TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference
1 March 2016
E & OE
the Coalition Joint Party Room agreed with the Cabinet recommendation that
legislation for media reform be introduced into the Parliament. This package
will represent the most significant media reform in Australia in a generation.
It’s a package that’s important for media organisations, it’s good news for
consumers and it’s particularly good news for consumers in regional areas.
As you all know the media laws that we have were drafted in an analogue world
for an analogue world. Technology is affording consumers new options as to how
they consume their media, and existing laws no longer represent the world that
we live in. And bit by bit technology and consumer choice are rendering those
laws increasingly redundant. The laws are also increasingly constraining the
capacity of media organisations to configure themselves in ways that are right
for the needs of their consumers. The current laws were well intentioned, they
were designed to provide and ensure diversity of media in a world where there weren’t
legislation that will be introduced into the Parliament will abolish what’s
known as the 75% audience reach rule, which prevents anyone from owning or
controlling television licences which reach more than 75% of the Australian population.
The legislation will also abolish what’s known as the ‘2 out of 3’ rule which
prevents anyone from owning or controlling more than two out of three of the
regulated traditional platforms of print, radio and TV in a radio licence area.
Now one of the
arguments, one of the many arguments, that’s been put forward for media reform
has been by regional TV broadcasters who say that they need the freedom to
configure themselves in the ways that are right for their business and that in
so doing they will be more viable – and therefore more able – to provide local
content. Now whenever you’re talking about changes to media law, people who
live in regional areas have a genuine and legitimate interest in local content
and its protection.
So as part of
the package that I’ll be introducing into the Parliament, we will be
introducing new and higher local content protections after a trigger event. So
in an aggregated TV licence area, when as a result of reconfiguration or
changes in ownership or control, TV licences having excess of 75% nationwide
audience reach, the new and higher protections for local content will come into
place six months after the trigger event.
moment, regional providers in the aggregated areas need to ensure 720 points of
local content over a six week period. After a trigger event, six months after a
trigger event, we will be requiring 900 points of local content over a six week
We will also
be introducing, for major population centres in non-aggregated areas, for the
first time, local area content requirements. So, six months after a trigger
event in major population areas in non-aggregated markets there will be a
requirement for 360 points of local area content.
So new and
higher local content provisions in aggregated markets after a trigger event,
and new local content requirements for the first time for major population
centres in non-aggregated areas.
We will also
be producing some changes to the points system. At the moment, in these areas
you get one point for each minute of local content in a licence area. At the
moment you get two points – double points if you like – for news content that’s
relevant to the local area. We’ll be introducing a new category of points;
three points for material that is relevant to the local area, that is broadcast
into the local area, but that also includes local footage from the area. So
three points for that. That is intended to work as an incentive for
broadcasters to have a presence that’s local so that they can produce local
indicate that this has been a very good process in terms of the consultation
that I’ve had with media organisations and also with my colleagues. I should
acknowledge the former Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, and the
work that he did tilling the soil. He’s someone who’s long been an advocate of
the need to reform media law. Dean Smith, who is the chair of the Government
Communications and Arts committee, also should be acknowledged for being a long
term advocate of change, and someone who’s been a good steward for the internal
processes of the Party. And also, Fiona Nash, my portfolio colleague who, as
minister for regional communications, has also had important and significant
input into this process.
this is good news for the media industry, it’s good news for consumers, and
it’s particularly good news for regional consumers.
Fifield, why are there no changes to the anti-siphoning legislation in this
package, and does that mean that there won’t be any changes to that list in the
the anti-siphoning regime aren’t part of this package. It’s well known, I think
that there are strong views on the part of those organisations who would like
the anti-siphoning regime to remain much as it is, and strong views on the part
of those who think that the anti-siphoning regime should be substantially
I think there
are a few misconceptions about the anti-siphoning regime. One is that the
anti-siphoning list mandates that free to airs need to acquire certain events.
