Government closes in on media reform deal with Xenophon

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 13 September 2017
Nick Xenophon.

After months of horsetrading, the government appears close to finding a passage for its stalled media reforms package to pass through the Senate as it closes in on a deal with senate powerbroker Nick Xenophon.

The Australian reports a deal has been secured while the Australian Financial Review says the senate powerbroker is holding out for more cash.

The deal requires the government to set up an ‘innovation fund’ to support independent and regional news outlets that invest in journalism cadetships and equipment.

The measures are designed to strengthen regional newsrooms amid fears repealing the two-out-of-three cross media ownership rule could trigger a wave of consolidation in regional areas.

The Australian says a deal was finalised late last night after the Coalition’s backbench communications committee agreed to Xenophon’s concessions, which it reports will cost $20 million to $30 million.

Fairfax Media says the government has put on the table $36 million over three years but Xenophon is holding out for more.

The fund can be used to support small domestic news outlets such as The Saturday Paper rather than the Australian arm of global media organisations like The Guardian or The New York Times.

The support of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) adds three more senators to four from One Nation, and two independents in Derryn Hinch and Lucy Gichuhi.

The government needs one more independent with David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi previously indicating they support the package in principle but want to see what concession the government makes before committing.

Jacqui Lambie has said she won’t support the bill after the government’s deal with One Nation included measures targeting the ABC.

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