TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PVO News Day
with Peter Van Onselen
29 October 2015
E & OE
Subjects: Media reform
I’m joined now by the new Communications Minister, Senate Mitch Fifield, live
from Canberra. Thanks for being there Senator.
G’day Peter good to be with you.
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going to fix the archaic, the outdated the no longer relevant various media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
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
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?
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
Absolutely alright Senator
Mitch Fifield again congratulations and we appreciate your time on News Day
Peter. Good to be with you.
Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.firstname.lastname@example.org