Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said he has “a lot of sympathy” for the argument that the 75% reach rule “is no longer relevant in today’s converged media world”.
Whether any changes to the rule will be presented to parliament depends on the outcome of a bipartisan parliamentary committee. With Turnbull’s backing, this element of Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s otherwise largely derided changes may well find support.
However Senator Conroy has made it clear that he won’t negotiate on the reforms and, as such, the 75% rule may not be passed separately to the other changes, including a new public interest test that any merger in the media sector would be subject to.
So while it may appear that the changes to the rule may not take place in this parliamentary sitting, the medium-term prospect of the rule being relaxed appear good. Particularly if there is a change of government.
When questioned over what conversations he had had with media owners on the subject recently Turnbull said: “I’ve been associated with media proprietors for a very long time – for well over 30 years. Well over 30 years. Can I just say they all make a powerful case for their own commercial self interest. They all claim to speak for the public interest. And sometimes their commercial interest and the public interest coincide. Sometimes they don’t. And it’s the job of this place, and Governments and legislators to stay in touch with everybody, take everybody’s point of view on board and then make decisions based on the interests of the public.”