Media welcomes Government discussions with opposition to move media reform forward

Major media companies have welcomed a move by Senator Mitch Fifield to begin talks with the Labor Party and crossbench Senators on media reform, urging them to pass new laws “as soon as possible”.

Fifield: signals reach rule and 2 out of three are on agenda for 2016.

Fifield: signalled reach rule and two out of three are on agenda for 2016

The Minister for Communications signalled changes to the reach rule and two out of three rule are likely to be at the centre of a new package of media laws which are expected to spark a wave of mergers and acquisitions across the sector.

A spokesman for Ten today said it was the right move: “We are seeing positive signs that there is support in the Senate to remove both the reach rule and the two out of three rule, which is not surprising because anyone who looks at how media consumption has changed over the past five years can immediately see how nonsensical the current rules are.”

Traditional media companies argue they are disadvantaged by rules brought in in the 1980s to limit the types of media one company can own and how much of the population they can reach, rules which do not apply to web-based competitors.

Network Ten is currently in the midst of a three month exclusive negotiating period with Southern Cross Austreo to renew their long-standing affiliation deal with the TV Network welcoming action from the government “sooner rather than later.”

“We welcome the Minister’s comments that he will introduce legislation sooner rather than later and that he intends to remove both the reach and two out of three rules,” said the spokesman.

“Not only are they ineffective and hopelessly out of date, but these rules are actively restricting Australian media companies from responding to competition from rapidly growing global content players. The rules are no longer protecting media diversity in Australia, they are threatening it, and they are threatening Australian media jobs and local voices.”

Marks: replacing David Gyngell in the role of Nine CEO.

Marks: comprehensive reform is needed for our business to operate

Other media have also said they welcome the moves coming out of Canberra.

“A comprehensive reform package is needed for our business to operate today,” said Nine CEO Hugh Marks. “We live in a global media environment and now compete for audience and revenue with massive, well resourced, global international players who don’t have to abide by any of our local regulations, pay no taxes here let alone license fees and don’t support local content.

“It simply isn’t a level playing field. The internet has fundamentally changed media and it’s time for the environment we operate in to change to recognise that so we can adapt our business and business models to maximise our opportunity to invest in the local content that Australians enjoy.”

A spokeswoman for regional TV and major radio player Southern Cross Austereo also welcomed the move, telling Mumbrella this afternoon: “SCA welcomes the Minister’s comments and encourages him to move on media reform as soon as possible.

“The media landscape is changing rapidly and with Seven already and Nine about to stream their TV services across all of Australia, it is certainly time for the media laws to catch up with the modern media landscape.”

Hartigan: cautious but welcomes push towards a legislative package.

Hartigan: cautious but welcomes push towards a legislative package.

While Prime chairman John Hartigan told Mumbrella that they cautious but optimistic.

“While we welcome the Minister’s latest remarks, we have yet to see what the reform package looks like,” said Hartigan. “Until such time, we feel it would be premature to get over-excited.”

Regional TV Networks have been among the most vocal in calling for media reform, even running a public campaign to push for changes to laws such as the reach rule and rules preventing a company owning more than two out of three traditional media.

Their concern has been heightened by the recent move to live streaming by Seven, which launched last year, and Nine which is preparing to launch in quarter one.

Seven had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publishing. Seven West Media has been one of the principal opponents of key change to the existing laws, even running public ads seeking to counter the campaign of the regional TV networks. 

Fifield yesterday told ABC radio: “Australians are accessing media in different ways and what that means is the media laws we currently have gradually are being rendered redundant by technology and the choices that gives consumers.

“The reach rule and also the two-out-of-three rule as it’s known are the two that I am particularly looking at, but what I am told and what I hear from various players in media markets is that they want the freedom to configure themselves the way that they best think suits their business.”

Nic Christensen 


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