Ten Network Holdings' chairman David Gordon has thrown his support behind the wholesale elimination of all pre-internet media laws, saying their piecemeal removal would only create more distortions in the media market.
Acknowledging that Ten has backed the removal of all ownership and control restrictions in the past on the basis that this would better enable media companies to compete, Gordon used his first address as chairman to argue that unless this is done in one fell swoop the government will only create more problems for free-to-air broadcasters.
Gordon, who became chairman of Ten in July, said the laws – such as the reach rule and the two-out-of-three-rule - were created decades ago and now simply serve to constrain Australian free-to-air networks while allowing digital global and domestic players to act regulation-free.
He contends that the continued relevance of the two-out-of-three rule is questionable with such a diversity of content delivery options provided via the internet.
“We are hopeful that the coming year finally sees the wholesale removal of these rules and not a piecemeal tinkering that will only create a new set of distortions and continue to impede our competitiveness,” said Gordon.
The Australian has recently suggested that Malcolm Turnbull would like to scrap the reach rule, along with television license fees, in the current parliamentary term, with a decision likely in November. However, other pre-internet laws may be left in place.
The reach rule stops TV networks broadcasting to more than 75% of the population while the two-out-of-three rule bars a single entity from controlling a commercial TV license, radio license and newspaper in the same area.
Turning to Ten's performance, Gordon said it is seeing the “beginning of a turnaround” but continues to operate in a “dynamic and challenging” environment where new technology and forms of content consumption are shifting viewing habits.
His call to action on media reform come less than two weeks after Fairfax Media's new chairman, Nick Falloon, also sent a clear message to shareholders that current media laws are “hindering the development of modern media for Australian consumers” and disadvantaging Australian broadcasters to the benefit of overseas competitors.
Falloon said Fairfax Media is strongly backing change and stands ready to take advantage of any new opportunities that arise.
On the same day, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman, Rod Sims, said that better media and intellectual property regulations can boost innovation, saying reviewing the media laws would be a good place to start if as a country we hope to drive innovation.
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