The Turnbull Government has delivered the biggest reform to Australian media laws in nearly three decades. The government is strengthening Australia’s media industry, enhancing media diversity and securing local journalism jobs, particularly in regional areas.
These changes bring Australia’s outdated media laws into the 21st century. They now finally recognise the enormous disruption that has been caused by the Internet.
Australian media companies will now be better placed to compete with the big online media companies from overseas. The Australian media industry has been united in its support for these reforms and will now be given the fighting chance they need to secure their future. The package provides significant and permanent financial relief for Australia’s broadcasters, acknowledging the intense competition they face for audiences and advertising revenue, especially from online and on-demand operators.
The measures include:
· The abolition of broadcast licence fees and replacement with a more modest spectrum charge, providing close to $90 million per annum in ongoing financial relief to metropolitan and regional television and radio broadcasters;
· A substantial reduction in gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts, representing a strong community dividend with the establishment of a clear ‘safe zone’ for families to enjoy live sport;
· Abolition of redundant ownership rules that shackle local media companies and inhibit their ability to achieve the scale necessary to compete with foreign tech giants;
· Retention of diversity protections that ensure multiple controllers of television and radio licences as well as minimum numbers of media voices in all markets. These are the two-to-a-market rule for commercial radio, the one-to-a-market rule for commercial television, the requirement for a minimum of 5 independent media voices in metropolitan markets and a minimum of 4 independent media voices in regional markets, and the competition assessments made by the ACCC;
· Higher minimum local content requirements for regional television following trigger events, including introducing minimum requirements in markets across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the first time; and
· Reforms to anti-siphoning to strengthen local subscription television providers.
The Government will also implement a $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package including:
· A $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund;
· A Regional and Small Publishers cadetship program to support 200 cadetships; and
· 60 regional journalism scholarships.
Legislation will also be introduced by the end of this year to give effect to:
· A public register of foreign-owned media assets;
· The proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC’s focus on rural and regional Australia;
· A range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters;
· Include the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in Section 8 of the ABC Act and;
· A community radio package.
The Government thanks Australia’s media industry, including WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Nine, Seven, Ten, Fairfax, News Corp, Foxtel, Free TV, ASTRA and Commercial Radio Australia for supporting these reforms. The Government also thanks the crossbench for their constructive participation and commitment to ensure these reforms were passed in the Parliament, in particular, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team, Senator Derryn Hinch, Senator David Leyonhjelm, Senator Cory Bernardi and Senator Lucy Gichuhi.
Labor has once again opposed a Government reform that will secure local jobs and make Australia’s media industry more competitive. At no time did Labor present any alternatives of their own. They instead sought to defend media laws that were decades out of date.