Cross Media Laws – joint regional submission:

RG Capital Radio, Rural Press and WIN Television presented a joint statement to the Senate ahem Committee enquiring into the Media Ownership Bill this week. For the first time in Australian media history the companies formed an alliance to make the joint submission, believing the debate has so far been too focused on metropolitan media.

The submission asked for three things:

First, that the committee “carefully consider the views of the many thousands of voters in your respective States who live outside of capital cities and are entitled to local programming.”

Second, that any new law should “create a regional specific media ownership regime which allows regional media organisations to grow and remain local so as to continue to deliver local programming services to regional and rural communities around Australia.”

Third, that the Committee recommend to the Parliament “that the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2002 be withdrawn and amended to give effect to the public policy measures outlined in our submission.”

The submission said:

“If regulatory arrangements are not changed to allow these companies to grow, it is highly likely there will be:
– significant job losses in regional and rural areas of Australia as local inputs, including news services, are wound back or cut completely – with a flow-on multiplier effect on country towns (retail spending, clubs, schools, services etc),
– this means a decline in vital local information, entertainment and commercial opportunities for Australian regional and rural communities.

The increase in significant social problems in regional and rural areas requires a local medium that reflects local community attitudes.

The three companies before you today believe that the fundamentals for a rural and regional media policy should be as follows:

1. Cross media ownership restrictions should not apply to regional and rural media.

2. Cross media ownership in regional markets should be allowed without restriction.

3. Government policy should encourage and foster the provision of local news programming through rebates against license fees and taxes, for companies who employ local people to provide and present news and information in regional and rural areas.

4. Foreign ownership across all media should not be opposed.

5. Cross media expansion in regional markets should not be conditional on minimum levels of localism. Cross media expansion is essential if regional media are to continue to provide a comprehensive and relevant service (including local news) to their community. Making it conditional on news quotas will discourage regional media from cross media expansion while ignoring the viability issues at the heart of local news provision.”

Representatives from each company were Rhys Holleran (RG Capital Radio), Brian McCarthy (Rural Press) and John Rushton (WIN Television Network).