Nine Network boss Hugh Marks has called on any media reform bill to be deferred until licence fee cuts are looked at, hardening a previous position that changes to Australia's Broadcast Services Act should include fee reform.
Marks told the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee via a written submission that without tackling Australia's "onerous and unfair licence fees" any media reform bill would distort the market and have unintended consequences.
Previously, Nine has publicly offered conditional support for the bill that seeks to remove the 75% reach rule and two-out-of-three cross media ownership rule. Privately, all media executives at metropolitan commercial free-to-air networks regard licence fees as their number one area of reform.
Australian broadcasters have to cough up licence fees of 3.375% of their revenue for permission to use a range of radio frequency spectrum for broadcasting content. By global standards the fee is very, well above the 0.18% broadcast peers in the UK pay.
It puts Australian TV networks at a disadvantage to media companies that transmit via streaming, such as Netflix.
Nine's position, while not new, is likely to the test the patience of shareholders at Nine's new regional affiliate SCA. All three regional networks – SCA, Prime and WIN – urgently want the bill to find a passage though parliament as their business models are under severe strain from dwindling audiences and ad revenue.
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