The Opposition has called for the government’s media reform bill to be reviewed by another Senate committee, which will delay the bill by 10 weeks.
The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill was reintroduced to the Lower House yesterday but will now go before a senate committee for the second time, despite hearings in March and May recommending it be approved.
The package repeals media ownership and control rules that prevent:
a person from controlling commercial television licences whose combined licence area populations reach more than 75 per cent of the Australian population (the ‘reach rule’); and
a person from controlling more than two of the three regulated forms of media (commercial radio, commercial television and associated newspapers) in one commercial radio licence area (the ‘2 out of 3 rule’).
While Labor supports the reach rule being dropped it does not have a position of the 2 out of 3 rule.
Communications Minister Fifield said in a statement, “The Government does not support any further review of the package, noting the extensive debate this issue has undergone in recent years. Australian media companies, regional local content and jobs are at risk if these reforms are not enacted soon. It is time for action.”
WIN Television CEO Andrew Lancaster said it was time for all politicians to come together for the industry.
“The Reach Rule, the 2 out of 3 rule and those who are looking to keep them in place are ignoring the existence of the Internet and the diversity of voice and increased media competition that the Internet brings. Traditional regional media are the ones that invest in local content and jobs so we ask that Government allow us to do our job in an equitable marketplace,” he said.
“We have had enough reviews of the laws. It’s time to make a stand and allow us to grow and compete equally. We are calling on regional politicians, no matter what party they represent, to be vocal of their support of the reform.”
But the Pay TV sector has been pushing for additional changes including to the Anti-Siphoning List.
ASTRA CEO Andrew Maiden told Mediaweek, “I take the view that if the government sincerely wants to create jobs and growth and unlock innovation in this sector it ought to be trying to do as much reform as possible, and not just piecemeal reform that ends up locking in old broadcast models and entrenching the privileges that certain players already have.”
“Channel Seven provided a lot of its Olympics on a paid basis to consumers and it can do that. The Anti-Siphoning List does not guarantee Australians that they will see sport Live and free. Perhaps if that is the government’s intention perhaps the law ought to be changed to oblige content to be offered Live and free and not ‘over the top’ on a charged basis.”
Independent Nick Xenophon also said Australia’s free-to-air licence fees were too high and proposed offsetting cuts. He also wants a TV ban on gambling advertising during daytime sports broadcasts.
Mitch Fifield told Lateline last night license fees were a separate issue, and would be looked at with broadcast spectrum pricing.
“What we want to do is something that should be pretty straightforward for the Australian Labor Party to support. Getting rid of the 75% audience reach rule, which is rendered redundant now by the networks themselves who can stream to 100% of the nation. Also we want to get rid of the 2 out of 3 rule that restricts in a market any organisation having any more than 2 of the 3 media platforms of print, radio and TV.
“We don’t need another enquiry. We’ve just got to get on with the business of removing these laws and freeing up our media businesses.”