Commercial free-to-air networks have jumped on the release of the Federal Government’s latest research paper on media ownership, which could see the ‘reach rule’ relaxed and pave the way for consolidation.
The Department of Communications’ said removing the 75% reach rule could lead to a consolidation but that it is “’unlikely to result in a substantial reduction in the number of commercial television broadcasters”.
Seven declined to comment but Ten took the opportunity to brand the rule as belonging “to the last century” and Nine said its removal is “critical” to broadcasting’s future.
A Nine spokesperson said: “Nine welcomes the report , and notes there was a bipartisan report from the last parliament unanimously recommending the removal of the reach rule. We believe removal of the rule is critical to the future of broadcasting and regional broadcasting in particular , and we will work with government throughout their consultation process.”
Hamish McLennan, executive chairman and chief executive officer of Ten, said: “The government’s paper confirms that the current media control and ownership rules belong to the last century.
“They are outdated, ineffective and anti-competitive. They prevent homegrown media companies from competing with online behemoths whose growing global dominance is unfettered by regulation, or local tax laws. They inhibit local players from truly taking on the internet giants in this market. They also prevent commercial media companies from growing as the ABC is allowed to do across multiple platforms.
“Today, media companies must be truly cross-platform in order to be sustainable. The current media control and ownership rules arbitrarily prevent that from happening fully. They threaten media diversity, production of local content and local jobs. They must be repealed urgently.
“The paper recognises the financial headwinds that Australia’s news organisations are facing and which are resulting in heavy job losses in newsrooms across the industry, including at Ten Network, Seven Network and Fairfax Media. These job losses underline the urgent need to fix the media sector’s discriminatory regulatory settings.”