Barely a week into the job and new Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is set to shake-up Australia’s media ownership laws and sports rights, something he calls “horse-and-buggy legislation in the 21st century”.
Speaking to Fairfax Media, the newly appointed Minister has said media ownership laws are set for a change, however, in bad news for the Murdoch family not before the next election due in about 12 months’ time.
“In terms of the media laws, it’s a bit like when people were talking in years gone by about how we can change railway gauges to better improve long-distance transport at a time when planes are starting to fly overhead,” Fifield said. The federal government is also currently examining Seven, Nine and Ten’s TV license fee which all agree is becoming prohibitively expensive in the face of a number of new competitors namely Netflix. Any reduction in fees would bring millions to the struggling operators’ bottom lines whose audience numbers and ad revenues are all flatlining.
When it came to sport – or the anti-siphoning laws – that dictate what events have to be shown live and free-to-air, Fifield was also suitably vague but agreed that they too would be examined and he would be consulting with the major players before making any decisions.
The networks – free-to-air and otherwise – now regard live sport as the number one way to attract viewers and the rights to air it have become hotly contested with broadcasters prepared to shell out mega-bucks to secure it.
“We do have a commitment that there are some national events that are of such significance that the Australian public would have an expectation that they would appear on free-to-air,” Fifield said.
“The whole question is, what are the national events that are on that list, and it’s not something that I’ve taken a close look at as yet – but I will be.”
Meanwhile, in a separate interview given to The Australian, Fifield has poured cold water on the idea that the new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was going to reinstate the ABC’s funding to pre-Abbott levels that saw Aunty lose some $254 million.
Fifield said that the ABC should be “be the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars and should look to be as efficient as it can be”.
Although probed, Fifield also declined to answer questions about the ABC’s aggressive online strategy that private players argue is creating an unfair playing field, is impacting their audiences and all funded by the Australian taxpayer.