news The Coalition Government has reintroduced its media reform bill to parliament, a move aimed to support the Australian media organisations in the face of increasing competition from less regulated services such as Internet sites.
“Australians are changing the way they access media and our laws must adapt to these trends,” said Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield.
Current regulations, he said, “unfairly restrict” Australia-based broadcast and publishing companies from “optimising the scale and scope” of their operations and from accessing resources, capital and management expertise that are available to other media operators.
“Domestic media operators must have the flexibility to compete and adapt in the changing media landscape,” the Senator said.
A near identical media reform package was introduced in March of this year. According to the Minister, the legislation has already been subjected to “significant scrutiny” during a comprehensive Senate Committee inquiry conducted between March and May 2016.
The reintroduced legislation has been amended to address a “minor issue” identified by the Committee, which now recommends that the legislation be passed.
This new legislation will result in “major changes” to the regulations governing the control and ownership of Australia’s traditional media outlets and the provision of local television content in regional Australia, Fifield said.
Notably, the bill will repeal media ownership and control rules that prevent an individual from controlling commercial television licences whose combined licence area populations reach more than 75% of the Australian population (the “reach rule”).
Also to be repealed is the rule stopping people from controlling more than two of the three regulated forms of media (commercial radio, commercial television and associated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”).
The reforms will also strengthen local content obligations on regional commercial television licensees following a change in control, such as a merger, that results in them being part of a group with combined licence area populations of more than 75% of the Australian population, according to the Minister.
The government will, however, maintain other diversity rules including the “5/4” rule, the “one-to-a-market” rule and the “two-to-a-market” rule.
Additionally, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will retain its powers to scrutinise mergers and acquisitions, and is currently updating its media merger guidance accordingly.
Fifield concluded by saying that the government “does not support any further review of the package”, noting the “extensive debate” the issue has undergone in recent years.
“Australian media companies, regional local content and jobs are at risk if these reforms are not enacted soon,” he said.
Image credit: Parliamentary broadcasting