It doesn’t. I think that there is a misunderstanding that the anti-siphoning
list requires free to airs, if they acquire events, to broadcast them. It
doesn’t. The anti-siphoning list doesn’t even prevent free-to-airs from
purchasing the events and then on-selling them to subscription TV. So I think
there are some things which aren’t fully appreciated about how the list
I don’t think
anyone, not even those who are the strongest advocates of changing the
anti-siphoning list, would propose that the AFL, the NRL, the Olympic Games,
the Commonwealth Games or the Australian Open, for instance would be removed
from that list. The list has changed over time. There have been events that
have come onto it. There have been events that have come off it. Anti-siphoning
isn’t part of this package. If there was to be change to the list, or any
meaningful change to the list in the future, it’s something that I think would
need to enjoy the broad support of the Parliament.
would you look at anti-siphoning changes after the election, and on another
aspect of the current regime, there’s no change to the 5/4 voices clause. A
quick check suggests that that still applies to very traditional media outlets.
Isn’t there a case for change in the 5/4 voices rule, because we now have so
many online voices that we didn’t have when these laws were first drafted?
are some media organisations who clearly would’ve liked the Government to
remove all five of the media rules or media laws. What we’ve done is to put
forward the abolition of the two rules where there seems to be the broadest
consensus that they’ve had their use-by-date well and truly passed.
On the other
hand, there are several organisations and people in the community who still
maintain concerns about diversity. And for people who have those concerns, we
can direct them to the 5/4 rule, we can direct them to the ‘one-to-a-market’
rule for TV, we can direct them to the ‘two-to-a-market’ rule for radio, and we
can also direct them to the ACCC provisions which remain in place. So we’ve
taken an approach that we think would enjoy broad support. But nevertheless I
don’t think we should underestimate the significance of the changes that are
anti-siphoning be addressed next year?
is not part of this package. If anti-siphoning needs to be addressed I think it
needs to enjoy broad support in the Parliament.
confident are you that this legislation will pass the Parliament? Have you
secured the support of the crossbench?
kept Jason Clare in touch with what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been
thinking, that two-out-of-three and reach was what we had in prospect to
remove, and that we would be looking to have new protections for local content.
Jason’s been upfront about his support for removing the 75% audience reach
rule. He’s been upfront that they have an open mind on the two-out-of-three
rule. I’ve also been in ongoing contact with numbers of the crossbench. I think
it’s fair to say, obviously I don’t want to speak for them, they’ll speak for
themselves, but they have an open mind, and they recognise that the media rules
that we have are increasingly out of date.
what about TV licence fee relief, is that going to be in the Budget, secondly
will this be enough to save Fairfax holdings?
prospects of any individual media organisation I’ll leave to the individual
media organisations to comment upon themselves. But in relation to the licence
fees, we have indicated that free to air TV licence fees, and also commercial
radio licence fees, they will be looked at in the context of this Budget. I’m
on the record as having recognised the arguments of free to airs and commercial
radio that these licence fees were established in the late 1950s, at a time
when TV and radio essentially had a monopoly. They were the only form of
reading speech that saw licence fees introduced back then, didn’t use this
language but it was words to the effect of “this is a super-profits tax”.
Obviously the environment in which commercial radio and TV operate now has changed
dramatically. They face a challenging environment. They have a lot of
competitors. So we’ve undertaken to look at it in the context of the Budget.
Obviously I can’t give you an indication one way or the other. But we’ve made
that undertaking and that’s what we’ll do.
Fifield, if they pay those licence fees for the use of a public asset – being
the spectrum that they are able to use to get to their viewers – if they’re
given relief on the licence fees, should they be willing to be more flexible in
the way that they use that public asset, the spectrum?
are two things. There’s the licence fees and there’s the pricing arrangements
of broadcast spectrum. And I think it’s reasonable to look at those in tandem.
Fifield, the third point you brought in – the three point system – is that an
admission that the current two point system is being abused by networks that
are centralising a hub and then broadcasting to regional areas with just news
that is basically rip-and-read?
