Labor’s broadcasting policy has no vision: Coonan

Communications Minister Helen Coonan is expected to announce the Coalition’s communications policy next week, but it has not stopped her having a go at Labor’s policy, released this week.

She has told radioinfo Labor’s broadcasting policy makes “motherhood statements” on community radio and demonstrates Labor has “no vision” for media and broadcasting in

Coonan says Labor prefers “to fence-sit, adopt Government policy or make rash position statements without consulting the industry or the community.”

Releasing a detailed criticism of the Labor policy Senator Coonan says:

“Labor has apparently only just discovered ‘convergence’ and the challenges that it presents for regulating media and broadcasting in Australia. Unlike Labor, the Government is ahead of the game on issues to do with convergence and
has a number of reviews already underway as well as plans to merge the Australian
Broadcasting Authority and Australian Communications Authority to create a new
regulator – the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

“It is pleasing to see that Labor will support the merger as well as the Government’s
reviews into digital television, although I see that Labor is still too afraid to express its real
position on a fourth commercial television licence in Australia.

“Labor has called for the reviews to be open to the public obviously unaware the reviews
are already open to the public and have in fact been taking public submissions for quite
some time.

“Yet again we have a Labor policy with no costings and vague motherhood commitments to
anything from community radio to media ownership. Reading this broadcasting policy is
like reading Labor’s IT policy which has been described as like ‘flipping through a K-mart
catalogue’ (Zdnet 21 September 2004).

“Labor says it will maximise Australian investment and employment in the media sector
and that it will prevent excessive concentration of media ownership in Australia. It
supports retention of the cross media ownership laws but supports a relaxation of the
foreign ownership restrictions.

“So how does Labor maximise Australian investment in the media sector by lifting foreign
ownership restrictions? This would seriously disadvantage our own media companies by
allowing new overseas investment in our media sector and preventing Australian media
companies from competing.

“And Labor says it will give incumbent radio broadcasters digital spectrum on a cost
recovery basis. What does this mean? Does it mean they will charge the broadcasters the
$500 million plus the spectrum’s worth? If not, will the cost of that spectrum be reflected
in Labor’s costings?

“Labor also says it will ‘kick-start’ digital television with no outline of how and no
recognition of the fact that around 90 per cent of Australians already have access to digital TV, and it will make changes to the anti-siphoning laws without any consultation with

“It is irresponsible and foolish to change a complex regime without consultation.”

The Coalition’s broadcasting policy release next week “will continue our
strong commitment and long-term plan for the media and broadcasting sectors in
Australia,” according to Coonan.