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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1609

Media Ownership


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:24): Can I just take this opportunity to wish Senator Bullock all the best, following his announcement of leaving this place. He has been a very good man to work with on the committees. I wish him all the best. My question is to the Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister advise the Senate of the reaction of third parties and regional broadcasters to the government's historic media reform package?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:25): Thank you, Senator Williams, for the question and for your interest, particularly in regional communications issues. Yesterday, I announced media reforms which are the most significant in a generation.

I am pleased to report to colleagues that the package of measures has been very well received by a broad cross-section of media organisations. The Chairman of Prime Media, John Hartigan, said:

Abolition of the out-dated media laws demonstrates the Turnbull Government's commitment to television viewers in regional and rural Australia.

The CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, Grant Blackley, said:

It's time for the rules to reflect media in the 21st century.

We encourage all Members and Senators to embrace these reforms and support a swift passage through both houses of Parliament.

The CEO of Network Ten, Paul Anderson, said:

Removing these archaic media laws is an important first step in dismantling a set of rules that are making Australian media companies less competitive in a global, converged media market.

The CEO of Fairfax, Mr Greg Hywood, said:

Fairfax Media strongly supports the government's decision today to update media ownership laws, making them more relevant by removing outdated and irrelevant restrictions in the legislation.

We believe the removal of these restrictions will provide substantial benefits to all Australians by strengthening local media.

It is clear that not only media organisations but, in particular, consumers recognise that the media laws that we have today just simply do not reflect the world that we live in. I think that is particularly true of those consumers of media who might be younger than those of us in the chamber here today. I think that, if you took them through the media laws that we have in place today, they would actually be quite bemused. It is time for outdated media laws to go.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:27): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline how the government's reforms will maintain protections for media diversity?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:27): There is, indeed, a plethora of media and new sources now available online. As I look to the press gallery let me randomly pick one, BuzzFeed. It is just one of many examples of what you might call non-traditional media that is available online.

Also, there are the remaining media diversity rules. There is the five/four rule, which mandates minimum voices in media markets. There is the one-to-a-market rule, which ensures diversity in terms of television. There is the two-to-a-market rule which ensures diversity in terms of radio. But, of course, the best guarantee of diversity is that we have strong and viable media organisations in Australia, and that is what our reforms are all about.


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (14:28): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister outline how consideration of these reforms as a package is important?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (14:28): I think it is important that these reforms are considered as a package. It is the government's intention to refer the legislation to the Senate Environment and Communications Committee for consideration. We do need to make sure that Australian media does have the capacity to build scale and to compete in a global and converged media market. I was very heartened to hear the comments from my counterpart in the other place, Mr Clare, last night on Sky. He said: 'We have to judge this on its merits. We have to work out what is in the public interest. If you make decisions based on one media company or another, then you are not doing your job properly'. Hear, hear to the observations of Mr Clare. I must say it has been good working with him. I look forward to continuing to work with him, and I very much hope that we can reach agreement on these important media reforms.