Did you have
any particular broadcasters in mind?
None at all.
are some broadcasters who are in excess of the 720 points over a six week
period that’s required, that are well in excess of that. There are others who
satisfy their licence obligations. What the new points arrangement, what the
new, higher thresholds are about, is recognising and taking at face value the
arguments of regional broadcasters, that if they reconfigure and they have scale,
they’re in a better position to provide local content. We accept that argument.
Therefore it is reasonable to set a new and higher baseline for local content.
been interest to take up that offer?
discussions that we’ve had with the regional broadcasters indicate that most of
them are comfortable with that arrangement.
Nationals happy with the arrangement that you’ve put forward now, the 900
Well as I say,
this has been a really good process. I’ve made sure that my colleagues, Liberal
and National, have been a part of the process from the outset. So it’s been a
good discussion. I’ve benefited from the contributions of both Liberal and
National colleagues. So there’s broad consensus and strong support in the
Coalition Party Room for this package.
Fifield, as you say the reach is pretty uncontroversial, but there’s still a
lot of debate around two-of-three, I believe it will go to an enquiry, but
looking down the track to when push comes to shove, will the two live-or-die
together, or are you willing to separate the two out to get what is achievable
in the senate?
We will be
introducing this package into the House of Representatives tomorrow. It’s my
intention that the Senate Selection of Bills Committee, which determines which
bills go to Senate Committees, that as a government we would self-refer the
whole package to the Senate Communications and Environment committee for enquiry.
It’s important that it’s looked at as a whole package. And it’s my intention to
secure passage of this as a package.
When do you
intend to pass this legislation, before or after the election?
Well I am
aiming to have this legislation passed through the Parliament before the
you run us through the thinking behind the two tiers of local content. Is this
only one hour a week for these new areas? Why is that?
Well at the
moment there’s no requirement for local content in the non-aggregated areas. So
this was an opportunity, should there be a trigger event in major population
centres in the non-aggregated areas, to put in place for the first time, some
local content requirements. So obviously there are different economics at play
in the aggregated areas to some of the non-aggregated areas. So this is a
recognition of that. So we’ll have a 900 point requirement in the aggregated
areas and a 360 point requirement in major population centres. And I think that
will be very well received.
When will you
be talking to crossbench senators, about any concerns they may have on the
removal or repeal of the two-out-of-three rule. Do you think you’ve got a
majority of the crossbenchers behind this reform yet? What are your chances of
hopeful of the Australian Labor Party. But obviously I work with all of my
colleagues. I don’t take any of them for granted. I wouldn’t dare to speak on behalf
of my crossbench colleagues and how they tally. But discussions today have been
good, and they recognise the media laws are redundant, and there’s been a
positive response so far but further discussions ahead.
there enough women’s events on the anti-siphoning list?
enough women’s events on the anti-siphoning list? Well it depends whether you
want them on the anti-siphoning list or not. I haven’t done a breakdown of the
events. But if you look at the Commonwealth Games, for example, that’s men’s
and women’s events. If you look the Olympic Games, that’s men’s and women’s
events. If you look at the Australian Open that’s men’s and women’s events.
Obviously you have some gender-specific codes like NRL and AFL and you have
some others that women are particularly engaged with.
the US Open? And the Aussies hardly get to the final rounds these days in the
tennis, so why is that on the list?
Well the list
is what the list is. Because that’s how the list has developed over time. You
ask one side of the debate and they’ll say there should probably be more on,
and you ask the other side of the debate and they’ll say there should be less
on it. But obviously in relation to women’s events, TV subscription businesses
would argue that they shouldn’t be there, and in fact no-one should be there on
have been very keen on getting action on anti-siphoning, are you prepared for a
backlash from those newspapers?
taking our decisions in what we think is the public interest. My discussions
with all media organisations have been cordial and professional. And we’ve made
sure that they’ve had good input into this process and that they’re not
surprised by what the outcome is.