Licence fees the original super profits tax: Fifield

As Communications MInisiter Mitch Fifield continues his public discussions about changes to media laws, today he held out the carrot of removing radio and tv licence fees as part of the proposed changes.

On Sky TV he told Graham Richardson:

“I entirely understand the argument of the Free-to-Airs. Licence fees were introduced in the late 1950s for radio and TV when there were no alternatives in terms of electronic media. It was, if you like, the original super profits tax.

“It’s a very different operating environment now. The networks are under competition, they’re challenged.

“We’ve indicated that we’ll examine the issue of licence fees in the context of the current budget, but obviously we’re in a tight budget situation at the moment. I can’t indicate one way or the other what will happen, but we have undertaken to examine licence fees.”

Asked about the ABC, Fifield told Richo:

“I think the ABC isn’t just once culture, it’s a big organisation and it has a whole range of cultures. I think the ABC Canberra press gallery has a culture which is very different to other parts of the organisation. I had an early experience, Graham, in terms of the community’s attitude toward the ABC when I became the Comms minister. I was on the Patricia Karvelas Drive program on Radio National and I said what I thought were fairly  reasonable and balanced things about the ABC. And the ‘Twitterverse’ on the left went berserk saying I was an ABC hater.

“And then a few nights later I was on Chris Kenny’s show on Sky and I said pretty much the same sorts of things and then the ‘Twitterverse’ on the right went berserk saying I was an ABC lover. So I got an early insight in
terms of community views of the ABC.

“But look I think the attitude of the public to the ABC is really a bit like that of being in a long term relationship. Sometimes you just can’t get enough. Sometimes you don’t want to be in the same room. But ultimately you keep coming back for more…

“I think one of the good things about the ABC’s independence is that any Member of Parliament can offer their views about the ABC without any fear of it being seen to compromise the independence of the organisation. So I think it is a good thing when colleagues express their views about the ABC. The ABC doesn’t always get it right. It gets a lot of things right but it also gets some things wrong…

“The public have a strong sense of ownership of the ABC which we saw at the end of last year when the ABC made some changes to regional radio. And often it’s been people in rural and regional Australia who have been the big defenders of the ABC. So the public have a strong sense of ownership, and it’s a good thing that people express their views about the organisation.”


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