The Turnbull Government has today announced the most significant reforms to our media laws in a generation, supporting the viability of our local organisations as they face increasing competition in a rapidly changing digital landscape.
This week, the Government will introduce legislation into the Parliament and refer the package as a whole to a Senate inquiry so that the media reforms can be examined in detail.
The reforms will result in major changes to the regulations governing the control and ownership of Australia’s traditional media outlets and the provision of local television content in regional Australia.
The Government’s media reform package includes repealing media ownership and control rules that currently prevent:
- a person from controlling commercial television licences that collectively reach more than 75 per cent of the Australian population (the ‘reach rule’);
- a person from controlling more than two of the three regulated forms of media (commercial radio, commercial television and associated newspapers) in the one commercial radio licence area (the ‘2 out of 3 rule’).
The Government is maintaining other diversity rules including the ‘5/4’ rule, the ‘one-to-a-market’ rule and the ‘two-to-a-market’ rule. Changes to the anti-siphoning list are not part of this package.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will retain its powers to scrutinise mergers and acquisitions and will be asked to update its media merger guidance accordingly.
These reforms are needed because technology is changing the way we access media.
In the digital era, these regulations unfairly restrict Australian-based broadcast or publishing companies from optimising the scale and scope of their operations and from accessing resources, capital and management expertise available to other media operators.
Domestic media operators must have the flexibility to compete and adapt in the changing media landscape. These proposed changes to the media control rules will allow businesses to configure themselves in a way that best suits their needs ensuring they can continue to play a significant role in the Australian community.
Strengthening local television content in regional Australia
As part of these reforms, the Government will establish stronger local content obligations for regional commercial television licensees.
These new obligations would apply to the majority of regional free-to-air commercial television broadcasters who, as a result of a change in control known as a ‘trigger event’, become part of a group of commercial broadcasting licences whose combined licence area populations collectively exceed 75 per cent of the Australian population.
This ensures there is local content in nearly all regional areas following a trigger event, including those where there is none currently. This package also introduces an incentive for local news to be filmed in the local area. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will monitor and enforce these local content obligations.
These proposed measures will commence in 2016, subject to the passage of amending legislation.
These reforms represent a sensible and pragmatic approach to rebalancing the regulatory settings governing the traditional media in Australia, while maintaining a framework that continues to support media diversity, global competition and local content.
More information on the Government’s proposed media reforms can be found at mediareform.communications.gov.au