Prime and other regional TV networks take aim at new Plus7 mobile app in media reform push

Seven’s regional sister station Prime Media has joined with its other regional TV broadcasting brethren to accuse Network Seven of making a “mockery” of the reach rules with its newly launched mobile Plus7 TV streaming service.

Network Seven launched the mobile app this morning, highlighting how live-streaming of its three broadcast television channels, Seven, 7Mate and 7Two, could be used “everywhere” in Australia.

The app has quickly drawn an angry response from the regional TV networks who in a joint statement, signed by Prime chairman John Hartigan, WIN chairman Andrew Gordon, Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley and Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan, said: “Seven’s new product allows it to circumvent the ‘reach’ rule at the same time that it is aggressively lobbying for that rule to be retained.

“It makes a mockery of the rule and is an insult to this government.

“Using outdated regulation to gain a competitive advantage against those still hamstrung by that regulation is as good as hypocrisy gets,” the statement added.

Seven CEO fired back at the regional TV players telling Mumbrella: “This is just more of the same scare campaign we have come to expect from regional broadcasters.

“They seem to have missed the point that people have been able to access streamed content on Plus7 since 2009 with no discernible impact on their businesses.

“And a lot of the power of streaming services comes from their ability to reach out of home viewers who then are driven to the in-home broadcast service.”

The regional TV networks noted how the Seven Network had earlier today touted the functionality of the mobile app saying: “We can now bring their (the audience’s) favourite shows live, free and on the go, seamlessly streamed on mobile and online”.

Responding to the TV network’s statements Worner said: “Regional broadcasting is driven by local news and will continue to be so.

“We are not selling advertisements into regional broadcast areas and we will only be measuring markets we can monetise.  That said, we are happy to talk to our regional affiliates about localised internet streaming opportunities if they would like to do so.”

In recent weeks, the regional TV networks have launched an aggressive ad campaign targeted at mobilising public opinion in the bush in favour of media reform.

Prime chairman John Hartigan last month told Mumbrella the campaign was need to help overcome what he described was Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office of being “bloody-mindedness” in its refusal to move on media law reforms.

Seven on Monday fired back at the regional TV networks launching its own campaign for its markets in regional Queensland and accusing its regional rivals  of “bullying”, criticising them for threatening regional newsroom closures and of using viewers as “pawns”.

The final line of the Seven ad urges viewers to contact their local MP and “tell them to leave TV laws alone.”

Seven West Media owner Kerry Stokes has long been a key roadblock to forcing changes that many of the smaller regional media players want.

The regional TV networks are seeking the removal of the two out of three rule, which prevents media companies from owning TV , radio and print assets in the same area, or abolishing the reach rule, which prevents a free-to-air broadcaster from reaching more than 75 per cent of the Australian population, which might facilitate a round of mergers between the regional networks and their bigger metro sister stations.

Both Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have said they want “consensus” among the major media owners before they introduce reforms to laws which affect ownership and how much of the population media networks can reach.

Today’s statement by the TV networks notes that: “Seven’s announcement to stream its channels to all Australians clearly demonstrates the redundancy of the 75 per cent audience reach rule and the two out of three rule in the digital age.”

Nic Christensen 

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