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Nats must oppose media-ownership reforms.



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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

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24 July 2006

Nats must oppose media-ownership reforms

The federal Nationals should follow the lead of the Queensland National and vote to protect “localism, diversity and competition in regional media” by opposing the government’s long-planned reform of media ownership laws, according to Peter Andren, Member for Calare.

“The Queensland Nationals unanimous vote for the protection of local content, diversity and most interestingly competition of their the state party conference over the weekend should be immediately picked up by their federal colleagues,” Mr Andren said.

“The only way the federal Nationals can protect competition in regional media markets is to oppose Communications Minister Helen Coonan’s plans to abolish the current ownership rules that restrict media companies from owning newspapers, a radio station and a TV station in the same market.

“Under the proposed changes, media operators will be able to compile a collection of media assets across print, radio and TV, as long as there at least four companies in a regional media market.

“This is limit provides little protection for diversity in editorial opinion, and competition in country markets.

“In Orange, for instance, where there currently six commercial media operators, one owner could buy the local newspaper, a radio station and a television licence, and another could buy up an existing TV or radio licence which would reduce the number of owners to the minimum four.

“The current strong local media market sustaining six companies would thus be reduced as would diversity and competition.

“There’s likely to be a mad scramble to buy up one of each because those left in the reduced market won’t have anything like the revenue prospects or editorial influence of the biggest owner.

“Barnaby Joyce and Paul Neville are “talking the talk” of opposing the new proposals in the interests of protecting localism and proper competition in rural areas but it’s one thing to make a stand at a state conference, and another to make it national party policy.

“I hope the Queensland Nationals will walk their talk across the floor when it comes to the vote, but I suspect they’ll be mugged in the joint party room first,” Mr Andren said.

For further information: Peter Andren - 02 6332-6229 or 0419 612 891/Tim Mahony - 0427-480-825.

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