TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PM Agenda
with David Speers
1 March 2016
E & OE
As we’ve been
discussing, the government today unveiled its long awaited media reforms. These
have the potential to reshape the industry’s landscape. The Government’s moved
on two fronts, the so-called ‘reach rule’ will go, and that will allow mergers
between metropolitan and regional TV networks so they can reach 100% of the
national audience. Channel 9 or Channel 7 could merge, for example, with WIN or
moving on the so-called ‘two out of three’ rule, and that will allow, once this
rule is gone if its passed through the Parliament, one media owner to own
television, radio, and print in the one market. Currently they’re restricted
from owning more than two out of three. This would for example, Fairfax which
owns print and radio to merge with Channel 9. It would allow Network 10, for
example, and News Corp, or News Corp to own a larger slice of Network 10. With
me now is the communications minister Mitch Fifield. Thank you for joining me
this afternoon. What is the main reason for these changes?
media laws that we have in place have been there for more than a decade. They
were designed in an analogue world for an analogue world. They just simply
don’t reflect the current media environment. And bit by bit through technology
and the choices that consumers are exercising as a result of technology and how
they consume their media, those laws are being rendered redundant. Something
like the 75% ‘reach rule’ is meaningless because some of the free to airs are
streaming. That means they’ve got 100% reach. So what, increasingly, these
existing media laws are also doing is acting as a restraint on media
organisations configuring themselves in the way that best suits them, and also
that can better serve consumers.
If 9 or 7,
for example, do buy Win or Prime, can you give a guarantee that regional news
services won’t diminish?
That’s a very
important consideration. Whenever you talk about media reform, people who live
in the regions, understandably, say ‘what about us’? They’ve got a legitimate
interest in making sure there’s good local content. Now at the moment there are
minimum local content requirements in what are known as the aggregated regional
media markets. What we’re proposing is if there are reconfigurations, changes
in ownership, mergers that would see more than 75% audience-reach through a
group of licences, we’re going to deem that to be a trigger. And six months
after that trigger, we would put in place higher local content requirements. So
going from 720 points per six week period, it would go to 900 points.
And that goes
to how much content they have?
And the ‘two
out of three’ rule, so this would allow, as I explained in the introduction
there, a Fairfax-Channel 9 merger, it would allow a News Corp-Channel 10
wouldn’t prevent that from happening. But also there remains in place the ACCC
requirements, things of that nature. So it would be an impediment that is
removed. I’m someone that is essentially ownership-agnostic. Let media
organisations configure themselves in the way that’s best for their business
and puts them, certainly in the case for regional areas, in a good position to
provide local content.
Let the free
businesses take the decisions that businesses need to take to make sure that
they’re good, strong viable businesses that can employ people. The prerequisite
for diversity is to have good strong media companies – that’s the number one
prerequisite for diversity. Now we have that to an extent as a result of new
media entrants who people can access online, but we want to see Australian
media companies do well.
businesses do what businesses do well, let the market operate; you are however
keeping protections in place on the anti-siphoning list around the sports that
must be shown, or at least certainly available to free to airs only. No changes
at all to that? Why not?
not bringing forward anti-siphoning as part of this package. We’re also not
proposing as part of this package that what’s known as the ‘5 out of 4’ rule
goes, which ensures 5 media voices in metro areas, and 4 in regional areas.
We’re not touching the ‘one to a market’ rule in terms of one TV licence per
market. And we’re not touching the ‘two to a market’ rule in terms of two radio
licences per market.
anti-siphoning, why do you want to keep those protections specifically in place
for free to airs?
are a number of misconceptions about anti-siphoning. And you might’ve heard me
talk about some of those earlier today. Which include things like: the
anti-siphoning list doesn’t mandate free to airs have got to take the events on
the list, it doesn’t mean that if they do take them they have got to run them,
and it doesn’t mean that if they do take them, they can’t on-sell them to a
point of keeping the list untouched though if, for example, the free to airs
aren’t showing half, or more than half of the football matches in any round?
where events aren’t shown, they’re often taken up by subscription TV. In
relation to anti-siphoning, I think as with all media laws, these things are
under constant review. There have been events that have come on to the
anti-siphoning list over the years, and some events that have come off. But I
think if there was to be any significant change to the anti-siphoning list,
there would need to be good community understanding of how the list operates;
what it does do, what it doesn’t do. And there would need to be broad
parliamentary support for change. And I don’t think those circumstances are
It’s too hard
at the moment?
I don’t think
those circumstances are there.
fees: you are considering – these are the licence fees to the free to air
networks – you are considering scrapping those altogether?
clear publicly, and my predecessor in this role did, that we would be examining
licence fees in the context of this Budget. These licence fees were introduced
for commercial TV and radio in the late 1950s when commercial TV and radio
essentially had a monopoly on electronic media communication because there was
no other form. So it was introduced, in effect, as a ‘super profits tax’ at
that time. Now circumstances are different. There’s great competition. There’s
a challenging environment. So I understand very well the arguments of the free
to airs, TV and radio.
But from the
government’s perspective you’re trying to scratch together every dollar you can
to tackle bracket creep and things like that, is now the time to be giving the
networks, what is it, $150 odd-million?
$175 million when you include radio licence fees as well. You’re right it is a
tough budget environment. We’ve said that we would examine the issue of licence
fees. Now nothing should be read into that, one way or the other, as to what
might be in the budget. But we’ve said we’d look at it and we will.