Did the government gamble on media reform? You bet!

Comment from Peter Saxon

It had been a long time coming. Then, finally on Saturday, Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield announced a media reform package that delivers much (not all) of what Australian main stream media (msm) have been lobbying for.

For radio, the biggest direct benefit in the package, yet to pass the Senate, is the abolition of license fees. In their place will be a smaller ‘spectrum fee’ which will result in net savings of around $20 million a year. But it came at a price by way of new restrictions on advertising for gambling before 8:30pm and during live sports coverage – reforms that Independent Senators Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie along with Labor were pushing for.

Earlier this year CRA CEO, Joan Warner told radioinfo that such restrictions would be “counterproductive and cannot be justified.”

However, after yesterday’s announcement from Senator Fifield, Ms Warner had adopted a more conciliatory tone saying “While we believe the concern is not with radio but with television and online, we do understand concerns of the community about gambling advertising and plan to revise our Code of Practice to incorporate the new requirements.”

Senator Fifield himself all but admitted the turnaround was due to a bit of old fashioned horse trading. In an answer to a journalist’s question on the topic he replied, “Well clearly for Free-To-Air broadcasters, they receive a benefit as a result of the abolition of licence fees and the introduction of a more modest spectrum charge.

 Even after we put in place these gambling advertising restrictions the Free-To-Air broadcasters will still be in a stronger position.”

Don’t you just love the way a free market economy works?


Peter Saxon

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