Mitch Fifield: Media Law is stuck like a faulty dial on an old analogue TV

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has addressed the National Press Club pointing the finger at Senators trying to undermine his media degregulation bill.

“Now that the Government has announced this reform package, attention rightly turns to its passage through the Parliament. The Government has responded to the Opposition and the crossbench who have asked for an opportunity to examine the detail by referring the legislation to a Senate inquiry. This is underway. It is clear from the public comments others have made that there is broad support for the removal of the reach rule (it prevents networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population) and for the local content protections the Government has proposed.
But there is hesitation in some quarters about removal of the 2 out of 3 rule (prohibiting proprietors from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market) on the grounds that it remains an important diversity protection. I find this a difficult argument to understand. What is the justification for keeping a rule that pretends there are only three media platforms?”

The Senator reinforced the need for media reform by taking a trip down memory lane.

“I wonder how many of you remember 1987?

Senator Fifield went on to remind us about Kylie Minogue having a hit with The Locomotion in that year and Alan Border leading Australia to victory in he cricket world cup.

“1987 was a long time ago. Yet much of the law that governs our media organisations today dates back to that year.

 Why retain a rule that pretends the Internet doesn’t exist? Why on earth would some Australian politicians hold our own companies hostage to rules that do not apply to their international competitors? We must give our Australian media companies the chance to compete against the global media giants they are now up against”.

Adding, “They are a relic of a bygone era. They were designed for a media environment that no longer exists.

And the environment today, driven by the choices consumers are making, is very different to that which existed back in 1987″.
·        Close to half of all Australians actually identify online sources of news, including social media, as their main source of news.
·        At the end of 2015, major mastheads reach over 50 per cent of their audiences via their website or app in an average week.
·        Online-only or predominantly online sources which compete for Australian readers now include many with which we are all familiar.

“It is not governments or legislation that are driving these changes. It is consumers. Everyday Australians who are voting with their swiping fingers for a digital world where challenges are outweighed by opportunities“, said the Senator.
“We all have an interest in a robust, flexible and profitable media sector which provides the independent news and commentary vital for our society.
The Government’s package of reforms will provide much-needed flexibility for our media organisations to continue to fulfil this role, which is good news for you, good news for consumers and particularly good news for regional Australia.

Unfortunately in media law some things have been stuck for a long time. Like a faulty dial on an old analogue TV.”


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