ACMA finds WIN owner Bruce Gordon in breach of media control and diversity rules

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 30 October 2019

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon breached media control and diversity rules in relation to his interests in the Prime Media Group Limited (Prime).

ACMA found that Gordon acquired a 11.59% shareholding in Prime on 29 April 2019. Together with his existing 14.99%, Gordon’s total company interests rose to 26.58%.

This placed the media mogul in a position to exercise control of commercial television licences held by subsidiaries of Prime until 24 May 2019, when he divested 43 million shares (11.73%).

Gordon was found to be in breach of the ‘one-to-a-market’ commercial television licence rule in eight separate licence areas during this time.

His interests also caused an unacceptable media diversity situation to occur, or to be worsened, in more than 40 licence areas.

Despite this, ACMA ruled that the breaches occurred as a result of actions taken by a third party that were contrary to his instructions and that, as a result, he could not reasonably have known that he was in breach of media laws.

The watchdog also noted that Gordon acted immediately to sell down his shareholding in Prime as soon as he became aware of the mistake.

Finally, the ACMA found no evidence to suggest that he took any actual steps to exercise control over Prime during this period.

“Media control and diversity rules exist so that Australians have access to a diverse range of voices in the media landscape. It is up to companies and individuals to ensure that they comply with these important rules at all times, especially where control occurs in more complex shareholding arrangements,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin says.

“Given the limited duration of the breaches and our satisfaction with the action to rectify the breaches, the ACMA will not take any further action on this matter."

Under the Broadcasting Services Act, a person is deemed to be in control of a media asset when they acquire in excess of 15% of a company which holds that asset. This is regardless of whether they can exert actual control over the asset, which is a separate test.

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