Full details of the media reform package

Small and regional publishers will get subsidies to employ journos and commercial broadcasters will have their licence fees abolished.

Community radio may get a funding package as a result of the media reforms and the ABC may have additional provisions inserted into its charter to ensure ‘fairness and balance,’ both subject to further legislation being introduced.

All these and more will flow from the media law changes passed today in the Senate. A full list of the reforms, which are expected to pass the House of Reps in a few weeks when Parliament resumes, is below.

Not everyone is happy about the reforms. Some commentators say it will give more power to media magnates such as Rupert Murdoch, who will be able to control more traditional media outlets, while others think the reforms will unshackle media companies so they can compete more effectively in the media age.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance chief executive officer Paul Murphy had mixed feelings about the package: “Any initiative to support new investment in journalism is welcome, but it should not come at the price of existing safeguards being removed,” he said.

Labor Senator Penny Wong says it is “pretty clear that the deal being done with One Nation is about attacking and gutting the ABC.” 

Community Broadcasting Association CEO Jon Bisset has thanked the Government, Australian Labor Party, Nick Xenophon Team, Senator Hinch, Senator Lambie, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Australian Greens for their support of community broadcasting. 

The expected additional funding of approximately $12 million promised to the sector as part of the media reforms will support community digital radio, enhanced community radio news services, streaming services and training, as well as the extension of licensing for community television.

Bisset has told radioinfo: “Access to diverse media is a cornerstone of an open society, strong democracy and vibrant culture… Local content production gives a platform for sharing local voices and stories critical to building strong communities.”

Lifting of the ownership laws are not as absolute as first thought. As mentioned in the 4th point in the outline below, which talks about “retention of diversity protections,” there will still be limits on ownership based on share of voice, which will serve to protect smaller markets from being ‘owned’ by one proprietor. For example, in Sydney, where there are two major newspaper groups, Fairfax and News Limited, the Murdoch owned News Limited could now own Channel Ten and Nova, as well as The Australian and The Daily Telegraph, because there is more than one of each media group in the city. However, in Adelaide, there is only one major newspaper, The Advertiser, so the Murdoch family could not own both a tv and a radio station in that market, but could own one of those media.


Full details of the measures in the bill are outlined in a statement made this evening by the Prime Minister and the Communications Minister:

  • The abolition of broadcast licence fees and replacement with a more modest spectrum charge, providing close to $90 million per annum in ongoing financial relief to metropolitan and regional television and radio broadcasters;
  • A substantial reduction in gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts, representing a strong community dividend with the establishment of a clear ‘safe zone’ for families to enjoy live sport;
  • Abolition of redundant ownership rules that shackle local media companies and inhibit their ability to achieve the scale necessary to compete with foreign tech giants;
  • Retention of diversity protections that ensure multiple controllers of television and radio licences as well as minimum numbers of media voices in all markets. These are the two-to-a-market rule for commercial radio, the one-to-a-market rule for commercial television, the requirement for a minimum of 5 independent media voices in metropolitan markets and a minimum of 4 independent media voices in regional markets, and the competition assessments made by the ACCC;
  • Higher minimum local content requirements for regional television following trigger events, including introducing minimum requirements in markets across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the first time; and
  • Reforms to anti-siphoning to strengthen local subscription television providers.

The Government will also implement a $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package including:

  • A $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund;
  • A Regional and Small Publishers cadetship program to support 200 cadetships; and
  • 60 regional journalism scholarships.

Legislation will also be introduced by the end of this year to give effect to:

  • A public register of foreign-owned media assets;
  • The proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC’s focus on rural and regional Australia;
  • A range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters;
  • Include the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in Section 8 of the ABC Act and;
  • A community radio package.