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Keating rushing through broadcast changes - Why?



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jggu MEDIA RELEASE “S S S · ' WARWICK SMITH M.P. Shadow Minister for Communications

31 May 1992

Keating Rushing Through Broadcast Changes - Why?

Paul Keating today thumbed his nose at the ALP Caucus and most of his Cabinet, He is rushing to put in place vital changes to broadcasting in this country and has pre-empted any debate in his own Party. It is crash through or crash in classic

Gough Whitlam style.

The question is why? Who benefits?

Paul Keating today mapped out for the first time the broadcasting changes planned by Graham Richardson. The changes he outlined visit high benefits to existing players in contravention of the Trade Practices Act. (See attached PR).

The most difficult issues in changes to broadcast legislation are:

(a) technology (b) network involvement

Paul Keating proposes a 20% individual limit for the networks with an aggregate of 45%. But do they want it? The Seven Network wrote to Graham Richardson on 15 May and argued that this would allow the owner of one network to dominate the

shareholding held by commercial television interests. It recommended individual limits of between 12.5% to 15%. (Letter attached)

Why, then, is Paul Keating proposing the 20% individual and 45% aggregate limits?

The technology of delivery of Pay TV is multi-various. To remove the exclusivity period is correct. Government should not mandate any technology for its delivery. The price of off-loading Aussat (a $740 million debt assumed by taxpayers) was to undertake to give exclusive satellite Pay TV delivery to Optus, the new owners of

the satellite.

Much more scrutiny needs to be given to a proposal which:

., limits the initial service to satellite delivery, and . gives a dominant television network a high slice of its operation, and . makes the new technologies - such as Multipoint Distribution System (MDS) and fibre optics - also accessible to the then existing players.

Further, the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday revealed that the existing Sky Channel service provider gets special grandfathering provisions. 21 . . .

CO M M ONW EALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY M ICAH

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Th

is morning Paul Keating said he thinks Senator Collins agrees! Bob Collins has been gazumped. Bob Collins, Michael Duffy, Kim Beazley and John Button are all believed to have a different view to Mr Keating. Cabinet has not yet met on these matters. Paul Keating has hijacked the debate.

Broadcasting needs change but it must be to the benefit of the whole industry and consumers. Based on what I heard this morning in Perth I would say Paul Keating - - long fascinated by the media industry and acutely embarrassed by the folly of the political advertising ban - is attempting to iryect a quick fix solution to benefit only

selected players. This is short term politics at the expense of balanced broadcasting policy.

We require

(a) a full Trade Practices Commission overview of his proposal now - in advance of legislation proceeding.

(b) A more detailed scrutiny of his total proposal which might best be referred to a short Senate inquiry.

The Democrats, while now happy for Pay TV to proceed, must be concerned about such a high potential network involvement.

It should bo noted that Graham Richardson was canvassing a 20% individual and 35-37.5% aggregate limit,

Paul Keating has today started another bushfire in his Government which has the potential to get out of control.

Contact: Mr Smith is travelling from Western Australia to Canberra and may be contacted in Perth at 1.00 WA time at the Chairman's Lounge of Australian Airlines on 09 277 9533 and in Canberra after 8.30 pm on 06 277 4200 (Office) or 06 281 1685 (residence).