast reform bill, overcoming the last barrier to the changes becoming law.

The move is widely expected to trigger a wave of industry of consolidations over he coming months. The final significant hurdle to the reforms was overcome last month when the government persuaded crossbenchers in the Senate to vote for the changes in return for the creation of a media innovation fund and closer scrutiny of the ABC.

In his media statement announcing the final vote in the house of Representatives, communications minister Mitch Fifield praised the industry’s united front in supporting the changes while blasting the Labor Party for its earlier opposition to the bill.

Fifield: Claims his reforms give the local media a ‘fighting chance’

“The Australian media industry has been united in its support for these reforms and will now be given the fighting chance they need to secure their future,” the minister claimed in a statement.

“In contrast, the Labor Party sought to obstruct and oppose these vital reforms. Reform was delayed for months with two separate Senate inquiries and a complete refusal by the Opposition to constructively engage.”

Opposition communications spokesperson Michelle Rowland rejected the minister’s criticism, saying in a media release: “”Labor’s position has remained crystal clear, principled and evidence-based throughout the backroom dealings by the Turnbull Government.”

“Australians will suffer as a result of the Government’s deals, which trade away a key media diversity safeguard forever in exchange for an ideologically-motivated ‘innovation fund’ for journalism – that runs out in only three years – and a vendetta-style attack on the ABC and SBS under a ‘competitive neutrality inquiry’ – for which the terms of reference are nowhere to be seen.”

A removal of broadcasting licence fees, and the repeal of the two out of three and 75% audience reach media ownership rules, are included in the approved package.

Media owners in contrast were quick to endorse the government’s actions with Ten Network chief executive officer, Paul Anderson, saying:  “We are very pleased that these important reforms have passed the final Parliamentary hurdle today. Now we can focus on building our business and making the great local content that Australians love.”

Seven West Media chairman, Kerry Stokes, said in a media statement: “These historic changes will give Australian media companies a real opportunity to compete with unregulated global players. That means a better future for local news and Australian stories.”

“The Government and the Senate cross bench should be congratulated for their commitment to giving Australian media companies a fighting chance. I would like to thank Minister Fifield and Prime Minister Turnbull who have delivered a landmark change for our industry today.”

”I also very much welcome the support for this legislation from Senator Nick Xenophon who has consistently been a strong supporter of a diverse and viable Australian media sector.”

Despite Senator Xenophon leaving Parliament, the government claimed the agreements made to secure the changes with the NXT party will go ahead with the $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund, regional journalism scholarships and a cadetship program to provide 200 jobs going ahead.

The government also committed to honouring its agreement with One Nation and introduce legislation by the end of this year to create a public register of foreign-owned media assets, increase the ABC’s regional focus along with adding the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in the ABC Act.


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