• Abolishing broadcasting licence fees and datacasting charges
• Applying a fee for the spectrum that broadcasters use at a level more reflective of the
current media landscape
• Further restrictions on gambling advertising in live sporting events across all
• Amending the anti-siphoning scheme and list
• Repealing the two out of three and 75% audience reach media ownership rules
• A broad ranging and comprehensive review of Australian and children’s content
• Funding to support the broadcasting of women’s and niche sports.
The government’s Media Reform bills have passed the Senate after a deal was reached with the Nick Xenophon Team.
The legislation passed 31 – 27 with Labor, Greens and Jacqui Lambie opposed.
In a statement Mitch Fifeld, Minsiter for Communications & the Arts, said, “These changes bring Australia’s outdated media laws into the 21st century. They now finally recognise the enormous disruption that has been caused by the Internet.
“Australian media companies will now be better placed to compete with the big online media companies from overseas.”
Kerry Stokes Seven West Media Chairman said: “These historic changes will give Australian media
companies a real opportunity to compete with unregulated global players. That means a better future for local and Australian stories.”
“The Government and the Senate cross bench should be congratulated for their commitment to giving Australian media companies a fighting chance. I would like to thank Minister Fifield and Prime Minister Turnbull who have delivered a landmark change for our industry today.”
Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner said: “The Government has achieved the comprehensive reform package that Seven has been calling for since 2013. That is no easy feat. What has been achieved today will truly empower broadcasters and publishers to meet the increasing pace of change that we are facing.
“Minister Fifield and the Senate cross bench have placed us in the best possible position to meet the challenges we face head on and we are most grateful for that.”
Free TV Chairman, Mr Harold Mitchell said, “This is a significant win for Australians who love great local content, Australian stories and the thousands of Australians employed in telling them.
“This package will allow local media companies to invest in their businesses to meet the
changing needs of their audiences and sustain local services.
“We warmly welcome the acceptance that we can’t continue to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook under media laws that pretend the internet doesn’t exist and levies the world’s highest licence fees”
John Hartigan, Chairman of Prime Media Group, said: “Prime congratulates Minister Fifield and all parliamentarians who supported this important reform bill, knowing that the commercial viability of Australian-owned media businesses ensures diversity of voices and opinions in the community, particularly in regional Australia.
“We offer our thanks to the Minister for his enduring resolve and to all the cross bench Senators who engaged with us, supported the reforms and gave thoughtful consideration to this matter.”
The measures include:
- The abolition of broadcast licence fees and replacement with a more modest spectrum charge, providing close to $90 million per annum in ongoing financial relief to metropolitan and regional television and radio broadcasters;
- A substantial reduction in gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts, representing a strong community dividend with the establishment of a clear ‘safe zone’ for families to enjoy live sport;
- Abolition of redundant ownership rules that shackle local media companies and inhibit their ability to achieve the scale necessary to compete with foreign tech giants;
- Retention of diversity protections that ensure multiple controllers of television and radio licences as well as minimum numbers of media voices in all markets. These are the two-to-a-market rule for commercial radio, the one-to-a-market rule for commercial television, the requirement for a minimum of 5 independent media voices in metropolitan markets and a minimum of 4 independent media voices in regional markets, and the competition assessments made by the ACCC;
- Higher minimum local content requirements for regional television following trigger events, including introducing minimum requirements in markets across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the first time; and
- Reforms to anti-siphoning to strengthen local subscription television providers.
The Government will also implement a $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package including:
- A $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund;
- A Regional and Small Publishers cadetship program to support 200 cadetships; and
- 60 regional journalism scholarships.
Legislation will also be introduced by the end of this year to give effect to:
- A public register of foreign-owned media assets;
- The proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC’s focus on rural and regional Australia;
- A range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters;
- Include the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in Section 8 of the ABC Act and;
- A community radio package.
In August One Nation agreed to support the package but demanded:
Competitive neutrality inquiry into ABC & SBS
ABC / SBS to publish salaries of staff / talent over $200,000
ABC Charter to include “Fair & Balanced”
More rural services by ABC
Foreign ownership at 2.5% must be put on public register
More funding for community radio licenses worth $12m over 4 years
A further push by One Nation for ABC and SBS funding to be cut will be raised ahead of the next Budget.
Nick Xenophon’s NXT negotiated a fund for 200 journalist cadetships of as much as $40,000 each, and grants up to $1million for publishers with a turnover of between $300,000 – $30million. NXT will not vote in favour of any funding cuts to the ABC or SBS.
Senator Derryn Hinch supported the reforms package.
Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie opposed.
Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland criticised Senator Xenophon’s deal saying, “Media diversity should not be traded away in exchange for support for journalism or local content – it is not an either/or proposition – Australia needs both.
“Public policy questions of media ownership, media diversity and the future of public interest journalism are fundamental to our democracy, yet the Turnbull Government has conducted this debate behind closed doors.”
Amongst those supporting the reforms were:
Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media, TEN Network, Prime Media Group, WIN Corporation, FreeTV Australia, Foxtel, ASTRA, Fairfax Media, News Corp Australasia, Southern Cross Austereo, NOVA Entertainment, ARN, Macquarie Media, ACE Broadcasters, Grant Broadcasters, 2SM Supernetwork Radio, Bathurst Broadcasters, Hot Tomato, SEN, Redwave, West Coast Broadcasters, EON Broadcasters, Resonate Broadcasters, Commercial Radio Australia and Screen Producers Australia.
This post updates.