The Turnbull government looks set to make good on its promise to overturn the existing “two out of three” rule for media ownership which, in turn, could start an avalanche of take-overs and new players come 2016.
The rule – which doesn’t allow a media company to own print, TV and radio in the same space – was first introduced back in the 80s. It has been argued that the rule bought more fairness and impartiality to reporting but most media companies argue it’s had its day and deters investors and expansion.
As reported by B&T on Monday, the rule has been in the government’s crosshairs for some time and seems to be of particular interest to the former communications minister come prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
According to reports in The Australian this morning, communications minister Mitch Fifield met with cabinet ministers on Monday evening to canvass support for wholesale changes to Australia’s media laws that most agree are desperately in need of revision in this new digital era.
However, there has been concern from some Coalition politicians whose seats are in regional areas that media – particularly regional TV stations – could be bought-up and the local content diluted and newsrooms closed. It is thought that any new legislation would only get passed if there was a guarantee that local content was protected.
The new laws could bring a whole raft of new scenarios with overseas players reportedly particularly keen to snap up some bargains with the Aussie dollar so low.
Some of the more likely scenarios would be Bauer buying Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), Nine Entertainment merging with Fairfax Media (and even SCA too), and the News-owned Foxtel buying Network Ten. Again, a lot of the regional players would be highly prized by the likes of News, Seven and Nine.
It’s unlikely that any new legislation would be put to parliament before the first quarter of 2016 and even then it would most likely need to be backed by Labor to get through the senate. It appears the opposition is warming to changes to the laws – something it was averse to do during the Rudd-Gillard years – but has publicly stated that it won’t say “yay” or “nay” until it sees the government’s proposal in full.