Broadcasters need to reset for the future says Free TV’s incoming boss

Media ownership and licence fees changes have been positive for the broadcasting industry, but according to Seven West Media’s outgoing chief of corporate and regulatory affairs Bridget Fair, there are still regulations which are “not fit for purpose for the future”.

Fair said the industry has come to a “terrific landing point” but as she sees it, there is an opportunity for industry body Free TV to reset the future.

Fair commences her new role in February, and has already pinned down her focuses

The comments follow Fair’s announcement last week she would leave Seven after 17 years to take on the new role of CEO at Free TV.

Following her appointment, Fair told Mumbrella the industry has a “strong future”, but there’s still more to be done.

“We’ve obviously had some difficult times and we are in a more challenging environment than when I first started in television but I think there’s a great opportunity for Free TV to reset the future,” she said.

“We’ve come to a terrific landing point, or maybe it’s just drawing breath having got media ownership out of the way, licence fees, having set the spectrum fees for five years, it’s a terrific time to stop, have a bit of a focus on the industry as a whole, what can we be doing better, what is needed for the future of the platform.

“Advocacy for the industry in terms of developing better policy settings is still a really key part of the role and the media ownership and licence fee changes were incredibly positive, but it’s really part of a continuum of a number of regulatory settings that the industry is labouring under that are really not fit for purpose for the future, and so that is going to be a big part of the role,” she added.

Fair will commence her new role in February and will focus on reviewing the regulatory settings for the sector and as well as look at the role of commercial free to air television in a new technology environment.

When asked about the relationship between the broadcasting industry and the likes of technology giants Google and Facebook, Fair said they were clearly dominant and broadcasters were trying to work with them and build relationships, but said they needed to be called out.

“At the same time, we need to call out the fact they have also been allowed to come into this territory and hoover up a lot of advertising revenue without any of the same levels of responsibilities or taxation arrangements or any of the things that lead to a healthy society and delivering public benefit outcomes in terms of Australian content,” she said.

“So we need to call out those things and there’s obviously been some issues around view ability, transparency in terms of trade and those kind of things. A lot of those issues are a specific focus for Think TV but they are also of concern to Free TV and that’s just part of looking at our overall operational landscape and how we are going to position ourselves and what is the appropriate regulatory framework to ensure the health of our sector.”

Free TV and Think TV are the two industry bodies for the broadcasting sector, with Think TV becoming more prevalent since the appointment of CEO Kim Portrate last year and the launch of its marketing campaign.

There it still prevalence for both Free TV and Think TV

But Fair said the sector underwent a review a few years back to discuss whether to “lump in” Free TV and Think TV – which also includes subscription TV. She said there is still relevance for both industry bodies.

“The decision was that it was a single focus, a bit like having a customer focus, having an audience focus, to each organisation was the best way to go so Think TV is obviously very focused on our clients and partners and ensuring that people are fully understanding the value of free to air television as an advertising medium,” she explained.

“Freeview is very consumer focused, it’s about developing the platform and delivering Free to Air television in the way that people want to consume it. So we’ve started with marketing multi channels, it’s evolved into the TV television and now the mobile apps.

“Free TV is very much policy regulatory focused. It’s main audience for its messages are people in Canberra, our regulatory stakeholders like ACMA, and so being able to focus on those outcomes and what they deliver to the overall health of the industry means that it’s a more effective body.”

While Fair was reluctant to make comment on the future of the broadcasting industry, she said change was exciting and has been good for the industry so far.

“I do still think that the things that commercial free to air brings to the table, which is that shared experience across all demographics is very powerful, that people do want shared experience, they do want that social cohesion and in whatever shape or form.

“One thing I can say since starting at Channel Seven in 2000, before the Sydney Olympics, is that the industry is almost unrecognisable from what it was the day I started, and what it was 10 years ago and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be continuing to evolve and innovate for the next 10 years as well,” she said.

She added: “Change is exciting. It’s obviously pressured broadcasters into making some big calls about how to shape their business that they may not – of course when we’re all comfortable and just rolling along and you are the only game in town – it’s easy to relax. I think change has been good for this industry and it’s brought a lot of innovation and some very exciting developments.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.