Ten chairman David Gordon has used the network's AGM to hit out at the plague of 'fake news' and called for social media platforms such as Facebook to be held accountable.
He also voiced ongoing concerns over the “old-fashioned” and prohibitive licence fees that the Australian television industry is subject to, calling on government to “urgently dismantle” current regulations that are making Australian media companies “less competitive in a global, converged market”.
He called fake news “lies and deception” and while he didn't single out Facebook by name, he said it is not acceptable for social media platforms and online businesses to claim they are unable to ensure the truth is delivered on their sites.
“For those businesses, as for ours, nothing less than the truth should be acceptable. More so, given the size of their audiences, their global impact and the fact that they are almost entirely unregulated, we should hold them to an even higher standard,” he says.
“If they choose to be media businesses, as they have, then they have a responsibility to their stockholders, to their employees, to their advertisers and to all of us – and we should all hold them accountable.”
When it comes to media reform, he was outspoken.
He pointed out that Australian broadcasters pay 115 times more than US counterparts when it comes to licence fees, and 20 times the UK, at 3.38% of gross advertising revenue.
He believes Australian media should be paying the equivalent of the UK – the most comparable market – which pays 0.18% of ad revenue in fees.
Investing in local content is “the most powerful weapon” Australian media and content producers have against global competitors, he says, but they are hamstrung due to high rates and fees, which gives international players, which do not have to pay them, an unfair leg up.
He said: “Global technology media companies are having a field day in Australia … they dominate digital advertising revenue growth, which continues at astonishing rates. They are unregulated. They currently pay little, if any, tax in Australia despite taking billions of advertising dollars out of this market every year. They fund little, if any, Australian content.
“They do not employ journalists or news crews and they do not provide training for Australians looking for a career in the industry. In some cases, they do not have a single employee in Australia. We want to be competitive and agile and innovative. We want that for our industry and for TEN’s shareholders, content and advertising partners, and staff. And we want a competitive Australia.
“We are not afraid of competition. We face fierce competitors every single day of the year – in the television industry and across the broader media and entertainment sector. We are not asking for special treatment. We are simply asking for fair rules and a level playing field, for a business environment in which all players are treated equally and an environment in which our local industry is not disadvantaged.”
“Meanwhile, TEN must compete with these players while continuing to pay this old-fashioned “super tax” on top of our corporate taxes and in addition to meeting heavy content obligations and complying with multiple layers of additional regulation that govern almost every aspect of our operation.”
The argument is not new, and government is in the process of addressing media reform. Earlier this month, Senator Mitch Fifield's proposals passed through the lower house of Parliament.
Gordon also outlined progress Ten has made in the year including “strong revenue growth in a soft television advertising market” and its first positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation since 2013.
The positive financials, he said, were achieved despite the “onerous and archaic” regulatory environment.
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