TRANSCRIPT - Sky News Interview
Parliament House, Canberra
28 February 2016
media reform, negative gearing, Tony Abbott
Australia’s media landscape is about to radically
change. Cabinet signed off on a plan that abolishes the so-called ‘2 out of 3
rule’ allowing media companies to own radio and TV stations, as well as
newspapers in a single media market. Cabinet also agreed to dump the ‘reach
rule’ which prohibits any one media company from broadcasting to more than 75
per cent of the country.
Mitch Fifield is the Communications Minister and he
joins me now from Canberra. Minister, thanks for joining me.
Good to be with you Patricia.
Minsiter, what can you tell me about the media reforms agreed to by the
We’re still going through the internal processes of government
consideration. And once they are concluded, I’ll be able to make an
announcement and talk to the details. But, in the broad, what I have proposed
for sometime now is, that we see the repeal of the 75 per cent audience reach
rule which prohibts a group of TV licences from having more than 75 per cent
audience reach in Australia. And also removing what’s know as the 2 out of 3
rule which prohibits an organisation or individual from having control of more
than 2 out of 3 regulated platforms of radio, TV and newspapers in a particular
But, it’s really important that as we’re looking at this sort of change,
that we make sure that we have appropriate local content protections for
television. So that’s also something that we’re taking a close look at.
What agreement did you come to with the Nationals? Because I understand
that was a sticking point with the Nationals. You now have a plan. It’s been
widely reported these tougher protections for regional content are based on
expanding what is called the current points system for local content. Can you
explain how that’ll work and how it will be potentially policed by
bureauocrats? Because it could get quite bureaucratic.
I think the good thing is that with the discussion with my Liberal and
Nationals colleagues, there hasn’t really been any great points of contention
or any sticking points, as you described it. It’s been a really good internal
process, we’ve had good discussions. Both regional Liberal and National
colleagues have put forth some ideas which I think have been really helpful, in
terms of putting a package together.
Can you explaing the points system? Could you give us some idea of how it
would work? How this trigger event, it’s been reported that there would be a
trigger event which would allow for an intervention, how would that work?
Let me firstly explain what the current arrangements are in what‘s known as
the aggregated television markets. At the moment a TV provider has to provide
720 points, over a 6 week period, of local content. Now those 720 points are
made up on a minute per point or a point per minute in relation to local
content and you get double points for local news content. Now one of the
arguments that‘s been put forward for removing the 75 per cent reach rule is
that it would allow organisations to configure themselves in ways that can
better support their viability. And that if they have scale, then they’re in a
stronger position to provide local content. So that being the case, it wouldn’t
be unreasonable in the absence of the 75 per cent reach rule to look at putting
in place some higher local content provisions. So that’s what we’re looking at,
in terms of the specifics of how that might work...
Could you tell me how much higher that might be? Could you give me some
idea, you’ve come of the program, about how much higher at that point, the
points might be and how you might police them?
Patricia the specifics will have to wait until we’ve concluded our internal
processes and I make an announcment. But I think the two important principles
here are firstly if we’re removing the 75 per cent audience reach rule which
gives organisations an opportunity to reconfigure themselves, to get scale,
then its not unreasonable to look to have a higher local content in place
should that eventuality happen. And I think it‘s important that you do have
some sort of a trigger event which would see these sorts of requirements come
in. Now I’m not being deliberately coy. It‘s just that we do have to conclude
the process before we can make an announcement and go into the specifics of how
those arrangements might work.
Minister you know I’m not a very patient woman. Rupert Murdoch’s News
I’ve always found you to be incredibly patient Patricia.
I want the detail. Let me ask this question, Rupert Murdoch’s News
Corporation says it is disappointment that changes do not reform anti-syphoning
laws regarding pay TV. Why haven’t you changed this?
