TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PVO News Day > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PVO News Day

with Peter Van Onselen

 

29 October 2015
12:40pm

 

E & OE

 

Subjects: Media reform

                                                                       

VAN ONSELEN:
 
I’m joined now by the new Communications Minister, Senate Mitch Fifield, live from Canberra. Thanks for being there Senator.


FIFIELD:
 
G’day Peter good to be with you.

VAN ONSELEN:
 
Right off the bat. Well firstly congratulations, I don’t think we’ve spoken since your promotion to Cabinet. As a follow up to that though, when are you going to fix the archaic, the outdated the no longer relevant various media laws that are restricting the ability of the sector to move with the times. 


FIFIELD:
 
Well you’re right Peter, our media laws were designed for the pre-digital age. They don’t really reflect anymore the way contemporary media operates. They don’t really reflect the way consumers access their media and information. So what has been raised with me over 4 or 5 weeks that I’ve been the Minister for Communications, primarily is the 75 per cent audience reach rule and also what’s known as the two out of three rule. These really do reflect a bygone era and ultimately it’s going to be consumers and it’s going to be technology that bit, by bit day by day renders media law increasingly redundant and ultimately render them irrelevant. So what I’ve been doing over the short time I’ve been Minister is meeting with stakeholders, getting their perspectives, seeing if we can reach a broad consensus. And look I think there is the possibility of that. I don’t think we’ll ever reach unanimity but there’s a strong desire across the sector for the media laws to be reformed so that they reflect the world that we live in.


VAN ONSELEN:

 

Senator can we burrow into some of that. Because I had Jason Clare on the Sunday Programme on the weekend just passed. It sounds like the 75 per cent is one that you could get wiz bang through the Parliament as quick as you like.  It sounds like Labor are on board with that. My question for you I suppose is, is your desire to couple it with a change to the two out of three? Or would you would you look at the 75 per cent reach rule all on its own?

FIFIELD:
 
Well the 75 per cent reach and the two out of three are the two rules or media laws that are most often raised with me and most often pointed to as really being inhibitors and not recognising the way that the media landscape is in Australia today…

VAN ONSELEN:

 

But do you need to change them together? I guess is really my question, because it sounds like Labor would happily change the 75 per cent reach rule, they’re less clear on the two out of three by the sounds of it. Do you see them as a double act? Or would you be prepared to change one, and then look to negotiate on the other one irrespective of whether you were ultimately able to get away with the change or not?

FIFIELD:

I guess ultimately wearing my Manger of Government Business in the Senate hat, I’ve got to be pragmatic. I’d like there to be significant reform but ultimately it will be the Parliament in the form of the Senate that will determine what actually is able to be done. So what I want to do in addition to talking to the stakeholders in the industry, is spend some time talking to my parliamentary colleagues and obviously that includes crossbench colleagues as well. So we want to follow an orderly process here. We want to follow a good Cabinet government process as well. So I’m not going to pre-empt at this point what the shape of a reform package might be but obviously I’m someone that’s a pragmatist and deals with the realities of the real world of the Australian Senate.

VAN ONSELEN:

 

If I can read between the lines it sounds to me like you’re going to try to do it all but if you can’t you will recalibrate and think about it bit by bit. But that’s not your first priority, maybe I’m verballing you I hope not. The other issue then I guess is timing. Is this something that we are going to see albeit at the end of a good Cabinet process before the end of the year? Or is media reform going to more likely packaged up and be on the agenda next year in an election year?

FIFIELD:

Look I haven’t set a time frame as yet. To some extent that will be a function of the discussions I have with the stakeholders and also with my parliamentary colleagues. But there is no doubt that there is a growing momentum on the issue of media reform. There is no doubt there is a growing desire on the part of numbers of parliamentary colleagues for the media laws to better reflect the world that we live in. And you’d be well aware that regional TV providers are particularly keen for this area to be addressed. So there is a lot of support for change, there is growing momentum, and I’m not someone who wants to let the grass grow on this issue.

VAN ONSELEN:


So you’re optimistic, can I put it that way? You’re optimistic that you might be able to do something this side of the New Year?

FIFIELD:

I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, I don’t want to state a timeframe as yet. But I can indicate this is one of the issues that is at the top of my agenda.     

VAN ONSELEN:

Ok great. Now the other issue is anti-syphoning I know this is a more difficult one and obviously the disclaimer that we’re sitting here on Sky News on Foxtel, which as a platform is very interested in anti-Syphoning no more so I guess than the Free to Air television networks are as well. But the digital age has changed this hasn’t it? Because while there are less things on the list of anti-syphoning there are also more platforms from which the free to air channels can show the various sports broadcasts, is there a plan or a thought process around reducing the amount of things on anti-syphoning because of the greater variety of platforms that now exist on free to air?


FIFIELD:
 
Yeah, I think there are a few misconceptions about the anti-syphoning arrangements. The anti-syphoning arrangements don’t for instance mandate that Free to Airs have to purchase nationally significant events and it doesn’t even mandate that if they do purchase those nationally significant events, that they’ve got to show them. So I think there’s a bit of misunderstanding abroad about what the anti-syphoning regime actually does. But I think there is no doubt that there is a community consensus on the need to have nationally significant sporting events likely to be available on Free to Air TV and that’s something as a government that we support. From time to time there are events that come onto and go off the anti-syphoning list. And there are some unusual things such as the fact that I have to make a ministerial determination if a Free to Air wants to premiere an event on one of their secondary channels rather than one of their primary channels. And that’s something that happens fairly routinely. So I’m not saying that there can’t be some change to the anti-syphoning arrangements but I think it is important that there still be nationally significant events available on that list to give the public confidence that those events that they really love in sport will still be available to them.


VAN ONSELEN:

I suspect most people would absolutely agree with you on that. What about this though as a question I suppose a final question Senator. Your package, whether we see it this year or next year, is that going to have an array of things in it beyond the two main ones? The two out three rule and the 75 per cent reach? So for example is anti-syphoning part of that? Are there other elements to it that we can expect? Or is it really going to focus on the core business of those two areas that most people seem to agree are the areas that need to be relooked that.

FIFIELD:

Well I haven’t flagged as yet what may be the elements of a media reform plan. That’s because I’m still in the process of talking to the key players, talking to my parliamentary colleagues and we do have to follow good Cabinet and Party Room processes. But I’ve indicated that these are amongst the range of issues which are being raised with me, which are being pointed to. But I should emphasise Peter that in relation to anti-syphoning we do have a commitment that nationally significant sporting events will remain on that list, so I don’t want to cause anyone undue concern on that issue. But there may be some things that we can do around the edges in relation to that. But look eventually our media laws are going to become redundant so it’s entirely appropriate that as a government we take a look at them to check that they are fit for purpose, check that they reflect the world that we currently live in.

VAN ONSELEN:

Absolutely alright Senator Mitch Fifield again congratulations and we appreciate your time on News Day thank you.

 

FIFIELD:

Thanks Peter. Good to be with you.

 

Media contact:

Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.sywak@communications.gov.au