Nine tells government to halt media reforms until it has cut licence fees

The Nine Network appears to be the only major media company to have changed its position on media reform, calling for any changes to be “deferred” until licence fees have been cut.

Marks: Media reform should be halted until licence fees have been resolved

Marks: Media reform should be halted until licence fees have been resolved

A one-page submission to the reconvened government inquiry into changing some media ownership rules saw Nine’s CEO Hugh Marks describe licence fees  – money paid by commercial, free-to-air broadcasters to the government in return for public airwaves – as “onerous and unfair”.

In a March submission to the previous media inquiry Nine also called for the licence fees to be cut, but stopped short of urging that no more reform be passed before the cuts are made. In that submission Nine also noted its annual EBITDA had halved over the past 15 years.

The licence fee for TV and radio broadcasters was cut by 25% in the May budget.

In the current submission, Marks writes: “The Commercial free to air television sector remains under significant pressure from unregulated international content providers. Nine continues to strongly advocate for licence fees to be brought in line with international benchmarks to allow us to fairly compete with the unregulated international content providers which are fragmenting Australian audiences.

“Changing any ownership rules before addressing onerous and unfair licence fees has the potential to distort the market and have unintended consequences.

“Nine seeks that all media reform be deferred until the issue of licence fees is addressed.”

While Network Ten said it also wanted the licence fee, which asks broadcasters for 3.375% of their gross revenue, to be cut again, it also said it supported the current proposals in its new submission.

The committee is looking at whether existing rules which prevent broadcasters reaching more than 75% of the population and the two-out-of-three rule stopping them from owning TV, radio and newspaper assets should be scrapped as they do not apply to digital players such as Netflix, Google and Optus.

Media reform had been set to pass this year with a Bill tabled to cabinet; however, the government decided to send it back for more scrutiny after a request from opposition parties.


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