Worner: says change is possible, but it’s “time to get real.”
CEO of Seven West Media, Tim Worner, wants to counter perception that the TV Network is opposed to all media reform.
In a statement this afternoon, Worner said Seven West is open to reform but wants to see the detail of any legislation.
“Seven has been incorrectly characterised as being against any change,” Worner said. “We have consistently said we are open to media reform but we want to see the entire package of proposed legislation.”
The declaration comes after the media company previously ran its own regional ad campaign aimed at undermining a push by regional television networks Prime, WIN and Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) to force media reform back on the political agenda.
The ad campaign, which was run in regional Queensland mid-last year, accused the rival TV networks of “bullying”, criticised them for threatening regional newsroom closures and of using viewers as “pawns” before urging viewers to contact their local MP and “tell them to leave TV laws alone.”
Worner today shifted his previous rhetoric from criticism of the regional networks to one of being open to reform, so long as TV licence fee reductions were included in the wider package of reform.
“We have definitely said that we see changes to media ownership rules as less of a priority than some of our industry colleagues,” said Worner.
“It’s certainly open to others to view things differently but what we are concerned to ensure is that a focus on these changes does not eclipse a major reform to licence fees that is critical to help the entire industry become more competitive with global players who have found they can march in and do what they like.”
The declaration comes the same day Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield signalled that the Coalition is open to further cut licence fees for broadcasters in the upcoming budget. A declaration warmly received by both FreeTV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia.
Worner also claimed that the TV network, which posted a $1.8bn loss on the back of a $2.1bn write-down in the value of its TV licences and goodwill last year, would struggle to maintain its current levels of TV production unless the fees were reduced.
“Seven has a huge production slate but we simply won’t be able to keep up that level of Australian production if we have to pay exorbitant licence fees.
“And we need to be able to continue to invest in transforming our business for the digital future,” he said.
“We invest heavily and employ thousands of people on Australian productions. Most global multinationals we are competing with don’t pay tax, don’t support the Australian production sector and don’t provide a safe and regulated environment for Australians to access content. It is time to get real.”