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Pay TV Keating rolled and shifts the goal posts but who wins?

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— t t i l F RELEASE Warwick Smith MR Shadow Minister for Communications Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives—

3 June 1992


Keating Rolled and Shifts the Goal Posts But Who Wins?

Today a bomb dropped on Pay TV.

Between 9.30am and 12.00pm Mr Keating met with the Broadcast Committee, which rejected the 45% network involvement and would not agree to the 35% figure (proposed by Senator Richardson) for the intended satellite-only delivery service.

So what did he do? He changed the whole game. The result is still unknown. Only a 2 page brief statement has been issued which leaves more questions than answers.

It was at 12.45pm that Mr Keating went to Caucus having changed the whole game - policy on the run at its very worst. Beaten by the Left and its friends he surrended his 'Sunday' interview position totally. It was a comprehensive capitulation. The bold policy innovator was brought to a dead stop. But the 'solution on the run' to provide unfettered entry to the 5th and 6th transponders is an interesting innovation. But who does it benefit? The 4 transponder satellite service may not be now so attractive in face of competition from the 5th and 6th transponders which now will be bid for and, no doubt, the large network interests will win.

With digital compression in a very short time one service (channel) on a transponder becomes a 6 channel service.

What of content? Do the 5th and 6th licensees, if they pursue optic fibre delivery, need to comply?

It all smacks of a desperate attempt to look as though a competitive environment is established but it should be clear that it must be subject to Trade Practices Commission requirements so that no greater concentration of interests in info-entertainment is permitted.

This is a global industry with high growth potential. We must ensure that a truly competitive delivery and program provision industry develops in Australia. Mr Keating has potentially provided a competitive system but one which advantages a few key players.



2 .

I want more information and clear evidence that this 'new' last minute broadcast policy is not what Mr Keating might want us all to believe but rather a mechanism to provide an opportunity for existing large newspaper or television interests to enter into the 'new information' industry unrestricted in any way.

As I asked in the House today:

Are you yet in a position to inform the House on Pay TV policy or is this another policy area where the faction leaders of the ALP matter more than you do, and have you been decisively rolled? Furthermore, given the monumental shambles of the Pay TV debate within your Government which has reached crisis proportions this morning, can you inform the House of any discussions that you had this morning or at any other time between you and your office or any of your Ministers and their officers with Mr Packer or any of his associates or executives?

Contact: Vivienne Shield (06) 277 3332