The 75% reach rule is likely to be abolished with a parliamentary committee recommending its removal. The move will open up potential mergers between regional and metro networks.
The reach rule is the only piece of the federal government's proposed media legislation to have survived. The committee said it recommended its removal as long as there was accompanying legislation or conditions which ensured the safeguard of local content in regional areas.
The committee said it believed abolishing the rule would not likely put at risk local news programs if they attracted large audiences. It added there was evidence there was demand for local news in regional markets.
The committee said it received evidence about two clear benefits of removing the rule: allowing regional and metropolitan networks to merge, driving greater efficiencies, and more consistent regulation in relation to converging technology and media.
Currently, Seven West Media reaches 73.8% of the TV audience, followed by Ten which reaches 66.7%. During submissions to the committee, WIN, Ten and Seven did not support removing the rule at this time while Prime, Nine and Southern Cross were for it.
There was strong speculation Nine and Southern Cross would merge if the reach rule removal was successful but has since died off. However, the possibility of a Nine merger with WIN has been floated.
The Convergence Review released last year found while Australians were still sourcing news and information from the same organisations, the internet had reduced the relevance of the 75% reach rule.
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