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Michelle Rowland sworn in as new Communications Minister

Australia has a new minister leading regulation in the screen sector.

Michelle Rowland M.P. has been sworn in as the new Communications Minister under PM Anthoyn Albanese.

Replacing Paul Fletcher, she has previously been shadow communications minister in opposition.

“It is an honour to be sworn in as Minister for Communications and to serve the Australian people under an Albanese Labor Government,” she said.
“This portfolio has the potential to further enable an Australia where connectivity and content enriches our quality of life, informs us, drives productivity and empowers us to fulfil our potential. I am dedicated to ensuring Australians, in our cities and regions, are united and connected. Now, let’s get to work”

In the lead up to the election Labor made the following points on these key issues.

ABC:

Labor will never privatise the ABC.

We understand that the idea of privatising public broadcasting is an oxymoron. And we understand that the staff of the ABC – the journalists, writers, presenters, creatives whose job it is to entertain, inform and educate Australians, should be able to do their jobs without fear:

-of being raided by police simply because they have embarrassed the government of the day,
-of having their funding cut,
-of having vendetta-style legislation introduced into Parliament because of an investigative report,
-of having a threatening letter sent to the Board because the Government didn’t like a program,
-or having their tweets pored over at Senate Estimates by so-called liberals who only support free speech when it’s the stuff they want to hear.

In the face of political, social and economic instability at home and abroad, we must ensure that Australia’s instruments of nation building, democracy and culture remain strong now and into the future.

That’s why we’ve announced that, if elected, an Albanese Labor Government will do the following:

    • Grant five-year funding terms to the national broadcasters, to provide much-needed stability.
    • Review options for delivering a greater level of financial stability and certainty to the national broadcasters to safeguard against arbitrary ideological cuts and political interference.
    • Reverse Scott Morrison’s cut of $83.7 million.
    • Provide an additional funding of $32 million for ABC International for broadcasting in the Indo-Pacific.
    • Examine the reintroduction of shortwave radio.
    • Conduct a feasibility study into the expansion of Double J on radio.

Community television:

Community television is a vibrant part of Australia’s media which is why Labor has fought attempts by the Liberal National government to boot it off air.

Community TV adds to media diversity, local news and content, supports local businesses and community organisations and provides a much-needed training ground for the journalists, producers and the industry talent of the future.

Labor moved a successful motion in the Senate calling for Community TV to be kept on air and helped force the Government to extend the broadcast licences for three more years, which now expire in mid-2024.

Labor will keep Community TV stations Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide on air until there is an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum they occupy, to ensure efficient use of this finite, scarce and valuable resource.

Children’s TV:

As children’s content producers, we are businesses that move with the times. We recognise that our audiences have shifted their viewing to include VOD platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and Apple and welcome the opportunities this shift provides. We strongly support a progressive outlook for Australian children’s content in an evolving on-demand world and we agree with the Federal Government on the need for policy change that supports a market driven approach to the sector.

But in abolishing the Free To Air quotas for children’s content, with no corresponding legislation in place for the streamers or other adjustments, the Federal government has left the sector stranded.

Anti Siphoning List:

My passion for Australian TV content is not confined to drama and news. It includes sport – and for anyone who enjoys watching Meg Lanning play cricket the lines between art and sport can at times be blurred. Sport on our TV screens is a hugely significant part of the Australian way of life for millions of our fellow citizens. But these cultural touchstones being broadcast for free across our vast continent are not guaranteed.

The anti-siphoning list holds an important place in the Australian broadcasting landscape because it should be a guardrail ensuring free to air broadcasters, and thus Australians, have access to significant sporting moments. Imagine Cathy Freeman’s Sydney Olympics 400 metre final behind a paywall. Or John Aloisi’s winning penalty against Uruguay in 2005, sending Australia to a World Cup, being confined to pay per view. Or, of course, if the Parramatta Eels’ inevitable 2021 Grand Final victory was only broadcast on Fox or Kayo.

These are culturally significant events for the vast majority of Australians, and they should be accessible to all Australians.

Local Content Quotas:

Labor supports the local jobs Hollywood productions bring – but they mustn’t come at the expense of our local creators and our local stories. The Government has been reviewing the screen content rules for over four years.
Meanwhile Labor has been calling on the Government to “Make It Australian” and apply Australian content obligations to streaming services like Netflix.

Meanwhile, Screen Producers Australia CEO, Matthew Deaner, welcomed the appointments at a pivotal time for the Australian screen sector.

“As a priority, SPA is looking to our new government to implement a robust and comprehensive regulatory framework for streaming platforms, to safeguard a long term and ongoing commitment to Australian screen culture and industry and to ensure the creation and retention of Australian intellectual property,” he said.

“Both Ministers Burke and Rowland have a deep understanding and passion for our creative industries and we look forward to working with them closely to develop successful and balanced policy outcomes for our sector.

“SPA is optimistic that the newly elected Albanese Government will bring renewed vigour to the creative industries which profile our culture, character and diversity as well as generate tens of thousands of jobs and billions of economic value for Australia,” said Deaner.

Bridget Fair, Free TV CEO, said, “I have valued the consistent engagement we have had with Minister Rowland during her time as Shadow Minister and we look forward to working with her in this important portfolio.

“Minister Rowland has extensive experience as Shadow Minister and a background in communications, law, and broadcasting policy, which will be greatly valued in this role as the media industry continues to develop and change in the coming years.

“While audience viewing habits are evolving, Australian content, and trusted Australian news and information, continue to play a key part in Australian society”.

6 Responses

  1. Paul Fletcher – egged on by his mates at the Networks – all but destroyed Kid’s TV – particularly all those ‘cheaper’ shows that provided employment for a myriad of talent and studio crews etc. Then gave the ACTF a wad of money to basically become the gatekeeper of kids TV in this country. If you’re not in with them, well, good luck with that.

    Hopefully this Government re-instates some form of policy to encourage lower-end kids TV production and remove the almost-monopoly the ACTF has over development and production.

  2. … everyone seems to forget that it was an ALP communications minister, Stephen Conroy, who, in his response his own department’s Convergence Review in 2012 told the community stations that they would no longer have the use of the current digital channel after the end of 2014, it just fell to Turnbull to actually implement it … also the history of infighting through the various incarnations of Sydney’s community station and the spending like a drunken sailor of Perth’s maybe had something to do with why they no longer exist!!!

  3. Great news for community television, however the age old debate about the ABC being privatised is just nonsense.
    It’s true Coalition governments expect a tighter run ship at the ABC when in power but you’d think after 9 years in government surely if they wanted to privatise it they would have in that time.

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