Well, what we’ll be putting forward and what I’ve been proposing are
reforms upon which there is fairly comprehensive and broad agreement. I don’t
think anyone would suggest that in the world that we’re in today, where there
are increasing options for consumers, where there is new technology that is giving
consumers choices they haven’t previously had, that we shouldn’t have media
laws that reflect that world, rather than the anologue world that the current
media laws were crafted in. So what we’re looking at are those laws where there
seems to be pretty universal agreement that they’re no longer relevant. That’s
not to say that there aren’t other things that we should do in the future.
Media law is an area that is going to be under constant review.
So will it happen after the election? Anti-syphoning laws? I mean News Corp
Australasia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said the fact that anti-syphoning
regime is not part of the proposal makes it difficult to accept that this is
genuine media reform. Why are you unprepared to give us an idea about when you
might be willing to tackle anti-syphing?
We put forward a package that we think will get support. There will be
future media reform. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But in relation to
anti-siphoning. I think there are some misconceptions abroad about the
anti-siuphoning regime and principal amongst which is that if something is on
the anti-syphoning list that guarentees it for free-to-air TV, that it even
mandates that free-to-air TV must aquire it and that if its aquired that it be
put on free-to-air. The anti-siphoning list does not require the free-to-airs
will pick up particular events. And if they do there’s no requirement on them
to put them to air. There’s also nothing to stop a free-to-air purchasing an
event and then onselling that to subscription TV. So I think firstly, there are
some misconceptions about the anti-syphoning regime.
So you might look at it after the election?
Well the anti-siphoning regime has changed over time. There are some things
that have come onto it, there are some things that have come off it. I don’t
think anyone is proposing that things like the AFL, or the NRL, or the
Commonwealth Games, or the Olympic Games, shouldn’t be on that list. I don’t
think anyone is proposing that for a second. But, look all media law is subject
to ongoing review.
How about the push to cut license fees. Is that under consideration from
Well we’ve made clear to the free-to-air’s that we will have a look at
license fee reduction in the context of this current budget. When license fees
were first put in place, it was a very different world. It was in the late
50’s. License fees for TV’s were in effect one of the earliest forms of a super
profits tax. The world has changed significantly since then. Free-to-air’s
essentially had a monopoly, with radio, over electronic media
communication. They are under intense competition now and operate in a much
more challenging environment. So I certainly understand the arguments that are
put forward by the free-to-air’s and also by radio for that matter, who also
pay license fees. TV and radio license fees together are about $175 million a
year. We do operate in a difficult budget environment. But we have made a
commitment that we will examine the issue of license fees in this budget. Now,
nothing should be read into that one way or the other. But we have made that
commitment that we will examine them in the context of this budget.
So when will this legislation be all ready to go? This media reform
legislation? I know you’re presenting it tomorrow to the Nationals and to the
Well, I don’t want to be coy Patricia but I won’t...
Then you don’t have to be, you don’t have to be.
I won’t flag at what stage things are at in terms of our internal
consideration other than to say that things are progressing well. I’m keen to
introduce legislation to the Parliament sooner rather than later, and you
probably don’t have many more sleeps left to go.
Okay. Just on broader politics before I let you go Minister. John Howard
has given a very long interview this morning on Sky and of course in the
Australian Newspaper. Suggesting a number of things, but also that we should be
very careful, that the Government needs to be very careful around negative
gearing changes. Would you like the Prime Minister to listen to that advice?
Well we’re careful about everything we do in relation to policy Patricia.
And we’re being very careful and very methodical when it comes to tax. We will
take to the next election, a tax reform package. But I think it’s been really
imporatnt that we take the time to work through the options. To work through
those proposals that really can be a benefit. That’s something that Scott
Morrison is doing. And I look forward to when we can share that with the
And Tony Abbott has written a very long piece as that. It’s going to be in
Quadrant, he said he could have won the election. Do you agree with him?
Well, we made a decision as a Party in relation to the leadership. What I’m
absolutely confident of is that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can and will
win the next election.
Many thank for your time Minister, pleasure as always.
Good to see you Patricia.
contact: Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.Sywak@communications.gov.au