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New Communications Minister signals cuts to TV and radio licence fees could come next year

New Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has signalled the government is reviewing TV and radio broadcast licence fees which could be cut as part of next year’s budget.

In a video address to the National Radio Conference this morning Fifield also reiterated the government’s plans to pursue media reforms, even if there is not consensus from media owners.

In the video he said: “The Government is reviewing the licence fee arrangements for commercial radio and television broadcasters. The Department of Communications and the Arts has commenced the review and will provide its findings to the Government to consider in the context of the 2016-17 Budget.”

Media reform had been stalled under Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership after he said he wanted agreement from all the major media owners on changes that would see a round of mergers in the industry.

But in the video address Fifield said: “While it will be important to achieve a level of broad consensus among stakeholders before proceeding with any changes, unanimity across the industry may be difficult to achieve given the commercial realities.”

Many media owners are lobbying for changes to laws preventing them reaching more than 75 per cent of the population, arguing they are now at a disadvantage to internet-based players. However both Seven West Media and News Corp have expressed reservations about any changes.

Malcolm Turnbull was initially meant to be giving an address to the conference which is  at the National Radio Conference on the Gold Coast today, but pulled out after becoming Prime Minister three weeks ago.

Fifield also addressed last year’s National Radio Conference where he said he had almost had a radio career, and wanted to use the catchphrase ‘Switch to Mitch’.

Today he also said the government would help with the rollout of digital radio to the regions “where it’s economically feasible to do so”, but warned it would cost a considerable amount to upgrade towers.

Alex Hayes

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