TV Network bosses demand Government quickly pass media reform legistation
TV Network bosses have today welcomed the reintroduction to parliament of media reform legislation designed to improve the flexibility of traditional Australian media operators in dealing with an increasingly changing broadcast and publishing landscape.
If approved, the legislation will see the scrapping of the reach rule – which currently bans mergers between metro and regional outlets.
The media reform legislation will also see the end of the 'two-out-of-three' rule which prevents media firms from controlling more than two media platforms, such as commercial radio, commercial television and newspaper – in the same radio licence area.
While media bosses had been requesting the legislation pass quickly through Parliament, Labor senators have today requested a 10 week detailed exploration of the bill, before it can be reintroduced into the Lower House.
Commenting on the legistation, Ten Network Chief Executive Officer, Paul Anderson, said:
“The Parliament has a simple choice: get behind the Australian media companies that are investing in local content and local jobs and give us a fair chance to compete, or continue to give our big tech competitors a free ride by strangling local media companies.
“The only way to ensure media diversity in Australia is to have strong, viable local media companies and the existing rules are a real threat to that. The foreign-owned tech companies have demonstrated that they are not interested in any meaningful investment in local content or local news, so we need our local voices to remain strong.
“In order to compete, local media companies need to grow, transform and leverage content across multiple platforms, and the current laws – combined with the onerous tax of the world’s highest television licence fees – are arbitrarily stopping us from doing that,” he said.
“By holding us back, these rules are giving the foreign tech giants a major competitive advantage and that is on top of arrangements that mean they pay minimal tax on revenue earned in Australia.
“We are yet to hear any rational argument in favour of keeping the two out of three rule, which only applies to three offline media platforms and doesn’t even recognise the existence of the internet. It is illogical and antiquated and threatens local diversity by constraining Australian media companies in our efforts to grow and compete,” Mr Anderson said.
“We are disappointed that we now face another extended 10-week inquiry into the Bill. After years of debate and discussion we urgently need the Parliament to get behind local voices and give us fairer rules and certainty around the regulatory framework. The existing media rules have to go, and quickly.”
WIN Network CEO Andrew Lancaster said the legislation was pivotal for ensuring domestic companies could compete on an equal footing with foreign-owned tech companies that are increasingly prevalent in the digital era and it needed to be passed as a matter of urgency.
“We are encouraged that the government understands the challenges faced by all Australian media, and regional media in particular, in this digital age,”
“The WIN Network has always been committed to providing a strong local voice for regional Australians through its news services and regionally produced shows but we need a level playing field in order to be able to compete effectively with outlets that are not restricted by our laws.
“It is time for all politicians to come together, to put aside personal agendas and party politics in the interest of providing the best services possible for regional Australian audiences. The current pre-digital rules are outdated and restrictive and threaten the overall sustainability of the Australian media industry.
“The Reach Rule, the 2 out of 3 rule and those who are looking to keep them in place are ignoring the existence of the Internet and the diversity of voice and increased media competition that the Internet brings. Traditional regional media are the ones that invest in local content and jobs so we ask that Government allow us to do our job in an equitable marketplace.
“We have had enough reviews of the laws. It’s time to make a stand and allow us to grow and compete equally. We are calling on regional politicians, no matter what party they represent, to be vocal of their support of the reform.”
Chairman of PRIME Media Group, John Hartigan, said:
“We have spent a number of years detailing and explaining the significant structural challenges faced by the regional television industry to many Federal members and senators. We hope that the time has come when they will finally take action.”
“If these reforms are not passed, the Federal parliamentarians who chose to stand in the way of reform need to be prepared to accept the blame for less diversity, the value erosion of Australian media companies and the loss of hundreds of jobs”.
“Free to air television is an important service, especially in regional Australia, where many viewers rely on us for their local advertising, news, sport and entertainment. We urge all parliamentarians to work together and consider what is in the best interests of regional Australia, which deserves a viable and vibrant media sector,”
PRIME Media Group CEO, Ian Audsley, added:
“While Australian-built media companies remain subject to pre-internet rules that are clearly well past their use-by date, international tech giants like Google and Facebook are running rampant.”
“There are two big winners from years of navel gazing and inertia on media reform in this country, and they are Google and Facebook. Their upside is absolutely at the cost of all Australian media businesses,” Mr Audsley said.
Mr Audsley said, “Companies like Google and Facebook are unregulated, pay no licence fees, have no Australian content obligations and no advertising restrictions.”
“It is unfathomable that any member of the Federal parliament would find it acceptable that Australian media businesses continue to operate under these conditions on home soil.”
Southern Cross Austereo CEO, Grant Blackley, said:
“SCA welcomes re-introduction of legislation to reform archaic media ownership rules in Australia and urges the Senate and its Committees to consider the Bill as urgently as possible.
“I call on the Government, Labor and the cross-bench Senators to work together to pass the Bill this year. Rules that were put in place in the days before the internet, pay TV, google, facebook and youtube have no place in today’s media landscape and are holding back regional media businesses.
“People living in regionalAustralia who want to see free to air television complete with local content will be best served by strong media companies unencumbered by these outdated restrictions.”