Officially opening the CRA Conference, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield talked about his failed attempt to get into radio early in his career.
I went to 2UE to try and get a job and Rod Spargo said to me, “if every fibre of your being doesn’t want to rip the microphone from the person on air at the moment, you’re not suited to this job.”
John Conde was even more direct with career advice for Fifield. “You look like a good young man, go and do something useful with your life,” he was told.
“Hopefully I have done that,” said the man who now controls the legislative fate of Australia’s media industry.
Fifield says radio has a strong and vibrant future. He recognised the important role radio plays in informing the public, with a humourous acknowledgement to former radio presenter, now Senator Derryn Hinch.
“As a politician it always pays to make time to talk to the presenters on radio… you never know, one of them might end up being a Senate colleague… a big shout out to Derryn.”
Fifield acknowledged radio’s resilience, noting that this year is the fourth consecutive year of revenue growth, and that audiences are also up.
“Commerical radio is holding its ground and this is a testament to everyone in this room. But holding your ground into the future, with so much competition and new technology will require radio businesses to be ever more innovative.
“Part of that responsibility rests with government, so we want to make sure our media laws allow the industry to move forward.”
As part of the modernization of media laws Fifield has asked ACMA to plan for switching from AM to FM for regional services.
“New technology brings new opportunities and perhaps digital radio is one of the big examples of this,” said Fifield, noting that 3.6 million people listen to digital radio each week.
“The government is facilitating the roll out of digital radio to regional areas where it is economically viable to do so.”
He also recognized CRA’s role in bringing digital radio into smartphones: “CRA continues to innovate in the digital space with the LG Smartphone interface. It has been LG’s biggest selling smartphone.”
“Social media is also a very active platform for radio, with one in five people who follow radio stations actively commenting and sharing radio content on social media,” he said.
His key focus as minister is “to keep our media laws reflecting the changes in media… Reducing licence fees recognizes the changes happening in the digital environment and increased financial pressure on our broadcasters, whose main competitors pay no licence fees.”
The Australian government has promised to reduced radio fees by 25%, with legislation for the reduction currently before parliament. The radio industry will get a reduction of about $5 million dollars on its licence fees, but is pressing for a greater reduction given the significant changes in the media landscape.
“I am aware the industry is seeking further cuts and we are considering that,” said Fifield.
As part of other legislative changes, the minister is also trying to repeal the reach and 2 out of 3 laws, although this is not universally accepted by other sides of politics.
“I’m hopeful these laws can be changed as expeditiously as possible to reflect the world we live in today and the changes in consumer habits, to give traditional media companies the ability to adapt and compete in a changing world.”
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