Media chiefs to lobby reform package

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 30 August 2016
Communications minister Mitch Fifield (

The media industry's top brass will descend upon Canberra this week to negotiate the government's media reform package as the Coalition reintroduces the bill to parliament either today or tomorrow.

The bill has the support of the Coalition party room and partial support from Labor, which agrees with abolishing the 75% reach rule, but has not made its mind up on two-out-of-three cross-media ownership controls that prevent media barons from controlling a free-to-air TV station, radio station and newspaper in a single market.

Labor's position is that they would like an independent review into media ownership controls amid fears that concentrating ownership could affect diversity.

Labor has suggested splitting the bill to allow the reach rule to be dismantled urgently, which prevents metropolitan TV networks from merging operations with regional affiliates.

However, on Monday communications minister Mitch Fifield ruled out this option, telling The Guardian the media has more diversity than ever before from new market entrants such as The Guardian, Daily Mail and others.

Should Labor stand firm, the senate crossbench will hold the keys to ensuring the bill's passage, with the likes of Nick Xenophon, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch all set to meet industry leaders this week.

Few are likely to oppose the package in principle, but Xenophon could push for further restrictions on gambling advertising on free-to-air TV, which is an issue he has lobbied for intensively.

The Australian reports that media bosses from News Corp, Fairfax Media, Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment Co, Foxtel and the regional networks will head to the capital to plead their case.

All of the free-to-air TV networks will be lobbying for urgent changes to TV licence fees and other content regulation requirements they regard as a burden when competing with unregulated streaming video on demand players such as Netflix, Stan and Presto.

Previously, Seven West Media Tim Worner told a senate committe he would oppose any package that didn't incude licence fee reform. 

ASTRA chief executive Andrew Maiden told AdNews, in an interview that run this week, the subscription TV industry held a similar position and that a piecemeal approach to media reform was undesirable.

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