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Seven lashes media reform as ‘great for deal junkies’ as rest of media welcomes changes

Seven West Media has described the Coalition’s proposed media reform as “great for the deal junkies”, claiming the reforms will decrease news and current affairs for rural communities.

Worner: Media ownership changes might be great for the deal junkies.

Worner: “The 4.5% gross revenue licence fee is crippling our ability to invest in local news, live sport and drama.”

Communications minister Mitch Fifield today announced the much discussed package which abolishes both the ‘reach’ rule and ‘two out of three’ ownership rule, but also announced “new and higher” local content protections.

In response to the package Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner issued a statement, saying: “Media ownership changes might be great for the deal junkies out there but they are not going to ensure a strong future for Australian film and television production.

“You won’t see one more minute of local content as a result of these changes, in fact you will probably see a lot less, especially in regional Australia.”

As part of the package the Turnbull government has sought to appease the Nationals and rural Liberal MPs with new local content rules that increase the points requirements following a “trigger event” of a merger or acquisition of a regional operator in rural areas across Australia.

Content 2Seven is instead focusing on its ongoing demand for licence fee reductions – a move the Minister restated that he was open to.

“It’s disappointing that the Government has not talked the talk when it says it wants to focus on innovation and the future. These changes tinker with rules put in place by the Howard Government 10 years ago,” Worner said.

“They do nothing to improve competitiveness or offer better services.

“The regulatory change that this industry is crying out for is to address the 4.5% gross revenue licence fee that is crippling our ability to invest in local news, live sport, drama and other programming. And that is something that the 70% of Australians who rely on free television highly value and don’t want to lose.”

Anderson: Removing archaic media laws is an important first step.

Anderson: “Removing archaic media laws is an important first step.”

Other media has been more welcoming of the proposed law changes, with Ten Network chief executive Paul Anderson, saying in a statement: “Removing these archaic media laws is an important first step in dismantling a set of rules that are making Australian media companies less competitive in a global, converged media market.”

Nine CEO Hugh Marks welcomed the move but argues that the TV Network does not have a level playing field in terms of tax and regulation compared with the likes of Google and Netflix.

“We have been consistent in our call for full reform for what is very out-dated regulation,” said Marks. ‘

“While today’s announcement starts a path for some ownership reform, to us that’s not the central issue.

“The central issue is how do we create a level playing field that enables us to compete effectively into the future with the global brands that have entered the market, and continue to provide Australian audiences with the very best free to air television service?

“This needs to be done in a way that stimulates Australian content and Australian jobs.”

The regional TV networks – Prime, Win and Southern Cross Austereo – which have campaigned together for the laws to be changed, issued a joint statement welcoming the move.

John Hartigan, chairman of Prime Media, said he was pleased with the move.

Hartigan: Coalition has demonstrated they have the fortitude to follow through.

Hartigan: Coalition has demonstrated they have the fortitude to follow through.

“Abolition of the out-dated media laws demonstrates the Turnbull Government’s commitment to television viewers in regional and rural Australia,” said Hartigan.

“The Prime Minister and Minister Fifield engaged deeply on these issues, and have demonstrated they have the fortitude to follow through.”

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley, urged Labor and the cross-benches to support the proposed media laws.

“I congratulate Minister Fifield, who, after extensive consultation, has announced a far-reaching package which paves the way for meaningful media reform.

“We encourage all Members and Senators to embrace these reforms and support a swift passage through both houses of Parliament. It’s time for the rules to reflect media in the 21st century.”

At this point Labor and the Greens have not issued formal responses to the proposed media reform package.

Nic Christensen

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