One small step for media reform

One small step for media reform

Long-awaiting reform of Australian media law is a step closer after a reform package passed the House of Representatives yesterday.

Successful passage through the Senate remains in doubt with the Labor Party and Greens previously expressing opposition to scrapping the “two-out-of-three” rule, a key element of the reforms.

This rule prevents any media owner from owning more than two mainstream media channels – newspapers, TV and radio – in one city.

Federal Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, described the reforms as “vital measures that will unshackle Australia’s media industry from redundant laws and allow it to respond to increasing international competition”.

The Liberal Senator said reforms would have passed in March if the Labor Party “took the challenges faced by Australia’s media seriously”.

Media reform has been widely debated, repeatedly delayed and the subject of two Senate committee hearings in the past year.

Chief executive of Fairfax Media, Greg Hywood, outlined the importance of reform during the most recent hearing in October.

He said shareholders might push Fairfax to invest in non-media assets as existing regulation stifled Fairfax’s ability to monetise content because of restriction on media asset ownership.

Scrapping the two-out-of-three law would allow Fairfax Media, for example, to merge with or invest in a TV network without having to divest its majority ownership in radio.

The company hasn’t announced intention to do this.

Fairfax already has a foot in TV’s door via its streaming service Stan, a joint-venture with Nine Entertainment Co

The media reforms also seek to abolish the reach rule, which prevents a single entity from controlling commercial TV licences that, when combined, reach more than 75 per cent of the population.

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