The federal government is calling its media reforms – finally passed by the senate late yesterday afternoon – as “the biggest reform to Australian media laws in 30 years”.
The Senate finally voted in favour of the package 31-27, which will return with amendments to be voted on in the House of Representatives next month.
Again, the reforms looked doomed before a last-minute deal was struck with the Xenophon party.
In exchange for Senator Xenophon’s support, the government has agreed to establish a $60.4 million fund for regional and small publishers and increased training for journalists.
The reforms will include the repeal of the reach rule which prevents a person exercising control of commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licence area exceeds 75 per cent of the population.
Repeal of the rule banning a media organisation or person controlling more than two-out-of-three platforms.
Limiting of gambling ads during live sports broadcasts and the abolition of broadcasting licence fees and datacasting charges will be abolished at a cost of $127 million in 2017/18 and then $97 million a year thereafter.
Industry body Free TV was one of the first media players to welcome the changes yesterday. “This is a significant win for Australians who love great local content, Australian stories and the thousands of Australians employed in telling them,” Free TV chairman, Mr Harold Mitchell said.
Seven West Media Chairman Kerry Stokes said: “These historic changes will give Australian media companies a real opportunity to compete with unregulated global players. That means a better future for local news and Australian stories.
“The Government and the Senate cross bench should be congratulated for their commitment to giving Australian media companies a fighting chance. I would like to thank Minister Fifield and Prime Minister Turnbull who have delivered a landmark change for our industry today,” Stokes said.
Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp, said: “These reforms are important. They will better enable the nation’s media operations, particularly in regional areas, to have certainty and invest in local communities and jobs in appropriate ways for a multi-platform digital age.”
Greg Hywood, chief executive of Fairfax Media, added: “It is no small feat having the sector united on what is the best legislative setting for the future. Fairfax acknowledges that there was broad support by the Senate crossbenchers.”
Nine CEO, Hugh Marks, continued the praise: “The changes in ownership laws provide more flexibility to media organisations to configure their businesses in a structure that allows greater efficiencies and flexibility to respond to audiences’ needs.”
Peter Tonagh, CEO of Foxtel, said: “This package will significantly increase the ability of Australian media companies to compete in an increasingly competitive world.”
Ten’s Paul Anderson added he was “relieved at the prospect of saying goodbye to the world’s highest licence fees and the antiquated ownership laws”.
Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer Joan Warner added: “This is a positive outcome that will bring Australia’s media laws into the digital age and help ensure local media has a chance to compete, evolve and grow.
“Radio broadcasters can now move ahead with much greater certainty and ability to invest in local content and innovation across areas such as digital radio, streaming and podcasting without the burden of broadcast licence fees. We look forward to continuing to produce and promote the millions of hours of Australian content provided by Australian commercial radio each year,” Worner said.