With news yesterday the Turnbull Government had agreed to scrap the “reach” and “two out of three” media ownership rule, media giant News Corp has expressed its disappointment the Government is not currently looking at the anti-siphoning laws.
On Monday evening, the cabinet voted in favour of proposed changes to media ownership laws, the “reach” rule – where a media company cannot reach more than 75 per cent of the population – and the “two out of three” rule – where a media company cannot own more than two types of traditional media.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had proposed the laws be scrapped, given the wide perception they were hopelessly outdated, with the cabinet agreeing.
However, the proposition, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, did not include any changes to the anti-siphoning laws. The anti-siphoning laws dictate whether certain sports are aired on free-to-air or not.
News Corp – which recently bought the rights to the NRL for $1 billion – partly owns subscription TV service Foxtel, along with Telstra, so is understandably frustrated the laws of where sports are being aired aren’t being looked at yet.
Michael Miller, chariman of News Corp Australasia (pictured above), said in a statement: “We are disappointed that, despite the broad recognition that Australia’s media laws are outdated, the Government is proposing that only the reach and 2 out of 3 rules be changed.
“The fact that broader media reform issues such as the anti-siphoning regime are not part of the proposal makes it difficult to accept this as genuine media reform.
“It will be even more disappointing if at the end of the process only minimal changes were achieved.”
The Australian – which is owned by News Corp too – is reporting News Corp and Seven don’t believe the changes are being made quickly enough in the disruptive and changing digital landscape.
Fairfax Media however has said it welcomes the proposed changes in a statement: “Fairfax has consistently supported media law reform and welcomes Cabinet’s decision to remove outdated restrictions in the present legislation.”
Similarly APN News & Media is happy progress is being made.
“APN’s view on media reform has always been to ensure that the interests of the community content our regional print and digital assets provide are recognised and protected,” said CEO Ciaran Davis in a statement
“Regional media in Australia continues to provide a unique and valued news service to their communities and any further changes to media reform must be to the benefit of all.
“Regarding any proposed broadcast licence fee reduction, we are keen to see equal treatment between Radio and TV. Radio did not benefit from the previous reduction in fees in 2012 and as an industry, we remain in discussions with the Minister on this issue.”
With the TV networks, Seven West Media is in the same camp as News Corp – not happy.
“We said we were opposed to piecemeal reform and that hasn’t changed,” said CEO Tim Worner in a statement. “It’s hard to know what these changes will actually deliver to ordinary Australians. And very difficult to support this proposal in the absence of any moves to address the regulatory constraints that are jeopardising the future of Australian free-to-air broadcasting, particularly licence fees.”
And while Paul Anderson, chief executive of Network Ten welcomes reports the cabinet has appealed the rules, he said media convergence had “made a mockery” of the current laws.
“Convergence of media platforms has made a mockery of the existing laws, which only apply to terrestrial radio and TV channels and printed newspapers,” he said in a statement. “These laws belong in the history books, not the pages of a Broadcasting Act that is supposed to encourage a diverse, efficient, vibrant and competitive Australian media market.
“By arbitrarily preventing Australian media companies from becoming truly cross-platform, the rules are now actively hurting our efforts to compete for viewers and for advertising revenue with overseas-based technology companies that are exempt from local media regulation, don’t pay television licence fees, pay minimal corporate tax despite taking billions in advertising revenue in this market, and in some cases don’t have a single local employee.
“The removal of the ownership rules, and the abolition of the highest television licence fees in the world, are now urgent reforms and should be supported by anyone who wants to see a vibrant and diverse Australian media industry going forward.”
B&T has contacted Nine, Ten and APN News & Media for further comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication.